Kathleen Cochrane Kean
Nicolet High School
“One of the major challenges has been to teach history in an engaging, thoughtful way so that students will see how insights from the past help to make sense of the world today and can shed light on decisions yet to be made about the future. Since I teach a required course, I deal with some students who are reluctant participants. Strategies I have used for engaging these students have been to put an emphasis on teaching the skills needed to understand historical relationships and to include content that captures their interest. The rich cultural insights that come from weaving architectural and local history into my classes as well as encouraging discussions on current events all contribute to helping students see how historical understandings reach well beyond the textbook. Rarely do teachers know how they will shape the future actions of their students, but I feel I owe a great deal to the many who inspired me and I find great joy in being able to pass it on to the next generation.”
Always her favorite subject, history was Kathleen Kean’s major at Chatham College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She earned an M.A. in history from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Kean, the 2000 winner of the OAH’s Mary K. Bonsteel Tachau Precollegiate Teaching Award, has been teaching U.S. history and Advanced Placement U.S. history, primarily to eleventh graders, since 1969. For the past twenty years she has been teaching at Nicolet High School in Glendale, Wisconsin. An undergraduate senior research project based on the letters her immigrant Irish great-great-grandfather had written home to Buffalo, New York, during the Civil War still provides her with material she uses on a regular basis to excite her own students about the rewards of working with primary sources.
Kean values short workshops for secondary teachers that offer specific historical content as well as exploring new theories related to teaching, but she has also taken advantage of more intensive opportunities for professional development. In 1987 she became the project director for a teacher-training workshop funded by the Committee on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. Forty Wisconsin teachers met with a scholar specializing in legal and constitutional history, designing and implementing new lessons on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In addition to the workshops, Kean also served as a member of the OAH Focus Group that reviewed the National History Standards and served on the board of editors of the Magazine of History. She helped found and has served on the board of Historic Milwaukee, Inc., a historic preservation organization, for which she designed and implemented a program to train volunteers to give architectural and historical walking tours.