This Year’s Award-Winners

2015 9/11 Tribute Center Teacher's Award Winners

The 2015 Teacher Award-Winners created projects that thoughtfully engaged their students in understanding 9/11 through variety of disciplines. Many chose to explore the humanitarian aftermath of the attacks, inspiring their students.


Teacher: Dr. Susan Miller

School: Middleborough High School, MA
Grade: 9th – 12th
Principal: Paul F. Branagan Jr.
Foundation: The Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund

Middleborough High School is located close to Boston and several teachers participated in the Boston Marathon in 2013. Many of the faculty were also working at the school on September 11, 2001 and these connections led Dr. Miller to conceive an oral history project to ensure all members of the school were aware of and sensitive to the importance of preparedness in the event of a terrorist attack.

Dr. Miller introduced the study of world history in reverse, and started with 9/11/01. The basis for this method was a collaborative year-long project between her U.S. history, world history, and current issues and special education classes. Students were asked to create a timeline of events as they unfolded, research how the media presented 9/11, interview veterans of the following wars, and participate in a drive collecting supplies for soldiers stationed in Afghanistan.

Dr. Miller guided students in interviewing the school’s faculty about what it was like to be teaching as they learned about the attacks on the day itself and in the months afterwards. They also interviewed the school staff and their own families. The following questions were addressed:

  • How did we handle the attack?
  • What did we learn from it?
  • Are we better prepared for what the future brings?

Students videotaped their oral history interviews, edited them and created a remarkable video that is about their particular school but captures the mood of the nation in the fall of 2001. This video will be part of the town’s Middleborough Historical Society archive and will be shown each year on 9/11 to the school community.




Teacher: Gail Frydkowski & Zach Rothman-Hicks

School: High School for Health Professions & Human Services, NY
Grade: 12th
Principal: Robert Gentile
Foundation: The Brooke Jackman Foundation

Ms. Frydkowski and Mr. Rothman-Hicks asked their language arts students to identify a “defining moment” in their own lives. The teachers used this to explain how 9/11 was a global defining moment for many generations and is now identified by some people as a “Day of Infamy.”

After discussing the events and facts of that day and creating biographies about individuals or groups that were affected, students focused on the humanitarian efforts that followed. Students were asked to think about their personal responses to this world-changing day. Finally, the teachers tied these topics together through the theme of memorialization. Students each created a memorial art piece about the victim or group they had studied previously in their biographies. Art pieces were displayed in a “gallery” and ranged from photography, to drawings, to poetry, to song playlists.

This project encompassed seven class periods and utilized statistics, literature, film, oral histories, and music in the class discussions. As the school is located in a neighborhood that was directly affected by 9/11, this project was of strong interest to the students. One reflected: “[Learning about 9/11] made us stronger…and made us appreciate what we have in life. This class made me realize the importance of love.”




Teacher: Judi Freeman

School: Boston Latin School, MA
Grade: 11th & 12th
Principal: Lynne Mooney Teta
Foundation: The Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund

September 11th is an anchor for Ms. Freeman when teaching her 20th and 21st century history courses to her nearly 150 juniors and seniors. On the anniversary of 9/11, students are prompted to think about how a school much like theirs—Stuyvesant High School—responded to 9/11; they read With Their Eyes aloud.

Throughout the year, the class explores two key questions in contemporary history: 1. How and why the attacks happened and 2. What do the words of witnesses teach us about human behavior and the triumph of the human spirit in the face of the horror of mass violence? This class also focuses on the dangers of stereotyping and the notion of the “other.”

Later, students study other episodes of mass violence and create a “toolbox” one could use to address violent incidents. In May they synthesize their reflections and end with a major project in which students design and build maquettes for memorials to episodes of violence and tragedy. Often these include several memorials to September 11th, the Boston Marathon bombing, or a combination of the two.

The memorials are then displayed in a 3-week public exhibition. This connects the school to the community as well as serving as a tie between the students and terrorist attacks of the past such as the Boston Marathon bombing and September 11th. Ms. Freeman reflects, “I realize that this history is now fixed in their minds. They advocate for remembering it and consequently, through the power of what they create, they do.”




Teacher: Kathleen Connon

School: Scarsdale Middle School, NY
Grade: 8th
Principal: Michael McDermott
Foundation: The Family of Firefighter Michael D. Mullan

Inspired by her visit to the 9/11 Tribute Center and the ESPN film reporting the story of “The Man in the Red Bandanna,” Ms. Connon integrated her own project ideas with those of the Welles Remy Crowther Charitable Trust’s curriculum.

In addition to utilizing this curriculum, Ms. Connon collected several witness testimonies and reflections on the events of 9/11, which the students read and heard. These included “On Monday I Emailed Jokes,” and “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” by Alan Jackson, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, and With Their Eyes by Annie Thomas. The students then researched and wrote oral history papers, poetry, and essays on the themes of forgiveness, trust, and resilience. Welles’ mother was also invited to their school for Human Rights Day. The 8th grade students were so moved that they started a Red Bandanna campaign that raised funds for the Welles Remy Crowther Charitable Trust. The students also took a field trip to the ladder company where Welles volunteered. Ms. Connon describes her inspiration, goals, and reflections in one: “In a very fragile world, I teach human values…this project focuses on our empathy for others, and students are able to communicate about terrorism, hope, and faith in humanity.”




