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Hudson teacher named VP of national teachers council

Mike Yell is about to begin a four-year commitment with the National Council for Social Studies that will likely take him all over the country and beyond.

Yell will become the vice president of the group on July 1 for a year. That will be followed by a year as president elect, a year as president and another as past president. The NCSS has members in 50 states and 69 foreign countries.

Yell has lots of experience with the professional organization, having served on its board of directors for the past several years. In 1998 he was named the Middle School Social Studies Teacher of the Year by the organization, and the NCSS also published his book, "A Link to the Past: Engaging Students in the Study of History," which he co-authored with friend and longtime collaborator Geoffrey Scheurman, a UW-River Falls education professor.

Yell has also served on the Wisconsin board of the organization and is recognized internationally for his expertise in social studies education. He received the Star Excellence teaching award from the Education Foundation of Hudson in 1996 and regularly addresses educators around the country and internationally.

Yell said he became involved with the NCSS by using it as a resource first. "Groups like this are very valuable to teachers in all subjects. They provide information about the very best resources out there from conferences to workshops to teaching materials. Membership has been very beneficial to me in my classroom and with my students. All teachers should belong to a group like it."

But the benefits for Yell have extended beyond his classroom and the seventh-grade Avalon House where he teaches. Through the organization, Yell has traveled to conferences in Japan and Russia and around the U.S., where he has both presented and participated.

Yell said the office will require some time away from his classroom, particularly during his presidential term and that the organization works with the school district to compensate for a substitute in his absence. But Yell believes the time away from his classroom will ultimately benefit his students.

"It is a wonderful opportunity to meet with teachers all over the country and in foreign counties. As social studies teachers, we need to understand and be involved in the world we teach about and the issues that face all of us."

Yell said his goal as a teacher is to improve with every year and he believes his work with the organization will help him achieve that goal.

Yell said his students respond best when they play an interactive role in the classroom. One of his more successful assignments this year was entitled "Back to the Future," where students were asked to think of an event in their lifetime that "was so big it would be part of the history their grandchildren would be studying."

"I try to get students to look not only at the history we study, but also to look at today's events in terms of what they will mean 100 years from now. Some of the people we study lived 500 or 1,000 years ago. To be remembered that long has to mean that person was someone very special. I want them to think in those terms about the people who are living in their world today."

Yell believes his job as a social studies teacher is to engage his students and get them actively thinking about the world they live in, how it was and how it will be.

Yell said he is grateful to the Hudson School District administrators over the years who have allowed him the opportunity to work with organizations like the NCSS.

In addition to his work as a teacher and educator, Yell is also committed to his community. Last week he completed a second year heading up the Hudson Relay For Life committee. Yell is a three-year survivor of prostate cancer. He is also active at The Phipps Center for the Arts, regularly delivers Meals on Wheels and works with the local United Way campaign.

Yell and his wife, Ann, have three grown children and live in North Hudson.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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