The Niagara History Center has named its entire four-person Education Committee as 2015 Volunteers of the Year, in recognition of extraordinary work benefiting children and adults served by museum programs.

The committee members, Kay Burgess, Kathy Meloon, Karen Sherwood and Jean Weisbeck, are all retired local teachers of elementary and middle school students, each with over 30 years in the classroom. Together with Assistant Director and Education Coordinator Ann Marie Linnabery, they develop and implement the History Center’s educational objectives and activities. Committee members offer hands-on help, serving as docents for school tours and presenting children’s holiday and summer programs. As a committee, the four volunteers meet monthly with Linnabery to develop future activities.

Burgess first came to the History Center as a docent in 1996. “It’s an interesting experience working with great people and kids,” she says. She is also a Step Back in Time Player, re-enacting as 19th-century physician Dr. Sarah Lamb Cushing.

Meloon began docenting in 2008 after reading a newspaper interview with Burgess about her museum work. “Our country’s history is such an inspiring story,” she says. “There’s mystery, excitement, suspense, daring deeds and brave actions, most accomplished by ordinary men, women and even kids!”

Sherwood also credits Burgess’ influence to become a docent in 2008 and explains that the people she works with are the best thing about volunteering. “I learn so much from the staff and other education members since they all have their own area of expertise,” says Sherwood, who began serving on the Education Committee while still teaching.

Weisbeck began volunteering in 2010. “I enjoy giving tours and doing the education programs,” she says. “I love getting people actively interested and curious about history and having some fun while we do it.”

Linnabery has great praise for the Education Committee. “This is a wonderful group to work with,” she says. “Each member brings her own unique knowledge and experience to every children’s program. Although our focus is history, these ladies add elements of science, math and ELA to the hands-on activities. I have learned so much from them and have tremendous respect for their expertise.”

Education Committee members also assist in updating and revising “teaching boxes” of reproduction artifacts, books, a curriculum guide, and suggested activities, each based upon a New York State Common Core educational theme. The boxes are loaned to local schools, but they can also be utilized for presentations in other settings, such as adult care facilities. In addition, the committee helps develop and carry out school outreach programs, an important educational effort bringing the museum and history right into the classroom.

The History Center benefits tremendously from the teaching experience and skills of the Education Committee volunteers, says Executive Director Melissa Dunlap. “These volunteers help us carry out our mission of providing quality educational programs,” Dunlap says. “They’re an asset to the Historical Society and provide invaluable support to the efforts of our museum staff.”

PHOTO: From left – Karen Sherwood, Jean Weisbeck, Kathy Meloon. Not shown – Kay Burgess.

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