JACKSONVILLE, Ore. -- Anna Meunier won the Oregon History Teacher of the Year Award as well as the Oregon Outstanding Social Studies Educator Award.
Her student-centered lessons on history have inspired Japanese researchers from Gifu University to visit Jacksonville Elementary. Noboru Tanaka is an associate professor who has traveled the world looking at lessons to implement into the Japanese social studies system.
"A more objective approach, like an empathy approach in history lessons is more important in delivering the history curriculum in Japan," Tanaka said.
Meunier said empathy is a natural part of the conversation for Oregon's history. This has led her curriculum to be picked up across the state.
"When you start talking to kids honestly about the treatment of other people, Native Americans, the Chinese workers that came into Jacksonville...it instantly creates a tension that kids want to talk about," Meunier said.
The fourth grade teacher hopes recognizing the suffering of others will give her students a better grasp of history.
"I think empathy is really a 21st century tool that should be in every child's toolbox. Because empathy feeds their hearts, their souls, their brain. There's just so much that goes into empathizing with others," Meunier said.
Former students of Meunier said her interactive strategy, focusing on projects rather than tests, helps them understand historical topics like the Oregon Trail.
"Something bad happening to everybody else kind of disappointed me a little bit. How they were all suffering on the Oregon trail. I knew it wasn't real but it felt a lot like it," Christopher Kranemburg said.
Other students said they feel prepared for the new school year ahead.
"It was more doing. Less reading and talking and showing. You would make something and it would be really fun because she would make it fun," Abi Lewis said.
The researchers will be at the elementary school through Wednesday.