Educator's Summit on May 4 Has Great Success; National Grant Will Allow Program to Grow in 2020

Organizers of the recent Voices for Change Educator’s Summit at Kent State University say the curriculum developed at the event can be used by teachers worldwide, so that the lessons of May 4, 1970, will continue to be shared.

The summit, held in August, was one about 100 events planned for the 2019-20 academic year to support the 50th commemoration of May 4, 1970, the day when Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on Kent State students protesting the U.S. invasion of Cambodia during the Vietnam War, killing four and wounding nine.

“One of the major goals of the educator’s summit was to empower teachers and to educate teachers to take what they have learned in the summit about the events, the history, the people, the legacy of May 4 back into their classrooms and communities,” said Todd S. Hawley, Ph.D., Kent State associate professor of social studies teacher education, a member of the May 4 anniversary education committee, and co-chair of the summit. “Our goal is to help them make connections to social issues that students think about, deal with, wrestle with, in their everyday lives.”

Organizer, Annette Kratcoski, Ph.D., said a main goal was to ensure that teachers understand the significance of May 4, 1970, in the context of American history so that they are able to teach those lessons to young people to inspire a new generation of student activism. Kratcoski is director of Kent State’s Research Center for Educational Technology in the College of Education, Health and Human Services.

More than 30 middle and high school teachers from districts throughout Ohio took part in the three-day event. Some were learning in-depth lessons of May 4 for the first time. Others expressed how the seminar helped them to draw connections between then and now regarding student activism.

“It’s so much more relevant today than it ever has been,” said Jenna Ramskugler, a teacher at Field High School in Mogadore, Ohio. “Your voice being heard, and the fact that you are 18-, 19-years-old, or 16-years-old – it doesn’t make a difference. You have the ability to perpetuate change. And that’s what I want to instill in my students.”

Samantha Young, an iSTEM teacher at Geauga Early College in Concord Township, Ohio, said the May 4 detail that struck her most dramatically was the age of the students involved. “I think the age of the people involved in May 4 is incredibly important because I’m a high school teacher, and these victims are not much that older than my kids,” Young said. “The students who were protesting on May 4 knew that they had a voice and they knew they had to use that voice because they couldn’t vote at the time. So, I think those are the big things I’m going to take (away), is that my students have a voice too.”

Part of the teachers’ work included developing curriculum that any teacher can access and use to teach about May 4.

Kratcoski said an educational resources site was created for the summit, which offers online access to lesson plans and curated artifacts and materials for teaching and learning about the context, legacy, and relevancy of the Kent State shootings.  

Access Educational Resources

“The resources are hosted on the 50th Commemoration website so they are accessible to the summit attendees as wll as educators and students worldwide to engage a broad audience with the history and lessons learned from May 4. The site will also be used in teacher education classes, thus preparing a new generation of educators to teach about this important moment in history and address critical humanities themes within their curriculum,” she said.

Speakers and presenters at the event included: 

  • Thomas Grace, Ph.D., a historian, scholar, researcher and one of the nine Kent State students wounded during the May 4 shootings. Watch his keynote address here. Grace is an adjunct professor of history at the State University of New York (SUNY) Erie Community College and author of the book, “Death and Dissent in the Long Sixties.”
  • Alan Canfora, one of the nine students injured on May 4.
  • Roseann “Chic” Canfora, a longtime educator and activist in Northeast Ohio, sister to Alan and witness to the May 4 shootings
  • Laura Davis, Kent State professor emerita of English and founding director of the May 4 Visitors Center, who also was a Kent State student on May 4, 1970.
  • Sara Abou Rashed, a poet, motivational speaker and Syrian refugee who moved to Columbus, Ohio, with her family in 2013, who has become a national voice for student activism and change. She also delivered a keynote address that can be found here.

Hawley said he and Davis recently were awarded a $170,000 Landmarks of American History and Culture grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to cover the cost of two teacher institutes in the summer of 2020.

Their project is called, “Making Meaning of May 4th: The Kent State Shootings in U.S. History.” Hawley said 72 teachers from across the nation will take part and the events will help to close the 50th anniversary commemoration.

Kratcoski said one of the most powerful moments of this year’s summit was the creation and choral reading of a community poem, “America, My Voice for Change.” 

“Using the Wick Poetry Center’s Thread application, community voices were collected in response to keynote speaker Sara Abou Rashed’s poem `I Am America,’ and scripted by the Wick Poetry Center,” she said. “The next day, Abou Rashed and summit participants performed the community poem at the close of the Summit.”

Also born out of the summit is the 2019-20 Voices for Change Educators Cohort. 

Kratcoski explained that the teachers will work together during the 2019-20 academic year and engage with Kent State faculty, to focus on participatory citizenship and engage in an ongoing inquiry of the historical events and humanities themes targeted in the summit. Teacher participants in the cohort will develop projects connected to May 4, 1970 that they will use in their classrooms. These projects will become part of the educational resource site, she said. 

Cohort experiences will include visits to the May 4 Visitors Center and National Historic Landmark, participation in 50th Commemoration speakers and events hosted at Kent State, and guided student research. The activities will culminate in a student research gallery reception in the Spring of 2020. 


POSTED: Tuesday, October 22, 2019 - 1:45pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 11:05am
Lisa Abraham