James Sawatzki does more than get students’ attention when he teaches history at Bethel High School. He gets historians to take notice.
Swatzki, a teacher for 30 years, has been awarded the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching History by the Washington State Historical Society Board of Trustees. The award, presented annually to one or more certified teachers of Pacific Northwest history in an accredited K-12 school, recognizes innovative curriculum, consistent effectiveness in utilizing history in the classroom and the community, the advancement of Pacific Northwest history as a field of academic inquiry, and a lasting impact on students.
Along with the recognition comes a prize of $750.
Sawitzki specializes in literature, political science and philosophy, which he integrates into a humanities-based curriculum. He is “particularly adept at applying core concepts to current events,” the trustees said in announcing his award May 5.
Sawatzki and his students have been involved in local, regional and state History Day competitions. Several of his students have fared well enough at the state level to advance to national competitions.
Sawitzki is one of two recipients of the Governor’s Award this year. The other is Mary Lou Macala, who teaches at Kingston Middle School on the Kitsap Peninsula. The Historical Society said she guides students on “a journey” to realizing that history is “alive, relevant and a subject they want to study.”
Macala and Sawatzki will be formally honored by the Historical Society during a luncheon June 21 at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma.