By Leah Levy / llevy@atljewishacademy.org

Atlanta Jewish Academy humanities teacher Sally Stanhope

Atlanta Jewish Academy humanities teacher Sally Stanhope

Atlanta Jewish Academy Upper School humanities teacher Sally Stanhope has had a busy summer.

She took off to Fort Wayne, Ind., on June 21 for a little more than a week to attend a Passport to Innovative Education Summit. She collaborated with experts in character education and teachers from around the country to develop lessons that infuse character education into the curriculum.

On June 30, she was off again to the World History Association’s annual conference in Savannah, where she gave a presentation on “The Intersection of Identity Politics of the Past and Present.” Stanhope was one of two teachers who received the 2015 William H. McNeill Scholarship for the conference.

With one day between programs for the second time this summer, she left for three weeks at the University of Denver. Stanhope was chosen as a National Endowment for the Humanities summer scholar and participated in a Summer Institute for Teachers course titled “Teaching Connected Histories of the Mediterranean.”

“The truth is, I didn’t realize how busy I was until now,” she said during the Denver course.

The first program she attended, the Passport to Innovative Education Summit, addressed a topic that has long been important to Stanhope and a big part of the educational vision at AJA. “I became interested in character education in a graduate school history class, and I’m particularly interested in how to teach students grit, a word I would use to describe how to recover from failure.”

Stanhope has been a member of the WHA since 2009, but this summer was only her second time attending the annual conference.

“My presentation addresses the topic of how teachers can use the past to encourage students to discuss issues of white privilege and institutional racism without bringing up feelings of defensive guilt, longstanding frustration and silent anger,” Stanhope said.

She uses art from a different culture to help students separate themselves from the situation. “The identity politics of 18th-century New Spain that lurk beneath the casta paintings of that time touch upon many of the issues that present-day debates over race and privilege raise yet are safely entrenched in the past,” she said. Such a lesson “exemplifies how social studies can prepare students to read texts critically, questioning the biases of the author, the validity of the evidence and the potential ramifications of the discourse.”

As for her final summer stop, the seminar on Mediterranean history, Stanhope said: “Because we’re a Jewish school and Israel is so close to my students’ hearts, I am delighted to learn more about the region without the filter of media bias.”

“Sally takes professional development very seriously,” said Joel Rojek, the general studies principal at AJA Upper School. “Every summer she has attended at least one national summer conference or similar opportunity to learn about trends in history and to meet other educators from across the country. … Kudos to Sally for seeking these out and pursuing them.”

This school year Stanhope is teaching three levels of world history (college prep, honors and Advanced Placement), college-prep U.S. history, and a new class she developed called “History of the Human Body: Perspectives of the Body in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries.”

That new course will highlight the social values placed on different bodies and how closer global interrelationships led to an idealization of certain attributes. Topics include the politics behind the dress code in Manchu China, fitness and diet in American culture, and eugenics.

Stanhope developed the class after polling AJA Upper School students about which of five possible classes they would most like to take. She used the same process last year for a new class called “Roots of the Contemporary World,” which studied current international issues and traced their history.

“Sally Stanhope is so much more than a hardworking and innovative history teacher. She’s grade dean for this year’s sophomores, National Honor Society sponsor, and sponsors our No Place for Hate club. She is a big believer in off-campus learning; she’s very involved in creating service learning opportunities,” Rojek said. “Students enjoy her energetic and upbeat demeanor, and they respect her work ethic. They can tell she cares about them not only as students, but as individuals, and that she wants to make the AJA community a supportive and caring environment where all students can reach their fullest potential.”