NHF to Honor Outstanding Teachers in 2019 National History Day Competition

What do Chesapeake Bay oysters, Barbary pirates, the “quasi-war” between U.S. and French ships, and the Vietnam boat people have in common? They were all winning entries in the Naval Historical Foundation’s (NHF) 2018 National History Day (NHD) “Teacher of Distinction” awards program.

NHF will once again recognize outstanding history teachers by awarding its Teacher of Distinction prizes as part of the 2019 NHD nationwide history competition for middle and high school students.

The Foundation inaugurated its teacher awards in the 2018 NHD competition by honoring 26 teachers whose students developed award-winning or otherwise outstanding projects with a naval or maritime topic.

The theme for the 2019 NHD contest is “Triumph and Tragedy in History.” Projects with naval/maritime topics consistent with this theme will be eligible for the Foundation’s prizes.

Following are suggested naval-related topics:

Maritime topics from the 2019 NHD Theme Book:

  • D-Day: Triumph Despite Tragedy
  • Rerouting the Chicago River: An Engineering Triumph
  • Impressment of Sailors: An American Tragedy
  • Isabella, Ferdinand, and the Spanish Reconquista
  • The German U-Boats in the Battle of the Battle of the Atlantic
  • Christopher Columbus: Triumph or Tragedy

Notable naval battles:

  • Battle of Trafalgar
  • Battle of the Philippine Sea
  • The Battle of Midway: Turning Point in the Pacific

Pearl Harbor: Tragedy Before Triumph

Sinking of the USS Indianapolis


Each year some 600,000 students from middle and high schools from all 50 states and territories, as well as international schools in Asia and Central America, participate in NHD. Project categories include papers, exhibits, video documentaries, websites and performances.

Competition begins in individual schools with the top two winners in each category advancing to regional, state, and national levels of competition. Approximately 3,000 students and several thousand teachers are expected to participate in the final competition at the University of Maryland scheduled for June 9-13, 2019.

“The National History Day competition is a great opportunity for students to develop a lifelong appreciation for history and to be honored for their achievements,” said Admiral William J. Fallon, USN (Ret.), NHF Chairman. “But it’s important that the outstanding teachers who inspire and encourage these students also be recognized. They’re the real heroes in the nation’s schools.”

All Teacher of Distinction awards consist of NHF certificates, one-year NHF memberships, and access to NHF historical research assistance. Teachers of award-winning projects – Coskey Prizes and national competition finalists – also receive honorariums.

In addition, students whose projects were ranked highly in the Coskey Prize competition received “Student Achievement” certificates, NHF memberships and access to NHF historical research assistance.

The Foundation made its 2018 Teacher of Distinction awards to teachers whose student projects with naval/maritime themes achieved success in the following areas:

Coskey Prizes

Since 1999 the Foundation has awarded $1,000 ‘Coskey Prizes’ to one middle school student and one high school student whose NHD projects best capture an appreciation for naval history. The prize is named for the late Captain Ken Coskey, a Vietnam War combat pilot and prisoner of war and former Executive Director of the Naval Historical Foundation.

The 2018 Coskey Prize winners were Andrew Karafa of Eastern Middle School in Kentwood, MI, for his documentary project, “Temporary Truces: How America’s Handling of Barbary Bullies Molded the U.S. Navy,” and Caroline Mason of West Henderson High School in Henderson, NC, for her paper project, “The Quasi War: The Undeclared Conflict.”

The NHF Teacher of Distinction awards went to the following teachers of the Coskey Prize winning students: James Cross of Eastern Middle School; Melissa Waycaster and Katie McCrary, both of West Henderson High School.

National Competition Winners

The NHF awards also went to teachers whose student projects were ranked first, second, or third in the NHD national competition.  The following five projects were in this category:

  • “A Splash of History: The Conflict and Compromise of the Indus Waters Treaty,” a first place documentary project by Sanjay Kasi of Felix Festa Character Middle School, West Nyack, NY. Teacher:  Sean Enright.
  • “Great Lakes, Great Legacy?: The Compromise of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement,” a first place group website project by Azalea Rohr and Sofia Fish of Sanford Middle School in Minneapolis, MN. Teachers: Casey Metcalfe and Jennifer Pilot.
  • “The Oyster Wars of the Chesapeake Bay: How Regulatory Compromise Created Conflict,” a second place paper by Zoe Friedman of Deal Middle School, Washington, DC. Teacher:  Yvette Simpson-Wayne.
  • “Sailing Away from the Turbulent Waters of Vietnam: The Overflowing Waves of Boat People,” a second place documentary by Vy Nguyen of Derby North Middle School, Derby, KS. Teacher:  Amy Steadman.

