Acree Participates in Presidential Academy

Val Acree, Yorktown High School basketball coach and U.S. History
teacher, was selected to attend the first ever Center for Civic
Education’s Presidential Academy at Goucher College in Baltimore,
Maryland from July 7-20.

The academy was completely free to Acree, and was funded by the U.S.
Department of Education; 51 teachers and 102 students attended the
academy, with Acree being the only teacher selected from Texas. Two
students from YHS were selected to attend the Congressional Academy
(for students), however, they were unable to attend the two-week

Presidential Academy attendees received high quality professional
development in the content and methods of civics and history. Acree
was able to hear presentations from four speakers about the
Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the 13th, 14th, and 15th
amendments, which all passed after the Civil War.

Acree admitted that his most memorable speaker was Susan Leeson, a
former judge in the State of Oregon, and she was the 94th Associate
Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court.

“She was amazing,” said Acree of the former Supreme Court Justice.

Acree attended the academy from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., with the
opportunity to learn about America’s constitutional history and even
receive potential teaching lessons to take back to the classroom,
along with presenting a mock Congressional Hearing, which Acree

“They put us into groups, and gave us a topic, and we had to
participate in a mock Congressional Hearing,” said Acree.

He continued on to explain that his group of teachers had to research
their topic throughout the duration of the academy, and during the
last session, the group presented a 4-minute presentation, and were
then asked questions about their topic for a total of 6-minutes.

“I like the Congressional Hearing format,” said Acree, “I’d like to use
that with my kids.”

Acree explained that most students don’t like to talk in front of
crowds, and that the activity would hopefully encourage and help
students with public speaking.

The academy also offered field trips which included George
Washington’s Mount Vernon, Gettysburg National Military Park, Fort
McHenry National Monument and Shrine, and trips to the Library of
Congress, the U.S. Capitol, and the National Archives in Washington
D.C., which holds the Declaration of Independence.

Acree was actually able to participate in the lowering of the flag at
Fort McHenry, where Francis Scott Key, as Proclamation 2795 states,
“after having anxiously watched from afar the bombardment of Fort
McHenry throughout the night of September 13, 1814, saw his country’s
flag still flying in the early morning of the following day; and,
whereas, this stirring evidence of the failure of the prolonged attack
inspired him to write the Star-Spangled Banner, our national anthem.”
“Now, therefore, I, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of
America and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, do hereby
proclaim that, as a perpetual symbol of our patriotism, the flag of
the United States shall hereafter be displayed at Fort McHenry
National Monument and Historic Shrine at all times during the day and
night, except when the weather is inclement.”

Acree was honored to participate in the historic tradition: “Because I
was a veteran, I got to help lower one flag while the kids were
putting up the other, so that was really cool,” gushed Acree.

While Acree will, of course, be thankful for the opportunity to learn
from some of America’s best scholars, along with visiting the most
historic locations, Acree was adamant to explain that being with
teachers from all over the country and sharing ideas was possibly the
best attribute of the academy.

“I told the director at the end, I said ‘All the scholars and mentors were
great–but, just the interaction with [teachers] and meeting people that you never
would have met otherwise, just learning from them too is just really

Acree isn’t done with the Center for Civic Education just yet,
however. During the school year, teachers will also be engaged in
outreach and follow-up activities with scholars that will benefit
their school communities.

Acree looks forward to participating in activities that will include
his students.

last updated august 2019