Leslie Sullivan brings history to life for her students at Palmetto Scholars Academy in North Charleston. Sullivan is a master of content for her honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes, including U.S. history, government and economics. In her class students recreate Civil War battlefields out of dough, participate in Socratic seminars, and engage in sophisticated discussions of historical and current events, exploring political and cultural dynamics. In one project, Sullivan asks students and parents to recall two historical events that were significant in their lives, leading to meaningful discussions and high engagement as the generations participate together in the learning process. Sullivan designs every activity, from mock trial and writing to researching primary sources, to foster inquiry-based learning, deepen students’ understanding, connect history to the present, and encourage them to think and question.
Palmetto Scholars Academy is in its 10th year; Sullivan has been there for nine and has personally taught every member of the school’s first five graduating classes. She has served as a grade-level chair and leads the social studies department, as well as advising student government and senior capstone projects. Sullivan focuses on her students’ social-emotional learning and creates opportunities to get to know them so she can meet their needs. She helps her AP U.S. History students prepare for the AP exams before school and on weekends, with notable results: 73% of her students earn passing scores, compared with the state average of 57%. More than three-quarters of Palmetto’s graduates are enrolled in college or have earned degrees, and alumni say that Sullivan’s high expectations have helped them in their postsecondary studies.
A role model to her peers, Sullivan has mentored new teachers, led professional development for Palmetto faculty and contributes lesson plans to an online network for AP U.S. History teachers. Each summer she attends intensive social studies courses, including sessions at Stanford University and the Library of Congress. Sullivan has presented at national, state and regional conferences about her work on National History Day (NHD), a program she helped establish at Palmetto and has advised, judged and coached. Sullivan has taken groups to the national finals in Washington, D.C., for the past four years; in 2018, two of her students placed second in the country for their documentary about the role The Coca-Cola Company played in Atlanta’s civil rights movement.
Sullivan earned a Bachelor of Arts in history in 2005 from Ohio State University and a Master of Arts in Teaching in social studies from The Citadel in 2011. She is working on a second master’s in history through the Gilder Lehrman Institute and Pace University.
Press release: The "Oscar of Teaching" for South Carolina Goes to … Leslie Sullivan of North Charleston
DAR State History Teacher of the Year 2019