IRVINE : Teacher Receives National Award

Friends of Irvine High School teacher James Mamer say he brings his history and government classes alive by linking historical events to today’s news.

And instead of teaching history from the perspective of one textbook, he requires students to analyze what authors write by exposing them to historians with different views of the world.

The National Council for the Social Studies recently recognized Mamer’s teaching efforts by naming him as one of two national high school social studies teachers of the year for 1992. The Washington, D.C.-based organization promotes social studies teaching and has honored two teachers each year since 1970.

Mamer, 43, received $2,500 and a paid trip to the organization’s upcoming national convention in Detroit. Mamer has been a history, government and economics teacher for 15 years.

“Whether he’s teaching a government class or a history class, the formal things students are learning in those classes is always connected to what’s going on currently,” said Dean Waldfogel, Irvine Unified School District’s assistant superintendent for instruction and curriculum.


“Not that other teachers don’t do that,” Waldfogel said, “but Jim is one of the premier people in making that attempt.”

Mamer said this week that he didn’t know he won the award until he returned from a summer trip and found the notification in his mailbox. Michael Tague, the assistant principal at Irvine High School, had nominated him.

The National Council for the Social Studies presents the award to honor teachers who develop or use instructional material effectively, said Sara Wallace, associate executive director of the national council.

Judges, a majority of whom are social studies teachers, recognized Mamer for the three years he spent demonstrating teaching techniques to fellow history teachers in the district, his work with UC Irvine’s Knowledge and Social Responsibility Program and a history and social science course outline he presented to the state Department of Education, Wallace said.

One of Mamer’s course outlines also helped him win the 1991 Global Teaching Award from Immaculate Heart College Center in Los Angeles. That outline examined different historical views of the United States’ intervention in Vietnam.

“He has an outstanding reputation at the center,” said Laura Lee Gold, an assistant to the president. The nonprofit center gives the award and $1,000 each year to teachers who design courses with a global perspective to teaching and learning, Gold said.

Mamer developed the course outline on the Vietnam War because most American history textbooks stop after World War II, Waldfogel said.

“Jim provided leadership to make sure high school teachers got through the Vietnam War,” he said. “Some students never heard of the Vietnam War because they weren’t around for it.”

While Mamer worked as a mentor teacher for the past three years, he encouraged fellow teachers to talk with students about the perspective taken by historical authors, Waldfogel said. The concern is that students will be indoctrinated by the viewpoints of a particular teacher or text, he said.

Mamer said he likes to present his students with information from different historical perspectives to encourage students to question what is written about history.

“Students learn to think by giving them opposing viewpoints,” Mamer said.