Laura DeRosa, Hollis Broookline Middle School history teacher, honored with state DAR award

The Hollis Brookline Middle School gymnasium was bustling with excitement on Dec. 20, the last day of school before winter recess. During the all-school assembly, the winners of the ugly sweater competition were announced, and then it was time for the annual staff versus student volleyball game.

In between those activities, however, the school took the time to recognize one of its own.

Laura DeRosa, who has been teaching eighth grade social studies at HBMS for the past eight years, was called forward to accept the award for Outstanding Teacher of American History by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Several DAR members, including Mary Pease, regent of the Anna Keyes Powers Chapter of the DAR, were on hand for the awards ceremony, as well as her husband, Tom, and her parents, Phil and Arline Roy.

Susan Santoski, American history chair of the local Anna Keyes Powers Chapter of the DAR, explained that the award honors full-time history teachers in public and private schools. Students, colleagues and DAR members nominate teachers for the award based on their knowledge of historical subject matter, commitment to students and fostering a sense of patriotism.

Santoski, whose children have been in DeRosa’s class, suggested she apply for the award. DeRosa wrote and submitted an essay discussing how she runs her classes and encourages students to use primary sources. Although she knew she had been nominated, she had no idea she had won and was clearly surprised.

“It’s the ultimate compliment that someone whose children I taught is the one nominating me,” DeRosa said. “She knows what I do in class and knows what level of performance I expect.”

DeRosa said she loves teaching eighth graders and that they are always entertaining, but sometimes it is challenging to keep them motivated. She said she tries to make history fun and teach students how to use primary sources to really analyze what happened. One of the favorite topics she covers is the graveyard unit.

“At first it seems odd, but we go down to the center of town and the kids conduct their own study looking at graveyard markers,” she explained. “They each figure out what they want to study, collect data and take photos. In the end, we put everything together on a website. We talk about the background information on graveyard markers, the importance of the style of art, what’s written on the epitaph, the shape of stones and materials, and how it all tells about society within that period.”

Students and staff alike applauded DeRosa’s efforts and recognition.

“For us, this is no surprise,” said Principal Robert Thompson. “She is an amazing American history teacher. All you have to do is spend five minutes in her classroom to see why she wins awards.”

Eight-grader Jamison Muckstadt described how she uses crossword puzzles and Jeopardy-style games to help the class review for tests, while Ryan Farquhar said he’s learned a lot from her because she’s a really good teacher.

“I think she really deserves this (award),” said eighth-grader Elizabeth Scrima. “I like how she makes things fun. She doesn’t put pressure on you but makes each person in the classroom feel important.”

DeRosa, who lives in Manchester, was given a bouquet of flowers, a certificate, a gift subscription to DAR Magazine and a copy of the book, “Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution,” by Nathaniel Philbrick, along with a personalized book plate.

She will be honored by the NHDAR at a luncheon in Waterville Valley in April, and will represent the state at the 2014 national competition.