Every chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution has the option to select an Outstanding Teacher of American History from their own community. The Philadelphia Winn Chapter in Lawrenceville selected Mr. Johnny Griffin as their 2021 nominee.
The purpose of this award is to recognize a notable, full-time teacher of American History (and related fields, such as social studies, government, and citizenship education) in public, private and parochial schools, grades 5–12. Candidates must meet the following requirements and complete an application to be considered: a) have taught school for the current and previous academic year; b) teach in the state of the sponsoring chapter; c) have an incisive knowledge of American history readily shared with students; d) foster a spirit of patriotism and loyal support of our country and constitutional government; e) demonstrate the ability to relate history to modern life and events; f) have high academic standards, requiring excellence at all times from students; g) be committed to students and enjoy good rapport with them.
Mr. Griffin's nomination was suggested by a former student. What better acknowledgment to the lasting power of one's teaching is there, to be suggested for this nomination by a former student? Philadelphia Winn member Randi Minor suggested our nominee; she was his student in eighth grade at Shiloh Middle School! Surprisingly, during the Zoom chapter meeting in January, we also found out he taught the mother of one of our American History essay winners this year, as well as children of additional members. A retired Gwinnett County teacher, Mr. Griffin currently teaches eighth grade Georgia History at George Walton Academy in Loganville; he has been teaching for 33 years.
He has a zest and vitality, an immediacy, to his teaching that he imparts to students, as if historical events are happening - right now! He makes them feel they are "in the moment" by using plays, biographies, and group debates. (To keep the Articles of Confederation, or establish a Constitutional republic based on democratic principles is just one of the topics they argue about. Or if you prefer, debate.) Ben Franklin has been known to come to class in period attire and offer words of wisdom. After all these years, Mr. Griffin is certainly aware of the mercurial needs of eighth-grade students and continues to rise to the challenge.
As he spoke to the chapter in January, he shared how meaningful it was to hear the Preamble, the pledges to the flags, and America's Creed. He thanked all Daughters for promoting history, understanding our government, and appreciating our citizenship. He recognized how his goals of teaching students are very similar to the goals of the DAR: learn our history, preserve it (both good and bad), understand the workings of our government, and to participate in the process. Many of his vacations have included visits to historic sites to expand his knowledge of both American and Georgia history.
Georgia State Society DAR Historian Kate Sievert Cook recently announced that Mr. Griffin will also be recognized as Georgia's nominee for Outstanding Teacher of American History. He will be honored and speak at a luncheon at GSSDAR State Conference in March. If he is also selected for the National Society DAR honor he will be invited and honored at the annual Continental Congress in June, in Washington, D.C. An official certificate and monetary award are presented at all levels of recognition.
This is indeed an exceptional honor for a teacher who loves his subject and his students. Thank you, Mr. Griffin, for continuing to inspire the youth in your classes to understand and take an interest in our government, to become good citizens, and reminding them to "Go forth and learn!"