Maple Hill High School teacher Mr. Ed Finney has been selected as a Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History 2020 New York History Teacher of the Year and is in the running for the National History Teacher of the Year.

A panel of teachers, administrators and scholars from around New York state selected Mr. Finney for his achievements in American history education.

“I was surprised and very honored to have been selected,” Mr. Finney said. “There were a fabulous group of social studies educators nominated across New York for this award.”

Mr. Finney has been a teacher in the district for 24 years.

“I have been fortunate to follow my affection for US history by working as a middle and high school social studies teacher for the past twenty-three years. I did not realize when I  was growing up as a son to parents that owned and operated an antique auction house, that I was surrounded in a world of primary source documents and artifacts,” he said. “To me, it was just interesting junk! I spent my summers and weekends searching through attics, basements, old barns, a home that was part of the underground railroad, an old farmhouse with a fake wall that served as a speakeasy, and my favorite was an Adirondack camp that was shuttered since World War II. These experiences allowed me to see history as it happened and realized the importance that documents and artifacts play in telling the story of American History. I want my students to appreciate history as much as I did and I make it a goal each  year to find ways to motivate and build my students interest in history and to help create futures historians.”

Mr. Finney has seen a lot throughout the past three decades of being a teacher, but this past year has especially challenging for all educators with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I feel strongly that the US History classroom must evolve and adapt to the changing needs and interests of our students. It was also important to reinforce the idea that we are living through tomorrow’s history,” he said. “The current Covid-19 crisis is an example of how US history teachers must change with the times. During the shutdown, I offered my students live synchronous classes utilizing the same technology that they were familiar with in the classroom.”

Mr. Finney is currently rewriting his lesson plans to incorporate strategies he learned from remote learning and will utilize the best practices in ed tech that will allow him to seamlessly prepare and transition from the live classroom to a remote learning environment, and vice versa.

“What worked last year at this time may not work this year,” he said. “I have spent a great deal of time this summer working on creating digital icebreakers and methods to build a rapport with my new students if we have to teach virtually. The most difficult piece of online learning for me was building a stronger relationship with my students. It was difficult to joke around with them or notice their mood and interest level.  Overall, the transition to online teaching was not too difficult. I began transitioning my traditional paper based lessons to tech based lessons about eight years ago.”

With the award comes a $1,000 prize, a Certificate of Recognition, an archive of books and historical resources, an invitation to attend a 2021 Gilder Lehrman Teacher Seminar and recognition at a ceremony.

Mr. Finney now joins 53 other finalists for the $10,000 National History Teacher of the Year award, which will be announced in the coming weeks.

Congratulations Mr. Finney! Thank you for all of your hard work and for the impact that you have on our students. He was recently named the 2019-20 New York State Outstanding Middle School Social Studies Teacher of the Year; is the chair of the NYSCSS Tech Committee; and a member of the NCSS Technology Leadership Committee.