Park looking to hire teacher, draw more students to battlefield

Published 12:03 pm Thursday, July 15, 2010

A new job at the Vicksburg National Military Park will be to teach local students about Vicksburg’s role in U.S. history.

Through July 27, the National Park Service is taking applications for an education specialist to work with teachers and curriculum planners to bring more attention to the Civil War battlefield, which is the city’s most popular attraction for visitors.

Park Superintendent Mike Madell said only two groups of students took trips through the park during the 2009-10 school year, one from South Park Elementary and another from a private school in Texas. More people visited the park in April and May compared to a year ago, though overall attendance has slipped steadily in the past decade.

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“This is a great learning laboratory here,” Madell said, adding the position is one he started at his two previous supervisory posts at Missouri National Recreational River historic site and Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. “Being here adds a level of enrichment a classroom can’t.”

Subjects the specialist would teach will branch out from the Siege of Vicksburg and touch on 19th century civilian life in the city and the art of the time, Madell said.

Annual pay for the full-time, federal position will be between $57,408 and $74,628, according to a job posting on It will fall under the park’s Division of Operations. Applicants must have a bachelor’s in education or three years in a doctoral program, along with a year of specialized educational program development to qualify for the position’s GS-11 designation. An unspecified combination of education and experience is also listed as a requirement.

Besides a working knowledge of 19th century U.S. history, applicants must be up to speed on education standards, theory and ability to develop partnerships, among other concepts. The National Park Service is placing a higher emphasis on nurturing a greater appreciation for preservation of the nation’s natural and historic assets.

Classes in Mississippi Studies and U.S. history are required of fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders in the state’s public schools, and one stated duty of the new job is to develop a formal park education program that meshes with national and state standards.

“A curriculum or lesson plans that educate about the Civil War battles at Vicksburg are well within the purview of what is being taught in the public schools in Mississippi,” said Chauncey Spears, director of the Mississippi Department of Education Advanced Learning/Gifted Programs Division, with whom Madell serves alongside others on the Mississippi Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission. “A lesson or lessons in Civil War history would fall in line with some of the learning objectives of these courses. Therefore, this would require no extra teachers, and this curriculum could serve to help with instruction in these courses.”

Debra Hullum, assistant superintendent of the Vicksburg Warren School District, said the specialist would likely talk to representatives from each school in the district to “plug in the park information” into each individual history class, much like past programs at the park.

“I kind of just see this as carrying that project a little further,” Hullum said. “That should be a part of what this person does.”

Hullum said field trip destinations are left up to individual principals, according to budgets at each school.

Madell said the winning applicant’s ability to coordinate with the school district’s history teachers is vital, mainly due to what students must learn to advance grade levels.

“Traditional interpretive programs don’t cut it anymore because of standards,” Madell said.

Taking students to the park will remain part of her schedule, said South Park teacher Brandie McMullin, who remembers going with her parents to the park during vacations from her hometown of Prentiss and has accompanied students to the park for about 10 years.

“The majority of our kids haven’t been to the park,” said McMullin, a fourth-grade reading and language arts teacher whose pupils got to put the flag out for Memorial Day this past year. “I just really enjoy it. We feel special and they devote a lot of time to us.”