By NANCY WU
On January 9, Rob Vicario, a National History Day (NHD) coordinator from the Orange County Department of Education (OCDE), announced that Ms. Judy Richonne (Social Science Dept.) was nominated for the NHD-OC Teacher of the Year Award.
National History Day is an academic program that features an annual contest for middle and high school students. Every year, over half a million students participate by selecting a topic relevant to the annual theme, conducting research and presenting their analysis and conclusion in one of five ways: a paper, exhibit, website, documentary or performance.
Students or groups from within a school can be selected to compete at the county level. After being judged by educators and historians, the top projects move on to the state level. Winners at the state level then move on to compete at the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest at the University of Maryland at College Park.
Ms. Richonne began her involvement in NHD in 1999 while she was a teacher at Rancho San Joaquin Middle School. She has been a coach — a teacher with participating students — as well as a judge at the county level. According to Ms. Richonne, “NHD makes the interested historian, the student, have to think beyond what we get to do in a classroom.”
“It creates thinkers who, whether they continue to study history or not,” she said, “have learned how to research; they’ve learned how to present their information; and they’ve learned how to think.”
Megha Torpunuri (Jr.), who competed at the state level her freshman year and is a student of Ms. Richonne’s, said, “Ms. Richonne has been nothing but encouraging and helpful throughout the NHD process. Her constant enthusiasm for history makes what could be another painful extracurricular, a fun and fulfilling project.”
Ohshue Gatanaga (So.), who won 2nd place at state and is also one of Ms. Richonne’s students said that she “is always dedicated in helping guide students through the tedious process of research involved in NHD.”
This year is Ms. Richonne’s 8th year at University High School (UHS) and many students at UHS have benefited from her dedication and enthusiasm for education.
Gatanaga said, “There’s never once during her period where I find myself bored of learning history, and she teaches history in a way which captures the attention of her students.”