Teacher: Kristina Seligson

School: PS/IS 127Q, NY
Grade: 6th
Principal: Evita Sanbria
Foundation: The Terence D. Gazzani 9/11 Scholarship Fund

Ms. Seligson introduced 9/11 by presenting the facts of the attacks to students who were not born when they occurred. The main focus of her teaching, however, was to study how ordinary people stepped up in extraordinary ways in response.

The lesson, taught to all three of her English language arts sections, was comprised of four phases. The first phase identified the students’ prior understanding of 9/11 through a Know-Want-Learn (KWL) chart. In the second phase, students studied the events of 9/11 and the following humanitarian response through articles and videos. During the third phase, students were briefed on the profiles of eight “heroes” who exemplify the legacy of 9/11, and then selected one person to further research and commemorate. The fourth phase occurs throughout the school year. In this, Ms. Seligson’s goal was to “theme” the school year with love, compassion, and sacrifice whenever possible to help others in ways big and small. This meant students participated in several community service projects with the spirit and legacy of 9/11 in mind.

Recently students began studying “The Hero’s Journey” and were asked to write about what they think of the word “hero.” Several of the 9/11 heroes studied earlier in the year were represented. As a result of Ms. Seligson’s careful approach, students clearly understand the profound implications the terrorist attacks of September 11th have had on our world, and students have already become engaged as active citizens within their community.




Teacher: Mario Fitzpatrick

School: McQueen High School, NV
Grade: 10th
Principal: Sue Denning
Foundation: The Greg Richards, Larry Polatsch, Scott Weingard Memorial Fund (GLS Memorial Fund)

Mr. Fitzpatrick conceptualized his project after attending two professional development workshops—the first focused on the study of September 11th while the second guided social studies teachers through the Close Read method used by many English language arts classes.

In this unit designed to answer one of students’ most frequently asked questions about 9/11: “Why did the terrorists attack the U.S.?” Using the Close Read method, students studied Osama bin Laden’s fatwa issued on February 23, 1998. Through a series of questions and worksheets examining other samples of radicalizing propaganda, students were able to deeply analyze the words used in the document and the meanings behind them. Additional resources that the class used include other primary source documents, including Islamist terrorist propaganda.

This project comes at the end of a unit on terrorism as part of his world history class and helps to bridge the gap of studying September 11th from a historical context into one of present-day. The unit is scheduled for the end of the school year to ensure students leave his world history class with an understanding of the roots of many current events. In this way students are given a more comprehensive understanding of terrorism as a concept. Students also find the lesson to be relevant since issues of terrorism have been a major part of their young lives.




Teacher: Nicholas DeAntonis

School: Academy of Information Technology & Engineering, CT
Grade: 10th – 12th
Principal: Maria Rivera
Foundation: The Christopher Slattery 9/11 Memorial Foundation

Mr. DeAntonis has not only created a project on the subject of September 11th, but an entire unit. This history unit was designed to address the students’ desire to know more about 9/11 while teaching them that everyday citizens are an important part of 9/11’s evolving historical narrative. The students heard about the intense fear that gripped people when they learned of the attacks, but also learned about the overwhelming feelings of unity and dedication that followed.

As major component of this unit, students conduct interviews of adults in their lives such as friends, family, and teachers about how they experienced the events of 9/11. These interviews later serve as the core component in their reflection paper which aims to answer “How 9/11 Changed America.” Students are given three weeks to conduct these interviews, write reflections, and compose a short PowerPoint presentation that highlights their findings.

The rest of the unit examines the origins of the 9/11 attacks as well as the legacy it has left behind. Once complete, students present their PowerPoint presentations to each other and the class completes their unit with a field trip to both the 9/11 Tribute Center and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.

Mr. DeAntonis finds using alternative methods of teaching vital to reach students when approaching a subject such as history: “[An] aim in creating this project was to teach my students that history is something that is evolving and even average citizens can contribute to 9/11’s historical narrative…Any time [any time is two words] I can have my students learn outside of a textbook, I will do it.”




Teacher: Vickie Slaydon

School: Bethany Elementary School, NC
Grade: K – 5th
Principal: Elizabeth Covell
Foundation: The Welles Remy Crowther Charitable Trust

Enhancement teachers (music, art, computer, gym and library) took the lead in creating a schoolwide 9/11 anniversary “Education and Remembrance” event to introduce young students to the history of September 11th.

The programs occur in Ms. Slaydon’s music room and are crafted for each individual age group across the entire elementary school. Topics covered include character education, anti-bullying, 9/11 myth debunking, remembrance, and service. Mr. Hall gave a presentation to each class using age-appropriate books, video clips, visual tools, and oral histories. One of these oral histories was that of Mr. Hall, as he discussed his time in New York serving as a recovery volunteer at the World Trade Center site.

In this community-centered, rural area the volunteer fire department has been a huge supporter of the school’s educational endeavors by helping to celebrate students’ reading and art achievements.

As an optional part of the event, the local fire department sponsored an art contest in which students could submit works of art based on what they’d learned or felt afterwards. This school-wide memorial is a prime example of what schools can do to educate their students on the subject of 9/11 during their remembrance ceremonies as well as how to teach such a subject to younger students. This remembrance event has now become an annual 9/11 memorial commemoration.