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Teachers Institutes at Courts Help Prepare Next Generation of Jurors

Every summer for 15 years, 50 high school teachers, selected for their interest in the Constitution, have come face-to-face in court with a federal judge in Washington, D.C., but they don’t watch passively from the gallery.

Instead, some stride to the front of the courtroom and join U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth on the bench, where they play the role of federal judges. Once settled in, these acting judges grill their fellow teachers, who serve as attorneys arguing a precedent set in a landmark Supreme Court case.

“I’m concerned about the next generation of jurors,” Lamberth tells teachers at the annual institute in his courtroom. “If we can give teachers and their students a positive experience in court, they will understand their critical role as jurors in the judicial process.”

More than two dozen teacher institutes, which take almost as many programming approaches, are offered by courts across the country. Federal judges, volunteer attorneys, legal scholars, and court staff create realistic courtroom experiences and offer classroom-ready resources for high school and middle school teachers, who seek to deepen their understanding of the Third Branch and ignite the interest of their students.

Most events are scheduled in the summer and have registration deadlines in late winter and early spring when teachers, typically, make their professional development plans.

The institute in D.C. works with the James Madison Fellows, teachers selected from each state by the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation. They spend a month at Georgetown University studying the Constitution and a half-day arguing constitutional issues in a courtroom simulation at the federal courthouse in Washington. The simulations apply real Supreme Court cases to teen-relevant scenarios.

“The realism of the hearings and the candor of Judge Lamberth make the experience an unforgettable highlight for the fellows,” said foundation president Lewis Larsen, who has asked Lamberth to host the event for the past 15 years.

Most of these professional development initiatives range from three days to five days – at courthouses in almost every federal court circuit. Programs are tuition free and those that are co-sponsored with a law school or university are eligible for education credits. The faculty includes federal judges, legal scholars, and teachers who are recognized as accomplished in their field.

In Boise, Idaho, the institute focuses on both federal and state courts, with courtroom observations in both systems. In Dallas, the program drills into the rule of law and other founding fundamentals to make them interesting and accessible to teachers and their students.

In Spokane, Washington, the institute deals with contemporary issues, and teachers witness a naturalization ceremony as part of the curriculum. One of the institutes offered in St. Louis, Missouri, is for home school teachers. Mary Beth Tinker, who as a teenager was at the heart of a 1969 Supreme Court decision that protected the right of students to participate in protests, is a popular guest who helps teachers apply living history to contemporary, legal issues in the lives of students.

In Manhattan, teachers are paired with judges and legal scholars they can stay in touch with after the institute. Many programs allow time for teachers to create lesson plans together, using classroom-ready resources that will enlighten and motivate the next generation of jurors, judges, journalists, and engaged citizens.

Participants leave the courtrooms with a fresh inventory of activities and strong encouragement to bring their students back to a courthouse for a similar experience. The impact on students starts when re-energized teachers return to their classrooms with solid content and new insights that can engage an entire generation of jurors.

For information about an institute at a nearby federal courthouse, teachers should reach out to the coordinators listed on the 2020 calendar, or they can contact the national educational outreach manager Rebecca Fanning at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

2020 Teachers Institutes Calendar

June – Boise, Idaho

Institute for Secondary School Teachers  
ContactKatherine Ball
Participants: High school and middle school teachers
Special Feature or Focus: Anatomy of federal and state courts and observations at each.  Partners are federal court, University of Idaho College of Law, and the Idaho Supreme Court. Eligible for credits.

June – Honolulu

Contact: Keahe Davis at King Kamehameha Hawaii Judiciary History Society
Participants: High school teachers 
Special Feature or Focus: The historical society conducts the institute.

June – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Judicial Institute
Contact: Karen Prochniewski
Participants: High school teachers
Special Feature or Focus: Function of courts; courtroom observations; resources for lesson planning.

June – Greensboro, North Carolina

Contact: Laura Dildine
Participants: High school and middle school teachers
Special Feature or Focus: Courtroom observations and participation in simulated hearings.

June – Sacramento, California

Summer Institute for Teachers
Contact: Dr. Kari Kelso
Participants: Middle and high school teachers
Special Feature or Focus: Teachers analyze Supreme Court cases that started in California; work on curriculum in small groups.

