Reengaging with the Past | Hooray For Monday

June 17, 2024

By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President

Listen to this week’s Hooray For Monday podcast to hear from educators and historians in Rappahannock, VA about the importance of engaging with and teaching their community’s history.

This Wednesday will mark the third year Juneteenth is honored as a federal holiday. While many African-American communities, and some states, celebrated the occasion (often called “Jubilee Day”) as early as 1866, it was not until 2021 – more than 150 years later – that the significance of Juneteenth was recognized nationally.

At a time when there are growing efforts to ignore or deny elements of our nation’s history, reengaging with the past is critically important for our students. Even – and especially – the past that still resonates in our communities today.

L to R: Aleta Margolis (Inspired Teaching), Micaiah Anderson (Inspired Teaching), Dr. Carol Johnson, Asst. Superintendent (Rappahannock School District), Lillian Aylor, Board Member (Scrabble School Preservation Foundation), Jenna Fournel (Inspired Teaching), and Tasha White, Admin (Rappahannock School District) standing outside of the restored Scrabble School.

My colleague Jenna and I recently experienced this reengaging first-hand, through our work with the Rappahannock School District in Virginia. We began our partnership with the goal of supporting teachers as they strengthened cultural competency skills, and through this ongoing work, a wonderful discovery was made:

Rappahannock has access to a plethora of resources and hands-on learning experiences about its past – right in its own backyard.

The county is home to the Scrabble School. The Scrabble School was built in 1921, when Southern schools were racially segregated and schools for African American children had far less funding than schools for white children. However the Scrabble School was a Rosenwald School, and that meant it was a place of learning and a point of pride for African Americans in the community.

As explained by Smithsonian Magazine, Rosenwald Schools were “a partnership between Booker T. Washington, an educator, intellectual and prominent African American thought leader, and Julius Rosenwald, a German-Jewish immigrant who accumulated his wealth as head of the behemoth retailer, Sears, Roebuck & Company.” There were over 5000 Rosenwald Schools built in the American South to provide quality schools for African American students.

Rappahannock’s Scrabble School operated between 1921 and 1968 (when Virginia integrated schools). Since then, the building had been deeply neglected until 2009, when restoration began.

Today, the Scrabble School is a thriving community center and historical site where visitors can learn about its important history. Jenna, Micaiah, and I had got to do just that during our recent visit.

Following its restoration, a Rappahannock teacher developed a curriculum for her fourth-grade students that would teach them about the Scrabble School and its relevance to their community. And now there is renewed interest in connecting the stories of the school to learning across grade levels in the county.


Through Inspired Teaching’s partnership with Rappahannock County Public Schools, this curriculum was rediscovered. We are continuing to work with teachers and school leaders in the county to incorporate this valuable historical learning into students’ school experience.

Today, the Scrabble School operates as the Senior Center at Scrabble School and the Rappahannock African-American Heritage Center.

Listen to the Hooray For Monday podcast below to hear from local educators and historians about the Scrabble School’s importance to Rappahannock – its history and its present.

As we celebrate Juneteenth this week, and officially begin summer recess, I encourage you to use the occasion to reflect on and rediscover elements of the past in your own community.

What might the lessons of our history teach us about today and tomorrow?

For additional insights, resources, and information on Inspired Teaching teacher and youth programming, subscribe to the Hooray For Monday newsletter!

Hooray For Monday is an award-winning weekly publication by Center for Inspired Teaching, an independent nonprofit organization that invests in and supports teachers. Inspired Teaching provides transformative, improvisation-based professional learning for teachers that is 100% engaging – intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Our mission is to create radical change in the school experience – away from compliance and toward authentic engagement.

Listen to This Week’s Episode of Hooray For Monday

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