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WCNY Recognizes Mission US National Educator Of The Year

Marc Cizenski, a seventh- and eighth-grade U.S. history teacher at the Onondaga/Cortland/Madison BOCES’ Career Training Center in Liverpool, has been named theMission US National Educator of the Year.

Cizenski, of Syracuse, was selected by New York City public television station THIRTEEN for his outstanding use of Mission US, an innovative multimedia classroom resource produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET. Mission US is a series of free role-paying games that give middle school students a first-person perspective on American history.

“There’s a pressing need to engage middle school students in American history in more effective ways, and Mission US addresses that need,’’ said Robert J. Daino, WCNY’s President and CEO. “We’re extremely proud that Mr. Cizenski, right here in WCNY’s backyard, has been so effective at getting his students to care about history by combining this innovative gaming technology with his creative teaching methods.’’

The second game in the series, “Flight to Freedom,” launched in January 2012 and immerses learners in the experiences of a runaway slave in the years before the Civil War. The first game “For Crown or Colony?” launched in September 2010 and involvesplayers in the world of 1770 Boston before the American Revolution. The games, together with a rich variety of supplemental resources for students and teachers, are available for streaming and download at www.mission-us.org.

WCNY selected Cizenski as its Mission US Regional Educator of the Year – and nominated him for the national honor – based on his work utilizing the Mission US games in his classroom with students in the REACH Alternative Program, which is designed to engage students who have not been successful in traditional school settings.

“Once they have been engaged through the use of video games, decision making, and control over outcomes in their scenarios, they were more motivated to complete tasks such as DBQs (document based questions) and analyzing primary source documents,’’ said Cizenski, a graduate of West Genesee High School and Le Moyne College. “While the use of video gaming is important for the engagement of students, it is still providing them with essential literacy development that goes above and beyond learning standards.’’

In addition to his classroom work, Cizenski spread the word about Mission US to his colleagues across New York State.

“I was able to reach over 30 different social studies teachers statewide,’’ he said. “I started off introducing them to this website through email, but then was able to show the benefits live from our conference room because of our Polycom capabilities.’’

As Mission US National Educator of the Year, Cizenski will receive a prize package that includes roundtrip airfare, accommodations and registration at the 2012 Celebration of Teaching & Learning – dubbed the “World’s Fair of Education’’ – March 16-17 in New York City. Cizenski will participate in a panel discussion focused on the use of Mission US in the classroom.

Cizenski will be joined in New York by Debbie Stack, WCNY’s Director of Interactive Education. WCNY was one of six stations across the country selected to receive a special grant from THIRTEEN to promote the Mission US games. Stack and WCNY’s Liz Ayers coordinated the station’s efforts to conduct in-depth educator outreach and professional development around the effective integration ofMission US into the classroom and curriculum.

In 2011, the Education Development Center (EDC) completed a major research study examining the use of Mission US by 1,118 seventh- and eighth-grade students in 50 schools across the country. The study found measurable gains in the students’ historical knowledge and skills, and yielded positive feedback from teachers. A summary of the study’s key findings is available atcpb.org/features/missionus.

Major funding for Mission US is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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