Social Studies Teacher & Dept. Chair, Suffolk Public Schools
Biography: India Meissel currently teaches in the History Department of Lakeland High School in Suffolk, Virginia, where she serves as both the Department Chair and the Lead Teacher for United States History. In addition, she serves as an Adjunct Professor of History at Camp Community College at both the Suffolk and Smithfield locations. She began her career in education as a teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School in Portsmouth, Virginia, where she taught Alternative Education.
India earned her BS degree from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, in the area of Secondary Education with an emphasis in Social Studies, and a MS degree in Social Studies Curriculum and Instruction also from ODU with continuing coursework in the area of History at the College of William and Mary.
India has been published in the areas of Economics and Holocaust education; and she has made more than 75 presentations at national, regional, state, and local conferences. She has been recognized on numerous occasions for her teaching by the National Council for the Social Studies, the Virginia Council for the Social Studies, the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the National Council on Economic Education, among others.
Having attended her first VCSS conference as a pre-service teacher, India joined the Council’s Board in 2012 and has served as a member of the Conference Committee, Awards Committee, Lorraine Stewart Mini Grant Committee, and was entrusted with the task of chairing the Conference Exploration Committee, looking at ways to hold a quality conference in new and different locations throughout Commonwealth.
In 2018, India became the first Virginian to serve as the President of the National Council for the Social Studies. Prior to her presidency, she served the council as a member of its Board of Directors and Executive Committee, and as both a member and chair of the Awards Committee and the Rho Kappa National Honor Society Advisory Board. She also served as the co-chair for the 2016, 2018 and 2021 NCSS conferences.
Position Statement: The most significant issue facing social studies teachers today is the lack of prominence that social studies receives as a core subject. Post NCLB marginalization coupled with the STEM initiative have left us as nothing more than the “support system” for math and English Language Arts. As social studies instruction in many states has succumbed to the philosophy of “if it isn't tested, it isn't taught," it should come as no surprise that a recent Time Magazine article pointed out that the most recent National Association of Education Progress (NAEP) assessment showed that only 14% of eighth graders were proficient in U.S. History. (NAEP Report Card, 2018) How is it possible to promote good citizenry without being able to teach its concepts in classrooms at all levels? How do important issues such as Black Lives Matter, the Confederate imagery debate, the restoration of relations with Cuba, Isis terror, or the refugee crisis in Syria become relevant to students who have never been taught about their role in society or their place in history? It is through the study of the past that students learn how institutions, traditions and ideals change as society modernizes. They also learn how cause and effect influence relationships between individuals, groups and nations and how they are part of that larger societal organization that must have structure in order to operate for the good of all the people in the group. It gives us an opportunity to analyze foreign governments and businesses while at the same time developing an appreciation for the freedoms granted to individuals under the U.S. Constitution.
So, what are we as Social Studies teachers to do? It is time for us to become stronger advocates for our discipline: unify our voices and speak to anyone who will listen. Educate people about what we do and why it is important. Take (and make) our case at the local, state, national and even international level. As many of the 21st Century skills necessary for our citizens to compete globally are directly found in social studies courses we need to discuss with the very legislators who choose not to include funding for social studies in the ESEA legislation that the exclusion will be detrimental to the future of the United States as a global superpower. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” We must make certain that tomorrow includes the social studies.
Social Studies Teacher, St. Michael's Episcopal School
Biography: I joined the VCSS board after winning the 2019 Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Excellence in Teaching Award. Since that time, I have served as the co-chair for both the Outreach Committee and the Equity Committee. I co-founded and moderate the monthly Scholars' Hour events (a free webinar series for Virginia social studies professionals). I also established the VCSS podcast, "Content to Classroom'', which I host, produce, and edit. Through these projects, I connected with the Center for the European Union at Virginia Tech (CEUTTS). Together, CEUTTS and I formed Transatlantic Scholars, a program that will connect Virginia and Irish teachers beginning in the Fall of 2021. In these roles I seek to extend my work as a social studies teacher to support other educators throughout the state.
Position Statement: I believe that every Virginia child should have equal access to an excellent social studies education. As the VCSS Vice President, my role will be to equip Virginia social studies teachers with the tools and strategies they need to provide this excellent education. But this effort will not be without its challenges-- the two most prominent of which are the ongoing pandemic and successfully incorporating Anti Racist education into social studies curricula. By continuing to provide free professional development programs in the form of Scholars' Hour, podcasts, virtual and in-person teacher field trips, conference opportunities and building connections between education centers throughout the state, I will provide Virginia social studies teachers with the support they need to be effective in their classrooms.
