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RRHS Teacher Sara Ziemnik Named 2017 National History Teacher of the Year

NEW YORK, NY (October 3, 2017): The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is pleased to announce that Sara Ziemnik of Rocky River, Ohio, has been named the 2017 National History Teacher of the Year. Ziemnik will be honored at a ceremony at the University Club of New York on November 8, where Pulitzer Prizewinning historian Eric Foner will present her with the award and a prize of $10,000.  

"When it comes to classroom instruction and content delivery, Sara Ziemnik is a master at her craft,” says Robert Winton, principal at Rocky River High School. “Students are engaged through Socratic Seminars, role-playing and other creative ways to relay historical events to high school kids. She is able to teach rigorous content and hold high learning expectations all while keeping a smile on her students faces."‎

Sara Ziemnik, 2017 National History Teacher of the YearSara Ziemnik, 2017 National History Teacher of the Year
Ziemnik has taught American history and world history for seventeen years at Rocky River High School, where she encourages her students to learn from one another, centering her classroom around debate, discussion, and inquisitive learning. “My students have the responsibility as American citizens to form their own opinions,” Ziemnik says. “Nothing makes me prouder or happier than a classroom full of voices—sometimes arguing, sometimes questioning, and always developing a unique identity and sense of self as Americans.”

In addition, Ziemnik deploys digital tools and works with the local community to bring the past alive for her students, including partnering with Cleveland State University to create and add content for the “Cleveland Historical” app, where students can explore Cleveland history via interactive tours. In a project aligned with the app, her students create documentary projects on Cleveland history in which they dig through local archives, conduct interviews and view the story of their city as a microcosm of American history.

“Sara Ziemnik is a rock star among teachers,” says James Basker, president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. “We love the way she’s inspired hundreds of students to not only learn about history but care about history.”

Inaugurated in 2004, the History Teacher of the Year Award highlights the importance of history education by honoring exceptional American history teachers from elementary school through high school. The award honors one K12 teacher from each state, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense schools and US Territories. Winners of the state awards receive $1,000 and an archive of Gilder Lehrman books and resources for their school library, and become finalists for the national award.

Engaging and inspiring students in American history education has never been more important. As the 2017 National History Teacher of the Year, Ziemnik will serve as an important ambassador for the teaching community and thought leader on the importance of high-quality American history education for all, particularly students from underserved communities.

Nominations for the 2018 History Teacher of the Year awards are now open. Students, parents, colleagues, and supervisors may nominate K12 teachers for the award at

About the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Founded in 1994 by philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis E. Lehrman, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is the leading American history nonprofit organization dedicated to K12 education. With a focus on primary sources, the Gilder Lehrman Institute illuminates the stories, people and moments that inspire students of all ages and backgrounds to learn and understand more about history. Through a diverse portfolio of education programs, including the acclaimed Hamilton Education Program, the Gilder Lehrman Institute provides opportunities for nearly two million students, 30,000 teachers and 14,000 schools worldwide. Learn more at