Guest Blog: The “Ah-Ha” Moments

by Clinton Mathewson, Civic Mentor for Peoria County

Clinton has taught U.S. Government and Civics, AP U.S. Government and Politics, Geography, World History, Economics, Consumer Economics, and, Psychology over his ten-year career. He is a member of the National Council for the Social Studies.

Clinton earned his Master’s Degree from Eastern Illinois University in Educational Administration and his undergraduate degree from Illinois State University. Here are some of Clint’s thoughts on his role as civic mentor for Peoria County.

I have taught Civics & Government for most of my teaching career and can truly say I am extremely passionate about my students recognizing the importance of being active lifelong citizens in our society. Being able to observe that “Ah-Ha” moment when a student figures out the complexities of federalism or an effective electoral campaign strategy, makes teaching all worthwhile. When I saw there was an opening for the Civics mentorship, I was the one now having the “Ah-Ha” moment. The prospects of partnering with the Illinois Civics program to gain knowledge of best civic practices from other professionals and immerse myself in the vast amounts of resources they possess would be an amazing way to take my trade to another level. The thought of making connections, spreading knowledge outside of my classroom, and teaching educational strategies to colleagues in a geographic area I was new to had me setting all other items for the day off to the side as I filled out my application.

After becoming an Illinois Civics mentor and attending the Illinois Civics workshop, I had some great takeaways. Like many Civics teachers in the state of Illinois, I had already been incorporating the new civics learning standards into my class even before they were implemented. This was a huge boost as a teacher and eased some anxiety about what deficiencies I may need to improve upon to be a strong mentor. The other takeaway was that there is a vast amount of resources and an entire organization that wants to assist Civics teachers throughout the state with perfecting their craft. Illinois Civics is a professional learning community that spans as large as statewide or as small as a few educators sharing an email.

Being a Civics mentor has definitely changed my approach to teaching and the engagement of students in my classroom. I found myself borrowing numerous ideas that have been shared with me from other mentors and even classroom teachers that I have mentored. My students have become more engaged in my class because I am now constantly thinking about how I can develop more ownership in our future generation. Service learning has definitely been the area that I feel the greatest changes have occurred with my students. Allowing students to not only simulate but play an actual role in issues they are passionate about will play a strong influence on how my students will view their participation in government in the future.

What are some of the “Ah-Ha” moments you and your students have had this school year? Please comment below. Together, we can prepare Illinois students for college, career and civic life.


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