June – Fresno, California

Contact: Dr. Kari Kelso
Participants: High school teachers
Special Feature or Focus: Program increases teachers’ knowledge and ease in teaching about the courts.

June – Washington, D.C.

Federal Judicial Center Summer Teachers Institute
Contact: Catherine Hawke, American Bar Association
Participants: High school teachers of U.S. History, American Government, Civics, and Law
Special Feature or Focus: Federal Trials and Great Debates in History
Participants interact with scholars and judges; develop lesson plans.

June – New York City and Albany, New York  

Justice for All: Courts and the Community
Contact: Adriana Mark
Participants: High school teachers
Special Feature or Focus: Teachers matched with faculty mentors who are judges and legal scholars.

June – Indianapolis, Indiana

2020 Summer Teacher Institute
Contact: Mary Giorgio
Participants: High school and middle school teachers
Special Feature or Focus: Classroom resources. See the court’s Teacher Update.

June or July – Wichita, Kansas

Contact: Tim O’Brien
Participants: High school teachers
Special Feature or Focus: TBA

July – Chicago

ContactLauren Thiel
Participants: High school and middle school social studies teachers
Special Feature or Focus: Northern District of Illinois and the American Bar Association offer a one-day program on the federal Judiciary and how it helps to define constitutional rights. Contemporary court cases support classroom learning on the role of federal courts.

July – Dallas, Texas

Northern District of Texas 2020 Summer Teachers Institute
Contact: Kim Schaefer
Participants: High school teachers
Special Feature or Focus: Courtroom observations; interaction with judges and other legal experts; fundamentals of rule of law; structure and operation of courts, including differences between federal and state courts; civil and criminal cases, etc.

July – Omaha, Nebraska

Teachers’ Law School
Contact: Zachary Wojtowicz
Participants: High school teachers
Special Feature or Focus: Partners are University of Nebraska and the American Board of Trial Lawyers.

July – Seattle, Washington

Judicial Institute for Teachers
Contact: Emily Nero
Participants: Teachers of grades 5-12
Special Feature or Focus: Guest: Mary Beth Tinker, of Tinker v. Des Moines; legal issues in the news.

July – St. Louis, Missouri 

Judicial Learning Center
Contact: Rachel Marshall
Participants: High school AP teachers
Special Feature or Focus: TBA

July – St. Louis, Missouri

Judicial Learning Center
Contact: Rachel Marshall
Participants: High school and middle school teachers. 
Special Feature or Focus: TBA

July – Cape Girardeau, Missouri

Contact: Rachel Marshall
Participants: High school and middle school teachers 
Special Feature or FocusTBA

August – St. Louis, Missouri

Home School Educators Institute
Contact: Rachel Marshall
Participants: Home school teachers
Special Feature or Focus: TBA

October – Missoula, Montana

Montana Judicial Institute
ContactSarah Nagy
Participants: High school teachers
Special Feature or Focus: Accredited for 16 licensure renewal units and 1 graduate credit. Includes tribal justice. Watch a video about the institute.

October – Syracuse, New York

Contact: Adriana Mark
Participants: High school teachers
Special Feature or Focus: TBA

October – Spokane, Washington  

Judicial Institute
Contact: Renea Grogan
Participants: High school and middle school teachers
Special Feature or Focus: Courtroom observations; teachers use a fictional scenario to sentence a defendant; explore contemporary topics; observe a naturalization ceremony.

October or November – Los Angeles

ContactPamela Gamble Jackson
Participants: High school teachers
Special Feature or Focus: Teachers interact with judges; gain new insights and information to bring back to their classes; spend time developing lesson plans in small groups.

Fall – Chattanooga, Tennessee

Teachers Law School Chattanooga
ContactCarrie Stefaniak
Participants: High school teachers
Special Feature or Focus: Courtroom observations; a fresh take on fundamentals; simulated voir dire and jury deliberations.

Fall – San Diego, California

The Learning Center of the Southern District of California
Contact: Lisa Christensen
Participants: High school teachers
Special Feature or Focus: Court observations; in-depth conversations with judges and lawyers; innovative methods of teaching about the courts.

http://www.uscourts.gov/news/2020/02/06/teachers-institutes-courts-help-prepare-next-generation-jurors

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