Texas Lawyers Auxiliary honors 2014 Teacher of the Year

The Texas Lawyers Auxiliary recently met at the Texas Law Center in Austin to celebrate the 2014 Teacher of the Year.

The award is presented annually to a high school teacher who offers his or her students opportunities and experiences in the field of law. This year, Kim Grosenbacher, a government teacher at Champion High School in Boerne, was recognized.

At the award breakfast Oct. 6, Grosenbacher shared with Texas Lawyers Auxiliary members the various programs and activities she uses in her classroom. These range from encouraging students to create their own government lessons (cooking classes and music videos are just two examples) to mock trials and in-class legal debates.

Grosenbacher ensures that each of her students is equipped with a pocket Constitution and works to not only educate her students on the legal system, but also to encourage a sense of civic responsibility and engagement.
 

EDITORIAL: Celebrate the Importance of American Freedom

By Trey Apffel

The Constitution is a crucial thread in the fabric of our country’s history. As former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor once said, the Constitution changed world history “for the perpetual benefit of mankind. In 1787, no country in the world had ever allowed its citizens to select their own form of government, much less to select a democratic government.”

Although the Constitution was written long ago, the founding document still plays a significant role in our daily lives as it guarantees the precious liberties and fundamental rights for all U.S. citizens and puts “governance in the hands of the people.”

 In 2001, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1776, which established Celebrate Freedom Week. Texas public schools are encouraged to spend the week focusing on the importance of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, in their historical contexts. Local school districts honor Celebrate Freedom Week during the week of Sept. 17, Constitution Day, to commemorate the signing of the historic document in 1787.

Along with our profound freedom comes the responsibility of increased civic education and citizenry. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt expressed the urgency of educating our prospective leaders in justice and civic involvement: “Our children should learn the general framework of their government and then they should know where they come in contact with the government, where it touches their daily lives and where their influence is exerted on the government. It must not be a distant thing, someone else’s business, but they must see how every cog in the wheel of a democracy is important and bears its share of responsibility for the smooth running of the entire machine.”

Civic education is important to society because civic virtue fosters engaged citizens who understand our democracy and the liberties the rule of law protects. Ensuring that our children receive a solid foundation in civics is essential to producing the next generation of responsible citizens in our communities.

In the spirit of Celebrate Freedom Week, the State Bar of Texas offers resources designed to help educate the public about the law. The State Bar’s Law Related Education (LRE) Department has helped train over 6,000 educators on civic education programs and curriculum by using technology that will captivate and prepare students for responsible citizenship.

Through the department, teachers and students in elementary, middle, and high school are able to experience the interactive, Web-based programs I was the First. Vote for Me! and Oyez, Oyez, Oh Yay! in preparing for the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards.

I was the First. Vote for Me! engages students through animated historical figures such as Susan B. Anthony, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln. Students and teachers can access this interactive program in English and Spanish at texasbar.com/iwasthefirst.

Oyez, Oyez, Oh Yay! focuses on landmark court decisions Texas students must know to prepare for assessments in the U.S. government and history. Students and teachers can search case summaries, watch short films, and find other helpful resources at texasbar.com/civics.

Lesson plans focused on Constitution Day, interactive games, and civic education resources can be found at texaslre.org.

As we celebrate the Constitution, let us not only enjoy the rights and freedoms that we have as American citizens, but let us be accountable in educating our youth on the importance of our founding documents to ensure that democracy lives on. The values that are crucial for our system of government can only prevail if sustained by future generations.

Trey Apffel is president of the State Bar of Texas and the founder and owner of Apffel Law Firm in Galveston. He may be reached via email at statebarpresident@texasbar.com

 

Tatum speaks at national bar meeting, accepts civics education award

BOSTON — State Bar of Texas Immediate Past President Lisa Tatum joined Missouri Bar Past President Lynn Ann Vogel on Aug. 8 to present “Creating Energy in Your Bar,” a presentation highlighting successful bar programs from across the country.

“There’s no point in reinventing the wheel if you can take what you like from these programs and make it your own,” Tatum said during the presentation, which was part of the National Conference of Bar Presidents 2014 Annual Meeting.

