Celebrating Nan Braucher: Longtime Board Member & Early Primary Source Supporter

18 March 2014

Nan BraucherNan Braucher still remembers the first time she connected with Primary Source. Though she had heard of the organization many times during her years as an elementary Principal in Belmont Public Schools, she hadn't visited until after her retirement. Heading to China with her husband in 1998, Nan was getting travel advice from a Belmont colleague who happened to be an exchange teacher from Beijing. Personal experience aside, the teacher's advice was simple: "You have to meet Primary Source!" We sat down with Nan to learn how things have changed and evolved over her 14 years supporting the organization.

What do you remember about the early days of Primary Source?
When I joined the Board in 2000, the organization was struggling with their mission. They felt strongly about their purpose up to that point: to give teachers the knowledge and resources they needed in areas that had been undervalued or ignored in the curriculum. In the early days, that meant China and African American History, yet there was a disparity in funding between the two programs. While we knew these were both areas that deserved focus, we worried about the effectiveness of our reach. When we stepped back and re-examined our mission, we realized that what we had was an outstanding, effective, scholar-based professional development (PD) model, and that was our strength regardless of the subject area. It was an "A-Ha!" moment that really opened up funding opportunities and allowed us to broaden our offerings and respond to any number of cultural needs in the schools.

How has the organization changed over the years?
During the course of my 11 years on the Board, I witnessed a major shift in the structure of the organization. As a new and growing organization, Primary Source was filled with creative, energetic and passionate staff eager to make a difference with limited resources. Over the years, they've never lost that commitment and passion, however they've grown into a mature organization with the flexibility and eagerness to listen and respond to teachers' needs. We'd hold strategic focus groups of teachers to solicit feedback for our Program Directors, and we'd hear comments such as, "How can I teach about slavery if I don't know the culture from which slaves originated – who they were as a people before being enslaved?" Shortly thereafter, we launched our first seminar series on West Africa followed by our very first study tour to Ghana.

What aspects of the organization have stayed the same?
The Primary Source program model is unlike any other. The scholar-based teacher training and peer collaboration that made such an impact on teachers in those early years is the same model we use today. I remember it was soon after 9/11 that we began introducing new regions into our programming, starting with a 6-week series of workshops on the Middle East. Educators had been coming to us saying, "You are the perfect people to help us understand this region." These workshops were extremely well received and it really strengthened our sense of purpose as a PD provider and global education organization. As an educator, what has always impressed me about Primary Source is how well those in the organization understand that obtaining knowledge is only half of the equation. Knowing how to use that knowledge to reach my students...that's the key. The Primary Source program model thrives because it's not only based on deep and rich content, but it includes essential follow-up in the form of materials and consulting support that educators need to make the most of what they've learned. Going on a Primary Source study tour drove it all home for me. I saw the benefits teachers gained from being exposed to new regions, and their excitement at seeing their newfound knowledge firsthand. It was eye opening, and thankfully it’s still an integral component of the Primary Source experience.

What drives your continued support for Primary Source?
There's a critical need for students to have knowledge of other areas of the world – to understand the impact of culture on how people do business and interact with one another. When I joined Primary Source, the term "global education" wasn't even in our lexicon. But Primary Source has always understood what's at stake. To gain understanding, today's students need knowledge. To gain knowledge, they need curiosity. Primary Source has always and will continue to provide the in-depth, hard work educators need in order to reach their students and fuel that curiosity. In my opinion, that's worth supporting!




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