Dimond Teacher Designs Online Classes for Smithsonian

Mischell Anderson, a Dimond High World History and Psychology teacher, has over the last year had the privilege of working to design online classes for the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.

Anderson, The Dimond Social Studies Chair, most recently returned from Washington in mid-September. 

Anderson said, “During the summer I teach for an organization called the Consortium for Teaching about Asia, and it’s a national group for East Asia, consortium for teaching about East Asia. And it’s a national group that’s at five universities around the country.

“So I work with the University of Washington in Seattle, and I run workshops here in Alaska for them with a professor named Paul Dunscomb at UAA.”

The Smithsonian Institute is a series of museums in located in the majority in Washington D.C.

Anderson is also well known at Dimond for her travels outside of the country, especially to her area of expertise, East Asia.

Anderson said, “I’ve also traveled with the consortium, so I’ve gone to China and Japan and Taiwan with them, and I’ve attended a bunch of their classes around the country. 

“And so when the Smithsonian, specifically the Freer-Sackler Gallery, when they were looking for teachers to help with their new curriculum for East Asia, they contacted the Consortium for Teaching about East Asia and asked for recommendations, and the people at Seattle recommended me.”

The Freer-Sackler Gallery, part of the circuit of Smithsonian Museums in Washington D.C., opened in 1923 and is the first Smithsonian Museum dedicated to fine art. The museum itself specializes in Asian art pieces, and currently has over 26,000 pieces.

Last September’s trip was not the first time Anderson worked for the Smithsonian’s gallery. 

Anderson said, “I’ve been twice, and the first time I went was last January.”

However, over both her trips the number of teachers who worked with Anderson fluctuated.

Anderson said, “There were nine teachers [in January], and then this last time there were five. I think they have 10 altogether, but they have a hard time getting them all in the same place at the same time.”

The 10 teachers have the important task of designing a new online resource for the art gallery, meant for students.

“We were designing a new website called “Teaching About China,” and they’re going to be using several of their art resources because it is an art gallery. And so I was helping to design lesson plans that would be published on the website that will be used with the collection that they have.”

Anderson said, “It was very interesting, it was very stressful because I designed the lessons at home and then I had to present to the Smithsonian people and to the other teachers, and get critiqued and rewrite and fix things and so professionally it was very rewarding but also very challenging.”

One of the main objectives many of these teachers in these programs have is to find a way to use the work they create in a classroom setting and to ask themselves if they can use it with their own classes.

Anderson said, “Absolutely. So it’s supposed to be published in June, and I think the lesson plans that they’ve developed, not just mine but from the other teachers, I think they’re really great.”

And besides these lessons, Anderson was also able to tour parts of the gallery with the other teachers in her free time.

Anderson said, “Their collection is amazing, they have one of the best collections of Asian art, specifically Chinese art, but other Asian areas as well in the United States.”

However, being able to work with this art was not the best part for Anderson.

Anderson said, “One of the most interesting things for me was that we got to go into the labs and watch them working with artifacts. And so they had some new pieces that they were carbon dating, and they had an actual oracle bone from the Shang Dynasty.

“So if you know, oracle bones are the first type of anything with Chinese writing, the first kind of Chinese writing and they’re thousands of years old. And they had one just sitting on a table there, just that we could look at, it wasn’t even behind glass or protected or anything, so that part was really amazing.”

Anderson is considered by many members of faculty at Dimond not only to be an excellent teacher, but an excellent choice to help in such an important kind of work

Mary Beth Hammerstrom, a Dimond Economics and Criminology teacher in Anderson’s department, said, “I think it’s a huge honor, honestly. In order to be chosen for a program like this you need to have demonstrated that you’re a pretty confident person in your field, and there’s a lot of competition when you’re talking about world history teachers and art history teachers.”

Hammerstrom said, “So she’s going to be designing curriculum that other teachers are going to be able to use, which means the people who chose her for this think that she’s going to be somebody who will not only be good at doing stuff for herself but good at creating things that other people can then turn around and use.

“And she’s done so many things in her field.”

Hammerstrom truly believes Anderson is worthy of this honor, and said, “You have to have demonstrated that you’re pretty competent in what you do in order to be selected for something like that, and they’re looking for people who really know what they’re talking about. And not only that, but whose students come out as competent in their knowledge.

“So to be selected for this means your colleagues really think a lot of you and that people in your field think a lot of you.”

However, Anderson’s storied career is not the only sign that Anderson has achieved much here at Dimond.

Hammerstrom said, “For years back when we had a freshman house, her students typically went not only to State but to Nationals for World History Day. She’s been an AP reader for Psychology [as well].” 

One of Anderson’s prior students, Junior Annika Rhode, said, “She spoke about her travels a lot, not even specifically Asian travels. She got a lot of opportunities I think as a teacher to go to historical museums and places, and I can’t remember specific places.

“But she talked about it a lot, and it was so interesting to hear about. I really enjoyed it.”

Rhode said, “I think she’s definitely extremely cultured and that probably influences her teaching a lot. Because she’s really aware, she’s worldly, I would like to say for lack of a better term.

“She’s very intelligent and that definitely shines through when she’s teaching.”

However, Anderson has also been able to inform about her time and studies in Asia in the classroom, much to her student’s benefit.

Rhode said, “She would even apply it to lessons sometimes. She would be like, “Oh, I went here and saw this in a museum,” and she would connect it to what we were learning at the time, which I thought made it more personal.”

Rhode also ardently believes that Anderson is a great teacher to work with the Smithsonian.

Rhode said, “I think there’s not a better choice honestly, I think she’s incredible.”

It seems obvious that if anyone is worthy of working for museums on a national level, it is none other that Dimond’s Mrs. Anderson.