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Field Trips for Teachers in the Halls of Congress

By Michael Teitelbaum, CQ Magazine

For many high school teachers, summer is the time to take a vacation or spend time with their kids. But for a teacher or two in North Carolina’s northwest corner, it can mean a week in Congress.

The area’s representative, Republican Virginia Foxx, has for a dozen years offered a paid one-week gig — stipend, $1,500 — specifically for an educator, preferably one who teaches social studies to students in grades 9-12.

This year’s winners, Dustin Haley and Cristofer Wiley, teach in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

Foxx, a former college professor and community college president, says she created the program to give teachers a direct experience in observing Congress in action.

“I think it would benefit all members to do something like this so that people come here, spend some time, get a real picture of what goes on and then go back and, as they’re teaching, be able to say, ‘This is what the textbook says and this is what I learned,’ ” says Foxx.

She says participants tell her they are surprised at the pace of Congress, the amount of work members do on a daily basis and how well members get along. 

Bill Dinkins, who was part of Foxx’s teacher program in 2015, says that besides providing more insight to his students about the inner workings of Congress, the program “has given me as a private citizen a greater appreciation for the job our elected officials do.”

Foxx, center, with Haley, left, and Wiley pose on the Speaker's Balcony in the Capitol  (Courtesy Rep.)

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