Justin C. Willis

Justin C. Willis, who teaches US history and coaches baseball in New Summerfield, near Jacksonville in Cherokee County, was nominated for the Caffey Teaching Award by a fellow teacher, who wrote, "The reason I am nominating Mr. Willis is because he has successfully implemented oral history methodologies in the classroom and he is very kind, considerate, connected to his students, always available for advice or help."


Mr. Willis taught oral history lessons using appropriate standards and including instruction on transcribing and preserving recordings. He started an oral history club at his high school to engage students with their community. "Listening and responding to first-hand stories can literally bring history to life for sometimes disinterested or special needs students," says Willis. Using transcripts and other materials, the students write papers or create exhibits on local topics, including their school, sports, local businesses, and veterans' experiences. Arrangements have been made to archive the recordings at the Baylor University Institute for Oral History.


The award presentation will recognize Mr. Willis at his school on May 25, with Dr. Perky Beisel and Dr. Eric Gruver representing the board and membership of TOHA. In her narrative, the fellow teacher who nominated Willis wrote, "He is a very upbeat, funny, and outgoing teacher who has a very close bond with his students and makes learning a wonderful and entertaining experience for all of us. He is a teacher whom we all forward to seeing every day." Congratulations, Mr. Willis, on your success in motivating students to engage with members of their community and preserve their stories through oral history.