Strengthening Democracy Award Winner-Melissa Peterson

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Omaha South social studies teacher Melissa Peterson has believed in the importance of civic education throughout her 16-year teaching career, weaving lessons of government affairs into every class she teaches.  After receiving her Bachelors degree in Secondary Education and Psychology, Peterson went on to earn two Masters degrees, one in Political Science and the other in Historical Studies.  She is currently pursuing her doctorate of Political Science. Mrs. Peterson is not only committed to learning and teaching civics, but has worked to provide immersive government opportunities for her students even outside of the classroom– including Civic Nebraska’s Capitol Experience Day.  Peterson regularly brings multiple classrooms to the state capitol to participate in a mock committee hearing and engage in civil discourse with state government officials from each branch.

Peterson’s contributions don’t end in the classroom or even the state capitol.  She has organized students to help with Get Out the Vote efforts in South Omaha, created a neighborhood awareness campaign with middle and elementary school students, sponsored a student mission trip to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and created a student-led community service organization at Omaha South. In 2014, her classroom  worked with a state senator to draft a bill to allow 16 year olds to register to vote, testified, and lobbied on that bill– for their efforts, they were awarded the Outstanding Youth Engagement Program that year.  For her sustained dedication to civic education in Nebraska, we’re thrilled to name Melissa Peterson as an Outstanding Educator.

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