Educators Reflect on Powerful Experiences During May 4 Summer Workshop

Educators from across the country recently attended Kent State University’s weeklong, virtual 2021 Landmarks of American History and Culture workshop, “Making Meaning of May 4: The 1970 Kent State Shootings in U.S. History,” which has been made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Co-directed by Laura Davis, Ph.D., Professor Emerita of English and former founding director of the May 4 Visitors Center, and Todd Hawley, Ph.D., professor of teacher education in social studies, this summer workshop offered middle and high school educators the opportunity to explore the complex history of when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on Kent State student protestors, killing four and wounding nine on May 4, 1970. 

Educators participated in several activities, including discussing issues of the time, attending presentations from witnesses of the shootings and developing a lesson plan to bring back to their own classrooms.

Amy Hamilton, an English teacher at Clayton High School in St. Louis, Missouri, attended the event out of curiosity and was moved by workshop presenter Dean Kahler, who was shot by National Guardsmen, paralyzing him from the waist down.

“He is incredibly composed and reflective,” Hamilton said. “I now feel it a part of my life’s mission to not only convey this man’s experience as a student at Kent State on May 4 but also to convey this man’s essence to my students. I knew him for less than two hours. I can only imagine the impact he has on his students, friends and communities.”

Principal and U.S. history teacher Antwayn Patrick of Lexington, Mississippi, wanted to learn more about youth movements and student organizations during the Vietnam War era, and how Black organizations at Kent State impacted the history of May 4.

“Youths can and have brought about changes in American society,” Patrick said. “Additionally, the Black United Students movement at Kent State was very instrumental in helping to bring about changes at Kent State. I will let my students know that they can make a difference.”

After developing a lesson plan for her students during the workshop, Hamilton is eager to teach the lessons from May 4 in her classroom.

“I am thinking more deeply about what it is that needs to be taught in the classroom,” she said. “If one of the essential values of public education is ensuring that all individuals will be able to participate actively in their democratic government, what we teach is of critical importance. Students need to be critical thinkers able to ask the difficult questions with difficult answers in order to be ready for the democracy they will inherit. Part of my responsibility is to give them the uncomfortable stuff to digest. May 4, 1970, is a moment in American history to anchor those types of critical investigations.”

For more information about the “Making Meaning of May 4” workshop, visit www.may4neh.org

For more information about May 4, 1970, visit www.kent.edu/may-4-1970.

POSTED: Thursday, July 22, 2021 - 2:36pm
UPDATED: Thursday, July 22, 2021 - 2:38pm
WRITTEN BY:
Julie Selby