History teacher named Sacramento County National History Day competition’s Teacher of the Year after 13 students move on to state
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Thirteen students weren’t the only ones who received awards at the Sacramento County National History Day (NHD). Chris Kuipers, Country Day NHD coordinator and history teacher was honored as Teacher of the Year.
The award is given by the National History Day Committee of Sacramento County to the “best educator to promote History Day.”
“It’s a reflection of how many kids we’ve sent over the last few years,” Kuipers said. “Our kids make up around 10 percent of the competitors and have helped rebuild the competition.”
Kuipers has made developing an NHD project a mandatory part of his eighth-grade curriculum for the past three years.
Although NHD isn’t mandatory for high schoolers, all high schoolers who entered are advancing to the state competition at William Jessup University on May 5-6. And so are seven middle schoolers.
“I’m incredibly proud but not surprised,” Kuipers said. “Each of those kids is experienced, smart and super talented.”
The six high schoolers who entered this year were freshman Keshav Anand in the Senior Individual Documentary category, sophomores Héloïse Schep and Anu Krishnan in the Senior Paper category, and juniors Chardonnay Needler, Joe Mo and Harrison Moon in the Senior Group Documentary category.
There are three champions in each of the categories and a runner-up who will fill in for a champion if they can’t go to state.
Anand, who did his documentary on the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, said he was very happy with it.
He also said his interviews with Michael May, technical advisor for the threshold test ban treaty, and Yogesh Joshi, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford, were extremely helpful in gaining expert insight on the topic.
Editing and the bibliography were Anand’s weaknesses that he said he would tighten up before the state competition in May.
After winning the county competition, contestants have a few weeks to revise and edit their projects before it goes on to state.
Schep, whose topic was the Delano Grape strikes, said she benefited greatly from her interview with Strike coordinator Marc Grossman. Since he worked with Cesar Chavez directly, Grossman helped tie up loose ends in Schep’s research.
The Delano Grape strikes were held in the Central Valley to protest low incomes for migrant farmers in the early ‘60s. The movement was headed by Chavez.
Schep recently did an hour-long interview with one of the captains of the 1966 Delano-to-Sacramento march, Roberto Bustos. This, according to her, gave her an “amazing” personal narrative to weave into her essay.
In addition to adding information from that interview, Schep said she plans on incorporating some of the judges’ feedback as well. They recommended she bring up more parallels with other movements in the ‘60s, such as the Civil Rights Movement.
Krishnan, who did her paper on Elizabeth Kampy, a nun who treated people sick with polio, said she was interested in her topic because “one person was able to affect so many.”
Interviews also benefited Krishnan; she interviewed a polio survivor who had been treated by Kampy.
Needler, Moon and Mo did their documentary on the “gacaca” courts created after the Rwandan genocide to bring quick judgment to the many people that were involved.
While their topic was more somber than the others, Needler said she felt very passionate about it.
“We’ve known about Rwanda for a long time – especially through the Rulindo school – but Americans are fairly ignorant of how horrible it really was,” she said.
“Learning about the ‘gacaca’ courts gave us a sense of the ingenuity and humanity of these people in the aftermath.”
Mo said that they will be reworking the visual parts of the documentary to make it flow better. Judges told the group that even though their documentary was good, they needed more infographics to help explain their topic.
Needler is also trying to get in contact with the current U.S. ambassador to Rwanda, Mathilda Mutankabana.
Plans for the state competition aside, winners said they are enjoying their victory.
“(Winning) feels pretty good,” Moon said. “We put a lot of time and hard work into this, and now it’s paying off.”
Anu Krishnan: Champion Senior Paper, Medical History Award
Heloise Schep: Champion Senior Paper
Keshav Anand: Champion Individual Senior Documentary
Chardonnay Needler, Harrison Moon and Joe Mo: Champion Group Senior Documentary
Dylan Margolis: Champion Individual Junior Performance
Arjin Claire: Champion Individual Junior Website
Ashima Kamra: Runner-Up Junior Paper
Keerti Ravula: Champion Junior Paper
Hailey Fesai: Medical History Award
Casey Vasquez: Champion Individual Documentary, Sacramento Pioneer Award, Access Sacramento Award
John Grubbs, Arijit Trivedi and Craig Bolman: Champion Group Junior Website
Miles Morrow and Beau Chavez: Runner-Up Group Junior Website, Mary Tsukamoto Award
—By Spencer Scott