Driven 2 Teach: Civil War to Civil Rights

Written by: Marrianne Asay

When I was a teenager, I found a copy of an address given at my Wood Family Reunion among some of my grandmother’s old family bibles and pictures.  In the address, the story is told about the role the Quaker family played in helping with the Underground Railroad in Ohio. The more I research my Wood family ancestry, the more I feel inspired by them. Several sons fought for the North, their feelings against slavery stronger than their religious tenants against violence. Esther, the mother of the family, was a suffragette, fighting for women’s rights.  My pride for my ancestors is conveyed to my students as I share their stories of courage and integrity in connection with the historical events they were a part of.

I have also learned about other ancestors, the Cooper family,  an old colonist family, who moved from Pennsylvania to South Carolina in the early days of the new colony.  They owned a farm in Union County, South Carolina; a farm run by slaves. Their sons fought on the side of the Confederacy.  When their slaves were freed at the end of the Civil War, most of them chose to stay with the Cooper family. The pride I feel from family that assisted in freeing slaves and working to promote women’s rights, was somewhat dampened by the feelings that came when I found out about my slave-holding ancestry.  This summer I have the opportunity to learn a little more about this branch in my family tree and their role in history. I hope to not only learn about the historical events these families lived through, but also the feeling, culture, and societal issues that have grown out of the Civil War through a program called Driven 2 Teach, ( sponsored by the Larry H. Miller organization and Zion’s bank.

This year, Driven 2 Teach is providing three field studies to over 60 public school, 5-12 grade teachers in the state of Utah.  Each field study is focused on helping teachers learn about a segment of US history in a hands-on, personal way. I was selected to participate in this year’s Civil War to Civil Rights field study.  We will study the Civil War, while standing inside Fort Sumter. We will learn about slavery, as we sit in a slave cabin. We will learn about the bus boycott while sitting the bus Rosa Parks sat on, listening to people that knew her, sharing their experiences.  A visit to the Center for Civil and Human rights will give us an opportunity to learn and discuss Civil Rights throughout history, and throughout the world. We will be able to attend a church that was pivotal during the Civil Rights movement, and walk the roads of Selma, Alabama, one of the battlegrounds in the fight for Civil Rights.  

Participating teachers in the program will have a fair bit of work to do to prepare, so that as they visit each site and learn about history where it was made, they have a base knowledge and foundation to work from.  The stack of books and the list of assignments feels a little overwhelming, but at the same time, it feels like a small price to pay for the privilege to participate. Driven 2 Teach offers 6 credit hours, and from the stack of books and list of homework assignments I brought home from the kick off meeting, I will earn those 6 credits.  The main goal of the trip is for teachers to take what they learn and experience, back to their classrooms to improve their students’ learning. The directors of the program want teacher leaders that will take what they learn and share it with other teachers at their schools and districts. I’m excited for the opportunity to dive into history, as well as the current issues, sentiments, and problems that we face because of history, both individually, collectively, and socially.  Thank you to the Larry H. Miller organization and Zion’s bank for caring enough about teachers and students to provide this amazing opportunity!

Marrianne Asay has the heart of a teacher and loves being in the classroom. She is a 5th grade teacher at Highland Elementary School in Alpine School District. She is a Utah Teacher Fellow and is enjoying the opportunity to promote teacher voice and teacher leadership.  She is the mother of 3 adventurous children and enjoys hiking and traveling with her husband.

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