WAXAHACHIE — After 28 years of experience, 17 years of conducting historical presentations and a 20-page portfolio, Waxahachie Global High School history teacher William “Bill” Covington has been named the Texas State Daughters of the American Revolution [DAR] Outstanding American History Teacher of the Year. Covington has taught at WGHS since 2007 and presented to DAR, Sisters of the American [SAR] and 200 other similar groups, chapters and schools across Texas since 1999.
According to the National Society of the Daughters of the Revolution's [NSDAR] website, “The DAR, founded in 1890 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit, nonpolitical volunteer women's service organization dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving American history, and securing America's future through better education for children."
The DAR is largely considered to be one the most inclusive genealogical societies in the country, boasting nearly 185,000 members and 3,000 chapters nationwide. Of the chapters, 202 are located in Texas, making it the state with the greatest number of chapters and members. The society only permits women ages 18 and older to obtain a membership, but all must have proof of lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution.
“Each chapter can nominate a teacher for this award. Not all the chapters choose to do that, though. The woman who nominated me is the regent of the Jane Douglas Chapter in Dallas, Linda Martin,” Covington explained.
The award recipient has worked with and presented to multiple DAR chapters, including both the DAR chapters, the Rebecca Boyce Chapter of Ellis County and the Jane Douglas Chapter of Dallas.
“Of the 200 chapters in Texas, I’m assuming there were at least 50-60 nominees. I was required to put together a 20-page portfolio. In it included my educational philosophy, previous work experience, where and what I’ve taught, a brief biography and then proof that I am qualified for the award,” Covington said.
It wasn’t long after Covington’s presentation career began that a teacher who happened to be a DAR member watched him present and offered the opportunity to speak to her chapter.
“I had just started going to different schools and doing American History presentations, and I would dress in costume. I would bring artifacts and have them out on a table so students could look and ask questions. A teacher approached me at and told me that she was a member of the DAR and asked if I would be willing to speak to her DAR chapter and, of course, I agreed,” Covington said. “Since then, I’ve presented for DAR and SAR groups, city historical societies, Rotary clubs, antique societies, the Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims and many other groups. I’ve presented at a particular DAR group three times, and I’ve presented at some schools 14, 15 and 16 times. It averages out to around three to four presentations a month for the last 17 years.”
Though the history teacher’s time is occupied with his presentations, he not only serves as a full-time history teacher at WGHS but as a Western Civilization professor at Navarro Community College, as well. Over the course of his career, Covington has taught World Geography, World History, US History, Government and Economics in public schools and as U.S., Texas and World History and Western Civilization professor at Navarro Community College.
“Linda told me about the award in September or October and that I had until mid-November to do my portfolio. She asked me to do it as quickly as I could so we could sit down together and decided which other items needed to be included,” Covington stated.
He noted his many DAR Certificates of Appreciation and that he received their "Excellence in Teaching History" award.
“I also have one from the U.S. Daughters of the War of 1812, which is the Spirit of 1812 Award. I’ve received awards from the SAR, certificates from schools and even some pictures and cards elementary students would make me. I have a drawer in my desk [that is] full of things students have made me. I’ve never thrown any of them away,” Covington said.
To make his presentations more engaging, the teacher wears a costume that portrays a Revolutionary War soldier.
“When I’m speaking, I won’t wear my hat or coat. I leave both on a table for people to look at. I wear a pair of knee breeches, buckled shoes, stockings, a vest and a shirt with big sleeves,” Covington stated. “My favorite subject to teach is U.S. History and my favorite era to present and teach is the Colonial age. From the 1600’s in Jamestown up until the U.S. Constitution.”
To ensure the audience will stay engaged, he prepares his presentation by the relevance of what the teacher may be teaching students in history and considers what topic to discuss depending on the average age of the audience.
“Whoever is asking me to come will usually ask me to do a specific presentation, or they will tell me to present what I want. I always ask what the teachers want the kids to know. For the children, I know they are more hands-on, so I let them ask about the canteen and the power horn. I have a musket that I can bring in, and most groups don’t mind. I’ve only had five groups ask me not to bring it in,” Covington said.
His presentation, “Bad Girls of the American Revolution”, is most popular among the DAR chapters.
“There is a book called ‘Bad Girls of the Bible’, which is about women of faith and the impact they made. The presentation focuses on women and their contribution to the Bible and that period of time. I decided I would use the same concept and that’s how I came up with the title,” Covington said. “During the war, the British didn’t think that their women would do the same things the American women were doing. Some of them fought in the war, acted as scouts and did other brave jobs, and the men could never imagine the British woman doing anything like that, so I think the title is fitting.”
Previous to his arrival at WGHS in 2007, he was a professor at Navarro College for four years and worked as a part-time professor at Cedar Valley College and Mountain View College in Dallas.
“Before that, I spent 14 years at Dallas ISD. My last six years at DISD I spent teaching at AEP. After working at Navarro for four years, I was contacted by the first counselor that Global had, Jean Baskin, who came from WHS. She called and asked if I would fill their last history position and I agreed. I love it there,” Covington explained.
His success and reputation as a WGHS teacher have been great from the beginning, and he plans to stay at the campus until his retirement.
“For the first six years at Global students were still required to take TAKS test. The second year I gave it out I received a 100 percent passing rate and then the commended scores began rising,” Covington said. “When we switched to STAAR, they told us that TAKS commended scores are now the passing grade for STAAR. The very first STAAR test, my kids passed by 92 percent, which was good, but the commended scores were in the single digits. Now I have almost a 100 percent passing rate again.”
Other than his passion for history, the students are what he claims to be his “absolute” favorite part of his career.
“I need to teach them something, so every day when they go home they can tell their parents something that they learned. That was my attitude in the past, but as time has passed and I’ve conducted more and more presentations, the students have formed expectations for my presentations and are excited. I feel challenged, and I don’t want to short-change them, "Covington said.
Covington will accept his award at the DAR Texas State Convention in March in Dallas and is now eligible to win the National DAR Outstanding History Teacher of the Year Award, which is expected to be announced mid-February.
Kelsey Poynor, @KPoynor_WDL