The Ketchikan School Board on Wednesday recognized Ketchikan High School English teacher Sarah Campbell for being selected by the U.S. Institute of Peace to participate in its 2019 Peace Teachers program.
In introducing Campbell at the start of the meeting, Board Clerk-Treasurer Bridget Mattson explained the significance of the program.
“Currently each school year, the U.S. Institute of Peace selects a cohort of outstanding American middle and high school teachers from different U.S. states to receive education, resources and support to strengthen their teaching of international conflict and peace,” Mattson explained. “Given the disruptions of the COVID pandemic, the 2019 cohort was extended and the teachers persisted despite the difficult context and providing their students with opportunities to explore new perspectives, make global connections and develop critical skills to help them navigate a changed world. Amid the COVID pandemic and national upheaval, four high school teachers from Alaska, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Nebraska participated in the U.S. IP’s Peace Teacher program and dedicated themselves to helping their students make sense of the conflicts in the world and show them how peace can be achieved.”
Mattson’s introduction made it clear that Campbell’s membership in the Peace Teacher program is far from her only involvement in peacetime work.
“In 2013, Ms. Campbell traveled to Japan as part of the Five College Center for East Asian Studies’ peace education program. Meeting with atomic bomb survivors and touring Nagasaki and Hiroshima reshaped Mrs. Campbell's understanding of human compassion, forgiveness and love,” Mattson said. “In 2017, the United States-Japan Foundation awarded Ms. Campbell with the Elgin Heinz Outstanding Teacher Award, which provided her with project funds that she and her students used to dedicate a peace pole and hold an assembly as part of Peace Week.”
Campbell responded graciously to the public recognition at Wednesday’s board meeting.
“This has just been a great journey for me, and obviously a tremendous experience to learn from educators at USIP,” Campbell said. “I had never had any formal training in peace education before. And if I could go back in time — I love my literature degree, but I might look at, you know, peace and conflict resolution. Vital, vital skills for all of us to have.”
“When we talk about peace education, many people are like, ‘Well, what does that involve?’ Well, honestly, it's looking at conflict,” Campbell explained. “Conflict is such a natural part of the human experience — and inevitable. And so what we do with peace education is we look at ways to negotiate that conflict peacefully without violence.
“My students got pretty excited at looking at conflict self-assessment strategies to figure out what's their default. Are they by nature, an avoider? Are they by nature, a problem solver? Are they by nature, you know, somebody who tries to negotiate? And so looking at of course, different case studies around the world, you know, they can apply these strategies to that as well. So it's both kind of intrapersonal and interpersonal within the community, within the country and within the world.”
She concluded, “It’s been really fun, and I'm just very, very honored that this community — that the parents, that the students and you as a school board — recognize this work because it is quite essential for all of us. So thank you.”
During board comments near the end of Wednesday’s meeting, Board Member Paul Robbins Jr. said Campell’s work especially resonated with him due to his personal experience.
“As a veteran of war, I think it's extremely important that we're teaching conflict resolution, or even more important that we’re teaching what these conflicts are and how they affect people, and how horrible they are,” he continued. “Maybe through more teachers like her and through more subjects like this, we can avoid sending so many of our fresh high school graduates to conflicts they shouldn't be in. So I just really appreciate her and am proud of her and that she's a part of this district.”