Dr. Michael Perri of Texas A&M University-Texarkana has been selected by The Texas A&M University System as a 2016-2017 member of the Chancellor’s Academy of Teacher Educators honoring individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of teacher education across The Texas A&M University System.
Dr. Perri will be recognized along with eight other 2016-2017 inductees at the 2017 Chancellor’s Century Council Annual Meeting, set for March 2-3 in Austin. Members of the elite educator group receive a $1,000 stipend, a certificate and a commemorative medallion bearing the Texas A&M System seal. Academy members also serve on the selection committee for future inductee classes and are invited to present at the Chancellor’s Summit of Teacher Education.
The Academy was established in 2011 to highlight the Texas A&M System’s role in producing K-12 teachers for the state of Texas. Nominees must be full-time faculty members from any A&M System university who have made a significant impact on teacher preparation.
“I am deeply honored that my colleagues have nominated me for the Chancellor’s Academy of Teacher Educators Award,” Dr. Perri said. “A high percentage of my students have chosen a career in education, and I hope I have had a significant impact on their preparation as teachers. My course, Cultural History of Texas, is a required course for most students planning a career in education, and I have been privileged to work with these students in preparing them for their future careers.”
Dr. Perri has served as an associate professor of history at A&M-Texarkana since 2004. He received a Doctor of Philosophy in History from Emory University, where his dissertation focused on “The Spanish Conquest of the Pearl Coast and the Search for the Province of Meta.” He also holds a Master of Arts in Latin American and Iberian Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in History and German from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Among his many achievements at A&M-Texarkana, Dr. Perri worked with colleagues to develop the Program for Learning and Community Engagement (PLACE).
PLACE is a faculty-led program designed to create a community of learners comprising A&M-Texarkana students, faculty, staff and the community at large. PLACE chooses an annual theme around which to organize a lecture series and other activities that provide focal points for learning and discussion. This year’s theme is “Race and Ethnicity.”
“Shortly after Texas A&M University-Texarkana hired Dr. Emily Cutrer as the university’s new president, my senior colleague, Dr. Tom Wagy, encouraged me to think outside the box in formulating ideas of how we could positively impact our university and community,” Dr. Perri said. “Recalling a lecture series that I experienced at the University of Minnesota at Morris, I proposed that faculty develop an annual thematic program around which we could organize a lecture series and other academic events. The goal was to create a broad community of learners that would benefit the university and the wider Texarkana area.”
“I have had the honor of chairing PLACE for its first three years. PLACE continues to foster a learning community designed to enhance the culture and environment of the university and the wider Texarkana community. It brings students, faculty and community members together to discuss and debate a common theme, creating a community of learners. I enjoy learning from this community even more than teaching in it, and I am proud that PLACE has had a positive impact on the university and the community.”
Dr. Perri’s research interests include the Spanish frontier, and he has incorporated his findings in several courses, including Colonial Latin America, Voices of the Spanish Conquests in the Americas, Culture and History of Mexico, Cultural History of Texas, Colonial Spanish America and Readings in Mexican History.
“As an instructor, my primary goals are to encourage critical thinking, promote active student involvement and emphasize the importance of writing well. Out of these, I believe fostering critical thinking is the most crucial,” Dr. Perri said. “While imparting historical knowledge I seek to expose students to different interpretations on a certain topic. I then challenge students to use data and argumentation to formulate what they believe to be the most accurate interpretation. My hope is that this process will encourage an appreciation for knowledge and facts, but at the same time develop an awareness that the study of the past is as much a process of interpretation as a quest for facts.”
To promote student participation, Dr. Perri uses a variety of formats.
“Even when providing necessary information through lectures, I try to stop from time to time to ask questions, thus encouraging students to continue to think actively about the material. Whenever suitable, I prefer class discussions over lectures. Frequently, I assign individual students to present a primary reading to the class to begin discussion. Such an assignment forces students to go beyond description of the material, and instead think and analyze as historians. On other occasions, I require students to write short responses to assigned readings, which compels them to organize their thoughts on the topic and come to class prepared to share their opinions,” he said. “Recently, I started to require students to post their responses to a discussion board, after which I give them additional credit if they enter into a discussion-board debate with their fellow students. Once students have become active participants in the class discussions and debates, they begin to realize that history is not a static discipline of memorizing past events, but rather a dynamic process of synthesizing research, knowledge and interpretation. This realization often induces them to develop critical thinking skills. As students disagree with each other about the meaning of a particular document or the significance of a sequence of events, they become more aware of how and why historians often come to widely differing interpretations on a common topic.”
“We are thrilled to have Dr. Perri join the Academy’s distinguished ranks of outstanding teacher educators as he is an exemplary teacher-scholar,” said Dr. Emily Cutrer, president of A&M-Texarkana. “Dr. Perri is a role model for his students and for other faculty. He spent countless hours and went above and beyond in developing PLACE (Program for Learning and Community Engagement). His commitment to our students, and to the greater Texarkana learning community, is to be commended. Our faculty members continue to lead us in providing high-quality education for the citizens of east Texas and the four-state region, and we are pleased to share in celebrating Dr. Perri’s accomplishments.”
Dr. Craig Nakashian, associate professor of history, said, “I have been privileged to be a colleague of Dr. Perri’s since 2010, and I can say that his devotion to history and the development of teachers of history is second-to-none. He truly cares about the success of each of his students, and he takes time to work with them individually to master the discipline. I can think of no one better suited as a role-model for future teachers.”