RIDGEFIELD, Conn. – Jennifer Russell, a history teacher at John Winthrop School in Bridgeport, was honored with the Anna Keeler Award for Excellence in History and Civics Education, which is bestowed by the Keeler Tavern Museum in Ridgefield.
She received her award at the museum’s annual benefit dinner last month.
Established in 2015, the award recognizes teachers whose passion and dedication motivate students to understand how the past shapes the present.
Russell, who has taught seventh-graders in Bridgeport for 12 years, didn’t set out to be a teacher. After a stint in the U.S. Army that took her to various posts in Europe, she came back to the States to pursue a college degree, ultimately choosing to study history.
“History is my biggest passion,” she says, “because it is the stories of all people; it leads to who, what and where we are in life today.”
Hildi Grob, the museum’s executive director, first met Russell at a state-wide event for social studies teachers in Hartford last year.
“Jennifer sought us out,” she says, “looking for a program that would, as she says, help her students ‘realize the world around them is so much larger than their computers and streets.’”
After meeting Grob in Hartford, Russell spearheaded an effort to bring seventh-graders from John Winthrop School to Keeler Tavern Museum for its National Connections/American Revolution program on the Battle of Ridgefield.
Last March, 70 students attended the museum’s immersive, curriculum-grounded program.
The program prepares students to answer the question, “Who actually ‘won’ the Battle of Ridgefield?” by having them experience re-enactments and examine key artifacts and primary source documents.
“The Cannonball Gala raises funds for our Education Programs, including the School Bus Fund that makes it possible for us to bring students from underserved school districts like Bridgeport to our historic site for a unique, hands-on experience,” says Grob.
The Keeler Tavern Museum at 132 Main St. in Ridgefield is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, that presents three centuries of the region’s—and nation’s—history through the lives of the families that occupied the site starting in 1713.
For more information, including museum hours and directions, visit keelertavernmuseum.org .