Lucas George, Wittenberg class 2018, was recently awarded a prestigious James Madison Memorial Fellowship, becoming one of only 52 teachers in the United States to be honored with this annual award and the only recipient from the state of Ohio. The fellowship grants $24,000 to individuals desiring to become outstanding teachers of the American Constitution at the secondary school level. George will begin graduate courses this fall at Ashland University then study at Georgetown University in the summer of 2020 to enrich his teaching of American history.
George, a history major and education minor with an integrated social studies degree, is from Independence, Ohio. A four-year letter winner on Wittenberg’s swimming and diving team, he was active on campus, including being named Alma Lux, an honor bestowed upon a junior male student who possesses qualities of leadership, scholarship and service, in 2017-2018. He currently resides in Kettering, Ohio, and is a social studies teacher and head coach of the varsity swim team at Franklin High School in Franklin, Ohio.
“It’s actually kind of a sappy story of how I discovered this fellowship,” George explained. “I was eagerly waiting outside Dr. (Christian) Raffensperger’s (associate professor of history at Wittenberg and chair of the history department) Medieval Conversions class, and I noticed a brochure for the James Madison Memorial Fellowship. I remember it said the fellowship was the most prestigious fellowship that you could get as a history teacher. I took down some information from the brochure and asked my education advisor, Dr. Amy McGuffey (assistant professor of education at Wittenberg), about it. We researched the fellowship and ever since then, we have spent many occasions mapping out what I needed to do to receive it. The James Madison Fellowship is dedicated to the Father of our Constitution and is determined to continue the study and preservation of our governing document.”
The fellowship will allow George to continue to teach at Franklin.
“Starting in the Fall of 2019, I have five years to complete my master’s degree. I have decided to pursue a master of arts in American history and government through Ashland University, which offers a wide variety of summer/online courses so it can work with my schedule. As I have told others, this degree comes second to my students and athletes. I always want to make sure that I have the time to support them and offer them the resources they need to succeed.”
During his time at Wittenberg, George was a member of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity, the Interfraternity Council, WUSO, Kappa Delta Pi, the Education Department Student Advisory Board, Phi Eta Sigma, Class Cabinet, an orientation assistant, and worked with the Springfield Promise Neighborhood. He is one of those students who knew what he wanted to do before entering college.
“Since eighth grade, I knew I wanted to be a history teacher,” he said. “My eighth-grade teacher was one that constantly inspired me to be the best that I could be, and I have been infatuated with being able to have the same effect on my students. Helping students to achieve and continue to build a solid foundation for the future is something that I love doing every day.
“Right now, I want to continue to teach social studies and eventually get my MBA and doctorate in education,” George added. “Along with helping numerous students attain their goals and continuing to be an advocate for education, I one day hope to be the United States’ Secretary of Education so that I can help influence positive strides in education on a nationwide scale. This has been a dream of mine for a few years now, and I believe Wittenberg gave me the immediate tools to start this process.”
George credits Wittenberg’s professors and staff, the students, and the professional opportunities for guiding him along his current career path.
“To be completely honest, going into education has not been supported by everyone in my life,” he said. “I had many people tell me that it was not a viable career path to go into and that I should consider other options. Although I truly knew I wanted to be a teacher, I lacked a lot of confidence in advocating for myself to go into this career.
“Wittenberg had an unbelievable amount of support systems in place that helped guide me down this path. It did not matter what department I was taking a class in; every professor has an undying belief in their students and their aspirations. The professors are true to their ‘open door’ policies, and many professors, who were not in my major-related classes, took interest in my aspirations.
“I also had many staff members that contributed to me becoming the best that I can be in the classroom, from my boss in the Office of Admission, Michell (Wilke), to the amazing team of Carol Nickoson and Kevin Carey (in Student Involvement) and everyone in between,” George continued. “I always felt a strong sense of community among the staff members. The students also had a huge hand in helping me down the path. We truly have a very positive student culture that thrives off of ambition, curiosity, and passion. When students recognize your commitment to the betterment of the university and your community, they go all in to help you get to where you want to go.”
Additionally, George explains that he learned many of life’s lessons in the pool, as swimming has been an important part of his life. He was a four-time MVP and team captain at Independence High School. At Wittenberg, he was a strong swimmer and a leader on the Tiger team. He could be counted on to turn in a great performance in any stroke. He mostly swam 50 freestyle, 100 butterfly, the 100 and 200 breaststroke, and the 100, 200, and 400 individual medley races throughout his Wittenberg career.
“Swimming has been a huge part of my life for many years, and I try to infuse much of what I learn from the sport into my teaching,” he said. “One of the defining days of my life was when my YMCA swim coach was talking to our swim group when I was in high school. He promised that from that day forward, he was going to treat us like adults, but there was a catch. He told us that the coach and athletes need to have a two-way relationship. If he was going to put 100 percent of his effort into us, then we needed to put 100 percent into him. It was a deal. From that day forward, I worked harder for that guy than I ever had before, and I tried to always reciprocate the respect he showed me that day. For some reason, this moment has always stuck out to me in life. And to this day, it is my philosophy in the teaching world and the coaching realm. Students are sometimes underestimated. They want to be challenged, learn, and work hard.”