A local high school history teacher and graduate student at the University of West Georgia has been named the state’s alternate for a prestigious national fellowship whose mission is to encourage the study of the U.S. Constitution.
Kellie Patterson, who teaches world history at Villa Rica High School and is currently working toward a master’s degree in history at UWG, said being named Georgia’s only alternate for the James Madison Memorial Fellowship – a competitive award in which only one winner and one alternate are selected from each state – is a testament to the work she does every day.
“Being able to focus more heavily on the Constitution and what it means for our country really intrigued me,” said Patterson, who earned her bachelor’s degree in secondary education from UWG in 2014. “There’s a lack of knowledge in that area, and a lot of my students are getting closer to the point where they’re going to be voters soon. I consider it part of my civic duty to ensure they’re informed about the vision our Founding Fathers like James Madison had for our country.”
James Madison Fellowships support further study of American history by college graduates who aspire to become teachers of American history, American government and social studies in the nation’s secondary schools, as well as by experienced secondary school teachers of the same subjects.
Patterson falls into that second category of applicants. She said applying for the fellowship was – rightfully so – a real challenge, but that UWG’s Office of Undergraduate Research, housed in the Honors College, was helpful every step of the way.
“I had the opportunity to meet with Kate Theobald, the manager of the Office of Undergraduate Research, and talk with her about what the application should look like and what the committee would be looking for,” Patterson said. “I’ve never applied for something this prestigious or competitive before, and it was refreshing to have someone always willing to help when I got stuck with a question or needed some guidance.”
Oftentimes, the very process of applying for national scholarships or fellowships can prove beneficial for students. Dr. Janet Donohoe, dean of the UWG Honors College, said applying allows students to think about and articulate their goals in a clear way.
“They begin to envision themselves as being successful beyond their current status,” Donohoe said. “Being able to envision yourself as a national scholarship or fellowship recipient is half the battle. We help them to realize that and to understand themselves as capable of doing anything they want to do. Additionally, increased application numbers help raise the university’s profile by joining the ranks of institutions that provide a higher level of support to students and help students envision themselves as worthy of national awards.”
That was certainly the case for Patterson, who said the process allowed her to think more deeply about what she wants out of her master’s degree.
“It also helped shape what I want to incorporate in my classroom now,” Patterson said. “Completing this application gave me ideas on what to do with my students and how to become a better teacher in general.”
Patterson was selected as the Georgia alternate for a James Madison Fellowship in competition with applicants from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the nation’s island and trust territories.
Named in honor of the fourth president of the United States and acknowledged “Father of the Constitution and Bill of Rights,” the fellowship funds up to $24,000 of a course of study toward a master’s degree. That program must include a concentration of courses on the history and principles of the U.S. Constitution.
The award is intended to recognize promising and distinguished teachers, to strengthen their knowledge of the origins and development of American constitutional government, and thus to expose the nation’s secondary school students to accurate knowledge of the nation’s constitutional heritage.
Patterson intends to apply for the fellowship again next year, with a deadline of March 2019.
For more information on the James Madison Memorial Fellowship, visit www.jamesmadison.gov.