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2011 John Rogers Memorial Award
Winner: Eric Martone
Eric Martone has taught social studies at Kennedy Hugh School in Waterbury since 2004. In addition, he teaches graduate-level courses and is completing his doctorate in global history. However, his primary area of interest and research has been African American history that has allowed him to enrich his colleagues' and students' appreciation and understanding of African Americans and how Western societies have dealt historically with cultural diversity.
Eric's tremendous amount of research has resulted in a vast array of publications. In 2009, he published the Encyclopedia of Blacks in European History and Culture as part of Greenwood Press/ABC-CLIO's American Mosaic series. This reference is now offered in the publisher's African American studies database for use by schools and public libraries nationally. The project, based on Eric's own experience incorporating Black History Month into his social studies classes, arose from his desire to include African diaspora studies into non-U.S. history, literature, and foreign language classes at the high school and at the undergraduate level.
In addition, Eric has done extensive research on the biracial French writer Alexandre Dumas, the author of The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, and The Man in the Iron Mask. This has led to the publication of many peer-reviewed articles and the development of lesson plans on the author that allow students to appreciate his largely unknown black ancestry and his experiences with racism. These discussions can lead students to consider related issues such as diversity, integration, and success. Eric's deep knowledge of African American history has also led him to develop other lesson plans and activities for use by other teachers. Several years ago, he participated in a weeklong workshop on Fortune, an eighteenth-century slave who lived in Waterbury. At the culmination of the workshop, Eric developed an interdisciplinary curriculum unit designed to not only enrich students' understanding of African American history but also to appreciate that local history exists all around them. Moreover, the unit has students explore larger issues regarding right versus wrong and how American society has tried to reconcile slavery. Eric was also one of several teachers selected nationally to participate in a workshop for teachers on the Amistad and slavery in Connecticut at the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale University.
In nominating Eric for the John Rogers Memorial Award, Nicole Martone wrote of Eric, "Although teaching for only seven years, he has been praised in his evaluations as a talented teacher and an asset to our school. I, therefore, believe that he is an exemplary teacher who deserves recognition for his collective efforts to further a meaningful understanding and appreciation for African-American history."