In this blog post, we’ll meet Allison Ewing. She is a teacher and the Social Studies Department Chair of the Upper School at the Bullis School as well as the coordinator for the Maryland Geographic Bee. On March 31st, you can find Allison at the Bee, alongside co-coordinator Jill Ferris and many young geography enthusiasts from around the state. Unlike some of these young minds participating in a geography competition, Allison got her start elsewhere. During her Bachelor’s program at the University of Michigan, Allison majored in history and Spanish. Her love for geography and geographic education, however, was first cemented during graduate school at Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. During this time, she interned with 7th grade geography and AP Human Geography teacher. It was her experience teaching 7th grade geography that encouraged Allison to continue working within the field.
Allison’s multidisciplinary background has informed her teaching style as a geography educator. She often begins a new unit by teaching the first lesson exclusively in Spanish. Allison explains that starting off a lesson in this manner helps students empathize with those who do not speak the primary language and realize the cultural significance of any language. Allison noted that she thinks she was always destined to teach geography despite majoring in other subjects. Allison is also a proponent for using technology in the classroom. She’s recently used GIS (Geographic Information Systems) in her class and plans to continue in the years to come. She also uses classroom technologies like EdPuzzle, Pear Deck, and NoodleTools. Her teaching style is truly indicative of geography’s role as the bridge discipline, as Allison is able to draw upon other disciplines to contextualize the importance of geography.
Allison continues to stay busy during summers by attending conferences and professional development opportunities. Last summer alone, Allison, along with 14 other educators, spent 18 days trekking around China, traveled to South Africa with her husband, and came back to the United States to attend the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) conference in Tampa, FL and an AP Institute in Atlanta, GA. This summer, she plans to return to the NCGE conference, to be held in Albuquerque, NM (her hometown). Her service outside of the classroom continues during the school year as the coordinator for the Maryland Geographic Bee. She had the opportunity to coordinate the Bee for the second time this year. Allison recalls the enthusiasm and passion for geography from last year’s contestants – sure to be seen again this year. Unlike most other state Bees, the Maryland Geographic Bee will be televised via Maryland Public Television – a good opportunity for students to see how a show goes from the studio to the television set. This year, with help and coordination from Jill, contestants will be receiving their very own Bee “swag”!
If this wasn’t impressive enough, it should be noted that Allison is expecting a baby very soon (due shortly after the Maryland Geographic Bee) and continued to work above and beyond as an educator and coordinator throughout her pregnancy. Allison plans to take her daughter to geography conferences, starting this summer with the NCGE conference. I always ask why geography should be more prevalent in K-12 curricula; but with plans to bring her daughter to geography conferences in the future, Allison proves it’s never too early to start thinking spatially. Allison states “geography is the window through which the world is made sense of.” And if in the current time and space we occupy may be confusing and overwhelming, geography is able to provide the explanations and solutions.
Read the full Q&A here.