By NOLAN STOUT
ELKTON — In a regular school day, Luke Roadcap is a bit of a celebrity at Elkton Middle School.
He’s recognizable to every student, mainly because each comes through his sixth-grade history class.
Now, he’s getting recognized throughout the state.
Roadcap was selected last week as the 2017 Virginia History Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
The award comes with a $1,000 prize and an archive of classroom resources and documents. He’s also one of 53 finalists for the national history teacher of the year award, which will be announced in the fall.
The institute is a nonprofit supporting history education throughout the country by providing grants, resources and access to documents for students and teachers, according to its website.
Roadcap was one of 77 nominees for the award, according to a press release. To win, the 26-year-old submitted a lesson plan, project plan and education plan. His lesson plan challenged students to study documents about the country leading to the Great Depression.
“[It’s] kind of having the kids figure out for themselves what happened in history instead of just me telling them what happened,” he said.
Roadcap, an Augusta County native who lives in Waynesboro, just wrapped up his fifth year as the school’s only sixth-grade social studies teacher. He graduated from Bridgewater College with a degree in history and political science in 2012.
He was a student- teacher at Turner Ashby High School before taking the job in Elkton.
While teaching, he was able to earn a master’s degree in history from James Madison University in 2015.
Although he started in high school, Roadcap has no plans to leave Elkton Middle School.
“Elkton Middle School isn’t just a school — it’s a community,” he said. “I don’t have my own classroom and do my own thing and other teachers don’t have their own classroom and do their own thing. We all work together to make sure each student has what they need to be successful.”
Roadcap said his approach to history is for children to understand and analyze it.
“It’s getting them to think outside the box instead of telling them, ‘This is what happened in history; now, you need to memorize these facts,’” he said. “I’m not going to focus on the dates, as much as focus on the outcomes and the causes and effects of history.”
Beau Dickenson, Rockingham County Public Schools’ social studies coordinator, lauded Roadcap’s teaching style.
“It’s that philosophy that set you apart in the application process because that’s really what’s been refreshing,” he said. “ It’s really shifting history away from just [ memorization] into analysis and application.”
Roadcap doesn’t know what resources or documents the organization will send to the school, nor has he any plans for his $1,000 prize.
“That’s, like, a huge pay raise,” he joked.
It’s not the first award he’s received in his short career — he was selected as the 2016 Outstanding History Educator by the Massanutten Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the 2014-15 Elkton Middle School Teacher of the Year.
He’s also a historical interpreter at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum in Staunton.
In 2016, he received a separate grant from Gilder Lehrman to study for a week at Harvard University.
But Roadcap doesn’t take credit for his accomplishments.
“I teach with wonderful, wonderful teachers, and this award wouldn’t be possible without them without their support of me,” he said. “And the support of the county, I don’t know of other school divisions around that value their teachers as much as Rockingham County values its teachers.”
Contact Nolan Stout at 574-6278 or firstname.lastname@example.org