Erin Reichert, a social studies teacher at Beaufort County, South Carolina’s, Bluffton High School, doesn’t just aim to educate her students—she also actively cultivates the next generation of leaders and citizens. For their senior projects, graduating students put together a presentation on what they plan to do to make a difference in their community, which they deliver to an audience that includes the principal, superintendent, Bluffton mayor and town council. Reichert teaches both AP United States History (APUSH) and Youth In Government (YIG), through which students have organized pictures with Santa during the town’s annual holiday parade, participated in cemetery and environmental cleanups, run clothing and food drives, and staffed local polling centers. Reichert’s students leave high school with a sense of charity, heart and personal responsibility, knowing they can truly make their world better.
Reichert immerses her students in government and politics. YIG is normally an extracurricular club, but Reichert secured funding to hold it as a class to allow all interested students to participate; she now teaches three full sections. Students argue criminal cases, draft and debate legislation, learn parliamentary procedures and rules of order, run meetings, converse with politicians, make their case to state legislators, and shadow Bluffton town officials. Reichert’s students participate in local, regional and national programs like the James Otis lecture series at the South Carolina Statehouse, Furman’s Emerging Public Leaders, the Youth Leadership Initiative e-Congress, and the Gulfstream Management Leadership speech contest in Savannah, Georgia. Reichert encourages students to carry their learning over into the real world, giving voter registration forms to those who are eligible so they can cast their ballots on Election Day. In the YIG statewide events, Bluffton has won multiple honors, including Outstanding Delegation, Outstanding Bill, Outstanding Statesman, and Outstanding Adviser. Several of Reichert’s students have gone on to represent South Carolina at national YIG conferences.
In APUSH, Reichert brings in meaningful guests, from an impersonator of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to a military veteran who spent two years in Normandy researching the Allies’ D-Day invasion in World War II. Her class created a Facebook page for Thomas Jefferson and engages in projects like “Six-Word Memoirs” and “What Would You Do?” simulations. Both Reichert’s APUSH and YIG students excel. Ninety-five percent have passed end-of-course testing in the past three years, with 15 percent earning perfect scores. Enrollment in APUSH has grown from 21 to 92 students since Reichert took over the program six years ago, and her students’ scores exceed local, state, national and international averages, with 86 percent scoring a 3 or higher last year.
Outside the classroom, Reichert mentors new teachers, works with the district’s peer observation teams, serves as the school’s liaison to district administration, and has led professional development sessions for the school and district. She is an APUSH exam reader, has served as a local coordinator for exchange students, and has worked on several public service announcements for United Way.
Reichert earned a bachelor’s degree in social science from Eastern Illinois University in 2000 and a master’s in counseling and guidance from Lewis University in 2005.