Other Highly Ranked Projects

A final category for Teacher of Distinction recognition was for student projects that were highly ranked by judges for the Coskey Prize competition.  There were 10 projects in the middle school division and 7 for the high school division, with a total of 17 teacher awards.  Following are the projects, winning students and winning teachers:

Middle School

  • “Nuclear Conflict, Peaceful Compromise,” an exhibit by Devin Corrington and Parker Williams of Tri-County North Middle School of Lewisburg, OH. Teacher:  Debbie Pearson.
  • “Three Strikes and I am NOT Out: The Raye Jean Montague Story,” a group website project by Henry Mitchell, Morgan Davis and Olivia Flowers of Royal Valley Middle School, Mayetta, KS. Teacher:  Brenda Hainey.
  • “The Deliberate Destruction of SMS Cormoran: Preventing Conflict with Compromise,” a website project by Napu Blas of Untalan Middle School, Guam. Teacher:  Valerie Tanayan.
  • “The Thirteen Day Crisis,” an exhibit by Halley Desal of Auten Road Intermediate School, Hillsborough, NJ. Teacher:  Patricia Sellar.
  • “Coming Eye to Eye in the Cuban Missile Crisis,” a website project by Olivia Biggs of American Heritage School of Boca/Delray, Delray Beach, FL. Teacher:  Mindy Greenberg.
  • “The Speech That Saved Democracy,” a performance project by Dhruv Cohen of Deal Middle School, Washington, DC. Teacher:  Caitlin Daniels.
  • “The Cuban Missile Crisis: How Countries Risk War in the Nuclear Age,” a paper by Matthew Ellis of Northside Junior High School, Bothell, WA. Teacher:  William Boniface.
  • “Pirates of South Carolina,” a group performance project by Ben Besser, Clay Lewis, Marshall Carnahan, Max Congdon and Olivia Johnson of Waccamaw Middle School, Pawleys Island, SC. Teacher:  Richard Gehrman.
  • “Newport Maritime and American Freedom,” a documentary by Sydney Van Slyke of Narragansett Pier School, Narragansett, RI. Teacher:  Kevin Holden.
  • “The Tripolitan War: A Fight against Coastal Corsairs,” a documentary by Jenna Hartz of St. Benedict School, Decorah, IA. Teacher:  Patty Lien.

High School

  • “Conflict and Failed Compromise: S. Excursions into Korea in the 19th Century,” a paper by Sam Yoo of John Bapst Memorial High School, Bangor, ME.  Teacher:  Ben Hale.
  • “Home of the Brave?: Challenging Standards for Military Service,” a performance by Kale Michael of Seaman High School, Topeka, KS. Teacher:  Susan Sittenauer.
  • “The S.S. St. Louis: The Refusal of Refugees,” an exhibit by Owen Killy of Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC. Teacher:  Jonathan Kiljik.
  • “To the Ends of the Earth: Robert Scott’s Final Expedition,” a group documentary by Jeffrey Tolentino and Sam Crowley of EL Haynes Public Charter School, Washington, DC. Teacher:  Nathanial Cole.
  • “Conflict at Sea: The Spanish Armada vs. Elizabeth’s Sea Dogs,” a paper by Bridget Sheridan of Caravel Academy of Bear, DE. Teacher:  Staci Garber.
  • “Spain and Portugal: Competing for Power in an Age of Exploration,” an exhibit by Amy Herrema of West Springfield High School, Springfield, VA. Teacher:  Stephanie Shimp.
  • “Operation Overlord: Triumph of Cooperation,” a performance by Travis Afuso of Mililani High School, Mililani, HI. Teacher:  Amy Boehning.

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