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OPPY Award Winner 2011, Victor Harbison

Victor Harbison has taught in CPS high schools for over sixteen years. In the fall of 2000, he became the first high school social studies teacher in CPS to achieve National Board Certification and his NBCT status was renewed in 2009. He is a past Editorial Board member of Catalyst Magazine and is an outspoken advocate on educational reform. He teaches at Gage Park High School.

He is a teacher whose educational philosophy is that the most powerful learning experiences are the things that you do, not the things that you study for. It is because of this belief that his students have been actively engaged in civics projects for the past ten years. His most recent civics project, “A Community Transformed: The Legacy of Dr. King and the Marches of 1966” is the culmination of two years of student work. Beginning in the fall of 2008, his students lobbied elected officials in an effort to have a memorial built that would honor the work of so many who marched on behalf of equal housing in Chicago. The students’ lobbying effort led to commitments from Alderman Lona Lane, the Illinois Institute of Technology and a hi-tech firm, SmarTechs, to work with his students to make their dream of a memorial a reality. Kiosks, where civil rights veterans tell their stories were created by the students. The result of all these efforts in his classroom was the dedication of the first officially sanctioned civil rights memorial in Marquette Park in June of 2010. What makes this project so unique is that high school students were able to achieve what adults could not. After 44 years, a memorial was finally dedicated to Dr. King and all who marched in the summer of 1966. This project, and what those students achieved, is what continues to inspire Harbison to work with some of Chicago’s most challenging, yet rewarding students. Visit at www.communitytransformed.com