La Pine Middle School teacher Jessica Colburn has earned the prestigious James Madison Foundation Fellowship, considered one of the highest honors a social studies teacher can receive. Colburn is one of just 54 teachers from across the nation to receive the honor this year.
Named in honor of the fourth president and “Father of the Constitution and Bill of Rights,” the highly competitive fellowship fully funds the pursuit of a master’s in American history and government. Colburn earned the fellowship by completing a series of short essays demonstrating her intent to pursue a graduate program centered around the Constitution, devotion to civic responsibility and capacity to study and perform as a classroom teacher. Her final essay was a 900 word piece explaining why the Constitution is paramount to American life.
Colburn, who was also named Teacher of the Year by the Oregon Council for Social Studies in 2018, said she is excited about the fellowship and how it will strengthen her knowledge of the origins and development of American constitutional government.
“This award will have a positive effect on my teaching career, as it will allow me to gain the knowledge necessary to explain and connect the Constitution to the lives of my eighth grade students today,” she said. “The education I will be able to give them will be infinitely stronger.”
Now in her eighth year of teaching (all within Bend-La Pine Schools,) Colburn didn’t always plan on becoming a teacher, originally going to school to become a doctor. After several years in the hospital lab, she decided she was happiest when she was volunteering at High Desert Middle School. After observing a lesson on the Constitution, she knew that teaching social studies at the middle school level was the right place for her.
“Middle school students are an interesting bunch to teach as they are constantly trying to find their places in the world, what they like, and who they are,” Colburn said. “I am happiest when I see them make a positive change that will help them move forward. When they start to apply The Constitution to events in the news, or make a claim complete with evidence, I see them making a connection about how the past does influence their lives even today.”
Colburn will begin her graduate studies at Ashland University in Ohio this summer.