Area teacher to present at national conference

By Josette Keelor

One of Holly Hoover’s standard classroom lessons at Stonewall Jackson High School in Quicksburg has earned her nationwide notice and a place at the National Council for Social Studies’ Annual Conference in Boston.

As a presenter at November’s conference, the government, politics and U.S. history teacher will speak on using Structured Academic Controversy in the classroom — a way of tackling controversial topics in class while reducing emotional responses.

Many topics from history can be controversial, she said, but she’s tried to assign students arguments on subjects like immigration policy, gun control laws and capital punishment, and “stay away from things that are more religious in scope.”

“Then they are asked to formulate their own opinion on the side,” she said.

It helps make her students more informed citizens whose values are based on research, she said, “not just because this is [how] people tell me to vote or what I heard in passing.”

Sending one of the school’s teachers to the conference is “a pretty big honor,” said Principal Mike Dorman.

“That’s pretty special, and it’s pretty indicative of the work that Holly does here,” he said.

But Hoover was less than confident of her name alone getting her to Boston, so she asked friend and colleague Michelle Cude, a professor at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, to apply as a co-presenter.

Listed as lead presenter, Cude received notice that the two had been selected, and Hoover has been scrambling to make travel and hotel plans ever since Cude, not realizing Hoover didn’t know yet, happened to mention it a couple months ago.

Hoover has presented at the Virginia conference five or six times, including a time speaking on the topic of her upcoming national conference presentation, and has been selected again for the Virginia conference in Vienna on Oct. 24.

The national conference will be in Boston on Nov. 21 and 22.

Thrilled at having been chosen, she said it’s an even bigger honor coming from Shenandoah County, “considering we’re a small school district.”

“This is my 20th year,” she said. “Sometimes I wonder, ‘Am I’m making a difference?'”

“Being chosen to present at a national conference reassured me in some ways that what I am doing in the classroom is appreciated and recognized as a sound method for student learning.”

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or

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