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A Rankin County instructor has been named Mississippi’s outstanding history teacher by the Mississippi Historical Society. Jennifer Leigh Johnson received the John K. Bettersworth Award on March 3 during the society’s annual meeting in Jackson.

"Jennifer Johnson is exactly the type of educator we are proud to support," said Chad Daniels, Bettersworth Award Committee Chair. "In addition to her excellent work in the classroom, Johnson spearheaded a collaborative project where her students interviewed military veterans from World War II to Desert Storm that culminated in the creation of a commemorative booklet for each veteran."

An instructor with eleven years of school experience, Johnson teaches U.S. history, world history, psychology, and law at Puckett High School. She has also taught Mississippi Studies, civics, geography, and AP world history at public and private schools in Mississippi, Georgia, and her home state of Florida. Johnson is the 2016-17 teacher of the year at Puckett High School and a member of the Mississippi Professional Educators, Phi Delta Kappa, and the National Council for the Social Studies, as well as the co-sponsor of the National Honor Society at her school. Johnson earned her bachelor's in social sciences from Florida State University and her master’s in teaching from Belhaven University.

“In an age where students can Google information, teaching only facts and dates can no longer be the foundation of history education,” Johnson said. “I want my students to better understand the world around them by better understanding those who have come before them.”

Puckett High School former assistant principal Tammy Crosetti called Johnson “one of the finest and most dedicated professionals I have ever known.” In her letter of support for the nomination, Crosetti wrote that “Mrs. Johnson is an energetic, caring educator and life learner. She infuses her training, experience, and passion into every dimension of her work.”

The John K. Bettersworth Award was established by the Mississippi Historical Society to recognize the outstanding work of Mississippi’s secondary and middle school history teachers. The award memorializes Dr. John K. Bettersworth, distinguished professor of history and academic vice president at Mississippi State University. A former president of the Mississippi Historical Society, Bettersworth also served for many years on the board of trustees of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

The prize carries a $300 cash award and a year’s membership in the Mississippi Historical Society.

The Mississippi Historical Society, founded in 1858, encourages outstanding work in interpreting, teaching, and preserving Mississippi History. The society is a non-profit membership organization that works closely with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The society also publishes the online publication Mississippi History Now. It provides annual grants to support programs of the Junior Historical Society and publishes books, maps, and other materials aimed toward the education of the general public. Membership is open to anyone; benefits include receiving the Journal of Mississippi History and Mississippi History Newsletter. For information on becoming a member, call 601-576-6849 or see the MHS website, www.mississippihistory.org.

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