A Coast college professor who teaches world history through the eyes of her own students has added another academic award to her already stuffed trophy cabinet.
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College instructor Gayle Greene-Aguirre received the Jesse Palmer Award for Social Studies Educator of the Year at the annual Mississippi Council for the Social Studies fall conference in Hattiesburg on Oct. 21. The award is given each year to an educator who demonstrates exemplary knowledge and teaching ability in social studies education in Mississippi schools.
Greene-Aguirre has been teaching history full-time at the college for 17 years. She’s the honors program director at the Coast campus. She was a Phi Theta Kappa adviser for 14 years at the Perkinston campus, where she was named the Mississippi Humanities Council Teacher of the Year in 2001 and Instructor of the Year in 2002.
Greene-Aguirre uses unique strategies in the classroom. Every semester, she has each student do a family history project.
“It teaches them about their own history and gives them perspective of how they fit into history,” she said.
Students can trace back their family through generations or pick a particular family member to focus on.
“We’ve gotten several students with family in World War II. We had one student who’s family history could be traced back to Napoleon,” Greene-Aguirre said.
Greene-Aguirre also uses current events to explain world history. Many students seem to believe the United States has been a superpower from the very beginning of time, she quipped.
“We’ll take a look at ISIS and events in Syria that are going on now,” she said. “Then we’ll tie it back to ancient civilizations that occupied the same area. I try and make the connection between the two eras.”
One of her recent projects asked students to compare and contrast historical leaders and the upcoming election. The figure that most draw a parallel to in this election is Niccoli Machiavelli, the Italian politician and philosopher who’s book “The Prince” can best be described as a handbook for unscrupulous politicians.
“They see the connections to this year’s election, no matter which candidate we’re talking about,” Greene-Aguirre said.
Throughout her career, the professor has also been awarded the NISOD Excellence in Teaching Award in 2002; the Higher Education Appreciation Day-Working for Academic Excellence in 2003; the Mississippi Professional Educators Board Appreciation Award in 2008; the Association of Community College Trustees Southern Region Faculty Award in 2009; and the International Adviser’s Award for Continued Excellence in 2012.
Greene-Aguirre is a retired Army officer with a bachelor of arts in history from the University of Connecticut and a master of arts in Latin American history from the University of North Texas. She has graduate work and educational certifications in English, Spanish, English as a second language and leadership. She served on the MGCCC president’s Advisory Board from 2002 to 2004 and was Instructor of the Year at MGCCC in 2013.
The Jesse Palmer Award was established in memory of Dr. Jesse Palmer to honor an educator who demonstrates exemplary knowledge, skills, and dispositions in promoting quality social studies education in Mississippi schools.