Tatum and Vogel used the hourlong presentation to share tips, tactics, and innovative ideas from more than two dozen bar association programs, including Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans, an initiative of 2010-2011 State Bar of Texas President Terry Tottenham.

Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans helps develop and assist pro bono legal clinics for military veterans who can’t afford or lack access to legal services. The program continues to grow, and more than 30 local bar associations are now participating. In all, approximately 4,000 attorneys have volunteered to help more than 13,000 veterans through the program.

Slides from the presentation and other National Conference of Bar Presidents sessions are available here

While in Boston, Tatum represented the State Bar of Texas in accepting a National Association of Bar Executives LexisNexis Community and Educational Outreach Award for the I was the First. Vote for Me! civics education project, one of her initiatives as president in 2013-2014. Judges unanimously selected the project in the category of state bars with more than 18,000 members and commended it for incorporating history, reading, math, and voting into a single program.

Through a book and a series of 30-second animations, I was the First. Vote for Me! teaches elementary school students about important figures in U.S. and Texas history included in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards. Both the website and the book are available in English and Spanish.

The award was presented Aug. 7 during the National Association of Bar Executives 2014 Annual Meeting

Top: State Bar of Texas Immediate Past President Lisa Tatum, right, and Missouri Bar Past President Lynn Ann Vogel after their Aug. 8 presentation at the National Conference of Bar Presidents 2014 Annual Meeting in Boston. Above, from left: State Bar of Texas Executive Director Michelle Hunter, 2014-2015 President-elect Allan DuBois, Tatum, and 2014-2015 President Trey Apffel at the National Association of Bar Executives awards ceremony, where Tatum accepted an award for the State Bar of Texas civics education program I was the First. Vote for Me!
 

 

State Bar holds Texas Citizen Bee Finals in Austin

Austin recently played host to the Texas Citizen Bee Finals, a statewide civics education competition funded by the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation.

The event, organized by the State Bar of Texas, offers teachers and high school students an exciting way to study America’s heritage. Students use an online study guide program created by the Bill of Rights Institute that covers the U.S. Constitution and other important documents, people, issues, civic values, and skills. The study guide can be found here.

The winning student from each regional competition competes in the state competition, which was held April 26 at the Texas Law Center and Texas State Capitol. News anchor John McCaa of WFAA-TV in Dallas served as moderator. 

 

All contestants take a timed, multiple choice written examination, which counts as 65 percent of the final score. Students then compete in an oral round, making up 35 percent of the score, in which they answer one question from each of the categories.

The top four students are listed below.

1st Place
Thomas Cobb, Beaumont
Prize: $1,000 scholarship

2nd Place & Civic Conversation
Ayesha Rahman, Richardson
Prize: $1,250 scholarship

3rd Place
Angelo Ganno, McAllen
Prize: $500 Scholarship

4th Place
DaVonté Wilson, Tyler
Prize: $250 Scholarship

State Bar President Lisa Tatum to receive civics award

State Bar of Texas President Lisa Tatum will be honored for her work in promoting civics during the seventh annual Women That Soar awards ceremony, event organizers announced. 

Tatum, the owner of LM Tatum PLLC in San Antonio, will receive the 2014 Civic Award from Women That Soar, a media and content development company that produces inspiring information and events for women. The awards honor extraordinary women in the fields of entertainment, sports, business, fashion, arts, philanthropy, media, and civics.

A televised awards ceremony will take place Nov. 8 in Dallas.

Tatum is receiving the Civic Award for her many professional and personal contributions, event organizers said.

Committed to investing in and empowering her community, Tatum is an alumna of Leadership San Antonio, Class XXIX, and a member of local chambers and the Greater San Antonio YMCA Board of Directors. She has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio and currently serves as a member of several bar associations and the Rotary Club of San Antonio.

As 2013-2014 State Bar president, Tatum has helped introduce the civics education project I was the first. Vote for Me! to attorneys, teachers, and students across Texas.

The project uses short, animated films to teach elementary school students about some of the historic firsts who are part of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards. With help from the State Bar of Texas Law-Related Education Department, the project has been introduced to more than 4,778 teachers at 119 seminars, reaching more than 196,000 students.

The award is one of many Tatum has received for her work as an attorney and bar leader. She was recently named to the Lawyers of Color 2014 Power List, which honors the country’s most influential minority attorneys.