Social Studies Teacher, Trinity Episcopal School
Biography: I am running for Secretary because I believe that organizations that have clear documentation and communication strategies are simply more effective. Committees run more smoothly and duplication of efforts are much easier to avoid when information is provided in a timely manner and people know where to find the information they need. VCSS is expanding in a lot of new and exciting directions and effective documentation, record keeping, and communication strategies will need to grow as well. When it comes to skills that make me well suited for the role of secretary, I can say that I am an obsessive note taker. In lots of facets of my life, this is a bit of a quirky trait, but it has always served me well as a committee and team member. I also enjoy developing and improving upon structures that foster clear communication, easy access to documentation, and aid in transparency. At my current school, I have served on and co-chaired multiple accreditation committees. Apparently, I was one of the few people who enjoyed keeping the “document box” and electronic documents up to date. I also serve as the communications point person for end of year events such as graduations and award ceremonies. I get a lot of satisfaction from developing and aligning timelines, tasks, and communication.
I have served on the Executive Board for over 5 years, but this year I have become more involved in VCSS committee work. I serve on the Outreach Committee and the Diversity Committee and am looking forward to planning some regional summer history field trips and social events for Central VA area teachers.
As VCSS expands its membership and programming, I see the secretary as someone who serves both in a support role as well as someone who is proactive in identifying areas for improvement. I believe that I am well qualified for the task and would be honored to serve as VCSS Secretary if elected.
Position Statement: Social studies is more important now than ever. We need to be advocates on behalf of the social studies disciplines at the local, state, and national levels. This work is vital for educating a knowledgeable and well-informed citizenry. In an increasingly polarized political climate, VCSS plays a crucial role in supporting the social studies and social studies teachers throughout the Commonwealth.
I look forward to helping plan the next VCSS conference and am excited to see the new directions that VCSS has taken to broaden its outreach. Shorter, targeted, and free or low-cost professional development opportunities like Scholars Hour and the Content to Classroom podcast give VCSS new avenues to be a positive and relevant organization for teachers across the Commonwealth and beyond. I would like to see VCSS expand those efforts. How can we specifically support new teachers? We lose many promising teachers during those early years, and I believe that VCSS can play an essential role in supporting our newest social studies teachers. I would also like to see VCSS expand its role as an instructional resource center for teachers. Social studies teachers are tasked with teaching challenging topics and confronting hard history and too often feeling like they do not have a great deal of support. VCSS can serve as an invaluable resource.
Serving on the VCSS Board has been such a positive part of my own life as a teacher. It's so rewarding to work with such an amazing group of educators. In whatever capacity it may be, I look forward to supporting the mission and work of VCSS.
Social Studies Teacher, Henrico County Public Schools
Biography: My name is Matthew Atkinson, and I would like to put forth my name for the office of Treasurer of the Virginia Council for the Social Studies. I started teaching in 2008 and joined the Virginia Council for the Social Studies my first year teaching. I have been in my current teaching location since graduating college. I currently teach AP Government and Politics and Sociology in Henrico County, at Highland Spring High School. I have now been a member of VCSS for 14 years and have served on the Board for the last 13 of those years. I started off small and took on the role of Central Virginia Regional Representative my 1st and 2nd year on the VCSS Board, followed by being nominated to Membership Chair of VCSS in my 3rd year. I have maintained that position for the last 12 years and still today. As well as serving as Membership Chair for the VCSS, I also have for the last six (6) years have served as the Treasurer of VCSS. Throughout this time, I have served the VCSS as Delegate to at least seven (7) National Council for the Social Studies House of Delegates (HOD) session, and was voted in 2019 on to the NCSS HOD Steering Committee for a three-year rotation that will end in 2022. I feel that I am a great candidate for this position, in the last six years I have gained immense knowledge of the accounting of VCSS and have an accurate view of where we have been and where we can go financially in the future and would like to see VCSS grow with the times. As Treasurer I have kept sound records and have at the request of the President of VCSS submitted for the Boards approval, the yearly budget and Quarterly accounting of all accounts of the VCSS in timely and efficient manors. Thank you, for your consideration.
Position Statement: We are at a very interesting time in our History, it is something that we do not think about often, but we are currently writing our very own History. Within the last few years we have seen major life changing events from COVID-19, the switch to virtual and distance education in less than a week and a presidential campaign. What more can we ask for as a Social Studies educator… A Break, if only, this is the time that we have to keep going and pushing through till the end. Will this end be like things were before, I don’t think they will be, we are paving a new pathway into uncharted territory that we will have to rise up and meet. Just like we will expect our students to as well for we are not isolated we are all in this together and together is where we will find our success. With that being said, one issue that I see faced by many teachers is making the subject matter connect to your students’ lives. We as educators are the keepers of the stories of the past, but sometimes we forget that our students don’t always have the same background and meet us at different levels. We must make social Studies education mean something to all our students, we just can’t teach it as just facts, dates and events. We need to make the story come alive, make it have a relevance to their lives, regardless if they come from the most well-to-do family in the suburbs or from a struggling family living in the urban city. History has a way to open the doors to places and stories that can teach us a million and one things about the world that took place before us and create a world that is more understanding and compassionate about one another.