Page 45

Committee spotlight


Teaching Texas, One Student at a Time

By Kimberly A. Chojnacki

ince its inception in 2015, the Teach Texas program Richard Whiteley, also co-chair of the committee, expandhas reached over 21,000 seventh grade students in ed on the value of the program to our State’s seventh gradTexas, teaching ers: “The students can ask them about how questions, and that’s the fun the state’s court part. They ask excellent, insystem fits into the larger picteresting questions. Many of ture of Texas history. Those the students, the experience students have spanned eight they’ve had with the legal school districts and five prisystem or lawyers, for a lot vate schools over the last five of them, the experience may years. And in the 2015–2016 have been negative.” The bar year alone, over 220 atTeach Texas program looks torneys and judges volunto change that perception. teered to participate in the While the program was program. suspended for the 2019The Teach Texas project 2020 academic year, signs was developed by the Texas of life are returning as the Supreme Court Historical COVID-19 pandemic beSociety and is based on the gins to ebb or otherwise book series Taming Texas. become more manageable. The Teach Texas Committee A student at Hamilton Middle School participates in a virtual session of Teach The Teach Texas Commitrecruits judges and attorneys Texas, led by Justice Charles Spain and Akilah Mance tee used the downtime to to teach the curriculum to seventh graders in the Houston area. further polish the lesson materials and brainstorm expansion The basis of the curriculum is the Taming Texas series, a of the program to other parts of the State. As schools begin to three-volume set written specifically for seventh-grade Texas welcome outside programs back to campuses, the Teach Texas history classes. The first volume—How Law and Order Came Committee is staying flexible, offering in-person and virtual to the Lone Star State—helps students orient themselves in an programming for the classrooms. The committee was able to early Texas, devoid of law or order, and develop an understandreach over 300 students this school year, a remarkable accoming of how society began to move toward our current legal sysplishment given the circumstances. tem. The second book—Law and the Texas Frontier—focuses The Teach Texas program relies on its dedicated volunon the interplay of Texas’ unique frontier history and changing teers—attorneys and judges—for its continued success. If laws from 1598 through 1900. The third part of the series— you’re interested in learning more about the Teach Texas ComThe Chief Justices of Texas—introduces our seventh graders to mittee or volunteering in the classroom, please visit the chief justices of the Texas Supreme Court over the years. teachtexas. To learn more about the Taming Texas series, please The heart of the Teach Texas program, however, are the volvisit unteers and the students. As co-chair of the Teach Texas Committee—the Honorable Jennifer Elrod—put it, the program Kimberly A. Chojnacki is an associate editor of The Houston “would not work without the volunteers of the HBA, lawyers Lawyer. She also is a litigation associate at Baker Donelson in and judges who go into the schools. It’s very rewarding expeHouston. She represents corporate clients in eminent domain rience and easy to do. I encourage everyone to volunteer, dip proceedings, complex commercial litigation, and insurance their toe in the water.” defense disputes.

May/June 2021