Rolling Meadows High School history teacher Patrick Thorburn received the 2016 State of Illinois Outstanding Teacher of American History Award from the Illinois Daughters of the American Revolution, a service organization devoted to preserving American history, promoting patriotism and educating young people to better secure the country’s future.
Rather than simply teach from a textbook, Thorburn is committed to bringing history to life for his students through a number of activities that range from examining the Bill of Rights and Thomas Paine’s Common Sense to studying Sears catalogs from the 1890s and actual World War II ration stamps.
In addition to exploring these primary documents, students in Thorburn’s class get outside the classroom to experience aspects of the Great Depression and put on disguises to reenact the Boston Tea Party near a creek behind the school. It is Thorburn’s ability to make history come alive and his dedication to working with a diverse student population that most impressed the Eli Skinner Chapter NSDAR, which nominated Thorburn for the award and has members in Palatine, Arlington Heights and surrounding communities.
"He's not only excited teaching Advanced Placement American History but treasures his time teaching limited English students and helping them to understand the history of their new home," said Historian Mary Stitt of the Eli Skinner Chapter.
Thorburn began teaching history at Rolling Meadows High School in 1996, where he also did his student teaching and worked as an instructional assistant in an ESL classroom. His entire career has been spent at the high school. Today, he teaches history and geography to students of all skill levels and backgrounds, from Advanced Placement U.S. History and European History to teaching students with limited proficiency in English, as well as acts as the Varsity coach for the school’s Scholastic Bowl team.
Thorburn continues to be a student of history himself, traveling around the country to participate in Landmarks of American History and Culture workshops sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. These opportunities not only increase the scope and depth of his own knowledge, Thorburn said, but also help stoke his unending passion for the subject matter he teaches.
Thorburn will now advance to the national competition. He will be recognized by the Eli Skinner Chapter NSDAR on Sunday, Feb. 7 at the Palatine Public Library and in April by the state organization at their annual State Conference.