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With Support from Peter Martorella Fund, Social Studies Educators Develop New Skills to Produce More Civic-minded Students in the Classroom

Class of 2020 Social Studies Cohort

The third cohort of teachers who received funding from the Peter H. Martorella Memorial Award Fund graduated this spring from the NC State College of Education’s New Literacies and Global Learning (NLGL) master’s degree program with a concentration in social studies.

Named for former social studies education professor Peter Martorella, the Martorella Fund provides small grants to teachers to help offset the costs of graduate school. Over the past few years, the fund has helped to consistently attract groups of five to six teachers for each cohort to complete their Master of Education degrees. Students are awarded $2,000 in their first year and $1,000 in their second year.

Marlin Jones ‘20MED, the 2020 North Carolina for the Social Studies Teacher of the Year, was one of the five teachers who made up the third cohort of Martorella Fund recipients (See The 3rd Cohort of Martorella Fund Recipients). The scholarship award, Jones said, made it possible for him to pursue his master’s through the NLGL program to obtain new knowledge and have a greater impact on his students.

“This program has given me the confidence to be on the cutting edge of teaching and learning. Although I have been a teacher-leader throughout my career, this program highlighted the importance of continuing to be an effective teacher-leader not only in my classroom but also in the education profession both at a district, state and national level,” said Jones, a 22-year veteran in education and a National Board Certified social studies teacher at Broughton High School in Raleigh who was named his school’s Teacher of the Year in his previous positions at Wakefield and Holly Springs high schools.

“The NLGL program has given me more and better reading strategies to help my students decipher and analyze documents. I have learned how to get my students to create and support arguments better,” Jones said. “I have learned how to include technology in my instruction. In fact, this program made it easier for me to transition to virtual learning through COVID-19.”

The NLGL social studies program prepares experienced teachers like Jones with strategies for addressing shifts in the classroom caused by changing technologies and an increasingly global society. The program emphasizes collegiality and content-specific pedagogy using a cohort model while developing those teachers into educational leaders.

One of the main focuses of the program is project-based inquiry (PBI), an active learning technique used to spark students’ curiosity to learn new material. Educators are encouraged to use digital materials to build engagement in the classroom and improve student learning.

Another focus found throughout the social studies program is the College, Career and Civic Life Inquiry Design Model or C3 Framework. Through the use of this instructional framework, adolescents grow up to become informed, engaged and respectful citizens.

“This program has given me a better understanding of social studies and the important role it plays in helping our students become civic-minded and engaged in our democracy,” Jones said. “I plan to apply and continue more research on the College, Career and Civic Life Inquiry Design Model.”

In addition to Jones, the other teachers who are part of the third cohort who graduated in May are Leslie Bryan ‘20MED, Cathy Ellis ‘20MED, Twanna Monroe ‘20MED and Michael Williams ‘20MED. Like Jones, they served as full-time teachers while completing the program and taught in urban and rural districts, including districts disproportionately affected by high rates of childhood poverty. Read more about them below.

“The cohort of social studies teachers that graduated from our program this year represent the potential for graduate study to enhance the profession and to attract highly qualified teachers to seek additional professional learning,” said Meghan Manfra, Ph.D., an associate professor of social studies education. “Empirical data collected during the quick transition to digital learning brought about by the COVID-19 crisis suggests that teachers need access to cutting-edge teaching strategies and digital pedagogies.

“Graduate programs like our New Literacies and Global Learning program provide this important training for teachers while also promoting collegiality and teacher leadership.”

The 3rd Cohort of Martorella Fund Recipients

Leslie BryanLeslie Bryan ‘20MED, who is in her seventh year as a middle grades social studies teacher at the Duke School in Durham, focused her research on strategies for helping teachers explore global issues in the classroom through project-based learning. She regularly presented at national conferences.


Cathy EllisCathy Ellis ‘20MED, a social studies teacher at Mills Park Middle School in Cary, is an 18-year veteran in the field of education. Throughout her career, she was twice named Teacher of the Year. She plans to use her master’s degree to serve as a curriculum facilitator and mentor for new teachers.


Marlin JonesMarlin Jones ’20MED is a 22-year veteran in education and a National Board Certified social studies teacher at Broughton High School in Raleigh. He was named Teacher of the Year in his previous positions at Wakefield High School and Holly Springs High School; and in February, he was named the North Carolina Council for the Social Studies Teacher of the Year.


Twanna MonroeTwanna Monroe ‘20MED is a 16-year veteran in the education field, where she works as a teacher at Red Springs High School in Lumberton. Aside from teaching, she is a pastor and counselor for her rural and economically disadvantaged community. Monroe plans to use her degree to help lead local initiatives to support the integration of digital technologies into education.


Michael Williams

Michael Williams ‘20MED was recently named the education program manager for the National Humanities Center. Prior to that appointment, he taught at Warren New Tech High School in Warren County, where he was named Teacher of the Year twice. He has also been named the Tachau National Teacher of the Year by the Organization of American Historians. Williams also serves on the board of the North Carolina Council for the Social Studies.