From Soroco to Georgetown University, teacher earns prestigious fellowship
June 22, 2017
Soroco High School social studies teacher Jill Duplessis is in Washington, D.C. this month where she is among distinguished school teachers from all over the United States, who are immersing themselves in an intensive study of American history at Georgetown University with the help of a James Madison Fellowship.
Reached between classes June 22, Duplessis acknowledged the Georgetown campus is intellectually stimulating.
"Georgetown itself is very dynamic," Duplessis said. "There are students everywhere, and we meet in halls where famous and distinguished people have given speeches. There's a courtyard outside one of them where 14 presidents from George Washington to President Obama have given speeches. Next week, we'll hear from both former President Obama's and President Trump's secretaries of education."
Duplessis' fellowship includes an award of $24,000 from the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation to help her complete her master's in American history and government at Ashland University northeast of Columbus, Ohio. And at the end of her brief stay at Georgetown this summer, she will have earned six credits toward that degree.
“I love Soroco. I really do. The students are so willing to work hard. They know what it is to work hard on the athletic field, in class and also outside the school.” Jill Duplessis
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The Madison Foundation was founded by an act of Congress in 1986 and is an independent agency of the executive branch of the federal government, which is funded by a trust fund in the Treasury of the United States. It also relies on private gifts, corporate contributions and foundation grants. Terms of the fellowship require recipients to teach American history or social studies in a secondary school for at least one year for each year of support.
The fulfillment of that requirement isn't in doubt in the case of Duplessis, who says the small class sizes at Soroco enable her to develop personal relationships with students.
"I love Soroco," Duplessis said. "I really do. The students are so willing to work hard. They know what it is to work hard on the athletic field, in class and also outside the school."
Duplessis and her fellow students at Georgetown spent this week learning more about how settlers, who came to the original 13 colonies from England, brought with them the concepts of English common law and set the foundations for the patriots who wrote the Declaration of Independence and framed the U.S. Constitution.
Already this summer, Jack Duane Warren, Jr., executive director of the Society of the Cincinnati, which honors the service and sacrifice of those who fought for and won American independence, gave Duplessis and her fellow students his views on what the Revolutionary War really meant.
"It was the beginning of our dialogue, which is ongoing, about what it means to have human rights for everyone," she said.
Duplessis was raised on a working farm in Nebraska and attended the University of Denver where she earned an undergraduate degree in international studies. She went on to earn a master’s degree in liberal studies with an emphasis in creative writing.