2021 National History Day Awards

Two students and seven teachers from around the country were awarded prizes by the Naval Historical Foundation (NHF) for outstanding projects with naval/maritime themes in the annual National History Day (NHD) competition that concluded June 19.

Winners of the coveted NHF Coskey Prizes for Naval History were Jessie Henderson of Bradley Central High School in Cleveland, TN, and Rebecca Bemiss of John F. Kennedy Middle School in Plantsville, CT.  Ms. Henderson’s project was a Senior Individual Documentary entitled, “Aerographer’s Mates: Communicating Weather from Sea to Shining Sea.” Ms. Bemiss’s entry was a Junior Individual Performance, “Mavis Batty and the Geese That Never Cackled.”  The Coskey Prizes are awarded in both Senior (high school) and Junior (middle school) divisions.

Each received a $1,000 Coskey Prize award. Also, the winning Coskey Prize entries will be published in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Naval History on the NHF website. The prizes are named after the late Captain Ken Coskey, Navy pilot, Vietnam prisoner of war, and former NHF executive director. NHF established the prizes in 1999 in honor of Captain Coskey.  

In addition, NHF “Teacher of Distinction” awards went to seven teachers in middle or high schools whose students (i) win Coskey Prizes or (ii) are ranked first, second, or third nationally in their categories for projects with a naval or maritime theme. These awards consist of $200 honorariums, NHF Certificates of Achievement, one-year NHF memberships, and access to NHF Navy-related research assistance.

Following are the Teacher of Distinction winners:

· Julie Mitchell, teacher at Bradley Central High School in Cleveland, TN, for the Coskey Prize-winning project by student Jessie Henderson. Remarkably, it was the second straight year that student Henderson and Ms. Mitchell received the Coskey and Teacher of Distinction awards, respectively, in the NHD competition.   

· Brian Zawadniak, teacher at John F. Kennedy School, Platsville, CT, whose student,Rebecca Bemiss, won the Coskey Prize. 

· Stephanie Hammer, teacher at William Monroe Middle School, Stanardsville, VA. Her students Kayla Shaller and Caroline Bruton won 1st place for their Junior Group Documentary, “Communicating Through Cell Walls: The Secret Correspondence of American POWs in Vietnam.”

· Megan Souchek, teacher at New Caney High School, New Caney, TX. Student Carter Holton got 1st place for his Senior Individual Exhibit, “The 1900 Storm.”

· Justin Carroll, teacher at Deer Creek Middle School, Edmond, OK. Students Jemay Leow, Carter Robbins, and Jacob Rubin won 3rd place for their Junior Group Exhibit, “Navajo Code Talkers: Their Story of Communication.”  

· Alfred Meadows, teacher at Wilbur Cross High School, New Haven, CT. Students Sneha Maskey and KeQing Tan won 3rd place for a Senior Group Website entry, “Communicating Through Code: Elizabeth Friedman’s Crackdown on Nazi Spy Rings During World War II.”  

· Cathy Kaus, teacher at Chadron Senior High School, Chadron, NE. Her son, student Tyler Kaus, was awarded the Senior Division Physical Science Prize for his Senior Individual Documentary, “Grace Hopper: Computer Programmer.” The project honored the late Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, the famed computer programming pioneer.   

Over half a million middle and high school students from the United States, District of Columbia, territories, and international schools in China, Korea and South Asia participate annually in NHD. Each year some 3,000 finalists of those students and several hundred teachers descend on the University of Maryland in College Park, MD, in mid-June for the final rounds of the national competition. This year, like 2020, the competition was conducted in a virtual format due to the coronavirus pandemic.  

NHD has a broad theme for the contest every year. This year’s theme was, “Communication in History: The Key to Understanding.” Student projects are expected to be consistent with the NHD theme.

There are five project categories: papers, exhibits, documentaries, websites, and performances. Students competing in all categories except papers may do so as individuals or in groups of 2-5 students. Competition begins at individual schools, with the top middle and high school winners advancing to regional, state, and national competitions.

In the four years since the Teacher of Distinction award was initiated, NHF has recognized 43 teachers from 25 states and one territory, Guam. 

“It’s encouraging to have such widespread interest in naval and maritime history by teachers and students,” said Admiral William Fallon, USN (Ret.), NHF chairman. “While the students receive the NHD awards – as they should – we’re very pleased to recognize the teachers who inspire the students to produce such outstanding naval and maritime projects.”

Teachers are generally elated in receiving the awards. In learning of this year’s award, teacher Alfred Meadows of Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven, CT, exclaimed, “I’m flattered by my award; it was unexpected. I thank the Naval Historical Foundation for this honor. I am most excited about framing my certificate!”  

Spread the word. Share this post!

Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *