One of the great features of a career in teaching is the opportunity to have a new start more than once a year. We start a school year in the fall, with nice, fresh bulletin boards, clean desks and floors, in a building that has been thoroughly scrubbed and shined during the summer. And then, we also start over in January along with the rest of the world. I love new beginnings. As you look at the brand new calendar pages for 2012 and contemplate all the ways in which you will make this a great year, I recommend that you consider applying for the James Madison Memorial Fellowship. I consider the Fellowship and its opportunities for professional and personal growth to be the single most important experience of my professional life.

The James Madison Fellowship

“The goal of the James Madison Fellowship is to help secondary level history, government, and social studies teachers to become outstanding educators of the U.S. Constitution.” The Fellowship pays up to $24,000 to cover actual costs of tuition, required fees, books, and room and board to allow each Fellow to earn a master’s degree in American history or political science. James Madison Fellows may choose the accredited university where they will study. Constitutional study must be a prominent feature of the Fellow’s program, and he/she must agree to a continuing professional teaching obligation: “After earning a master’s degree, each James Madison Fellow must teach American history, American government, or social studies in grades 7-12 for no less than one year for each full academic year of study under the fellowship.” The James Madison Foundation’s Summer Institute on the Constitution is one of the most memorable and unique features of the Fellowship. Think “academic boot camp” for history and government teachers. In July, new Fellows meet at Georgetown University for a rigorous and intense four-week graduate course entitled, “The Foundations of American Constitutionalism.” The course includes required preparatory reading and is taught by leading scholars of the Constitution. There are several field trips to sites associated with the Founding of our country, and solid friendships are forged as Fellows test their academic skills.

The Fellowship’s goal is to boost the skill—and the passion—that history and government teachers bring to their craft. Here are a few testimonials from Fellows that illustrate just how effectively this goal is achieved:

I really appreciate the fact that the Madison Foundation allows for an open discussion of the Constitution without any kind of “spin” or “agenda.” ’95 (MI)

“This was a life-changing experience and my teaching will never be the same—it will be better.” ’04 (TX)

“I return home a better teacher than when I departed a month ago, molded through hours of reading, lecture, discussion, and tours, not to mention the conversations held with an incredible assemblage of teaching talent.” ’01 (WI)

“I thank the Madison Foundation for carrying on the Constitution’s spirit. . . as I and other Fellows pass the torch to the next generation of Americans in our classrooms.” ’97 (NH)

Fellowships are awarded in each state; an applicant competes only against others from his/her own state. Applications are due March 1, and everything you need to apply as a Madison Fellow, including Fellowship FAQs, is available on the Fellowship website at Becoming a Madison Fellow is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your students in the New Year, and I’d love to answer any questions you may have about the Fellowship. If you are a Madison Fellow, please write to tell me how the Fellowship has benefited you.

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