St. Patrick teacher wins national fellowship

St. Patrick social studies teacher Peter Prindiville is one of only twelve Americans to receive this year’s George J. Mitchell Scholarship, which he will use to study how societies assimilate and adapt historical memory.

Mr. Prindiville was selected from nearly 300 applicants for this year’s Mitchell Scholarships, which recognize “outstanding academic distinction, leadership, and a sustained commitment to community and public service.” The prestigious fellowship seeks to link future American leaders with Ireland and is named in honor of the former Maine senator’s work in the Northern Ireland peace process.

At St. Patrick, Mr. Prindiville has taught AP World History, Mississippi Studies, World Geography, and U.S. History. He has also serves as the faculty moderator for the Youth in Government club.

While in Ireland, Mr. Prindiville will work toward a Master of Arts degree in History at University College Cork, where he will research how young people learn about the past.

“I’m interested in exploring how societies remember and talk about the past, and how they teach traumatic historical memories and make them real for young people,” says Prindiville. “I’m especially excited to examine the role of schools in ongoing cultural memory-making and the power of education to sustain or discourage understanding between peoples.”

Mr. Prindiville says his time teaching sparked his interest in pursuing research in this field. “I’ve always approached my teaching from an academic standpoint, and my time teaching at St. Patrick encouraged me to think about these questions beyond just my own classroom.”

Further beyond just one St. Patrick classroom, the topic is also not unique to Biloxi or even the United States. “History curricula and questions of national memory in schools are pressing issues in many other countries, most recently in Japan and South Korea, where government-sponsored efforts to rewrite history curricula have drawn great protest,” Mr. Prindiville notes.

“Ultimately, these are questions with which all democracies must wrestle. If we believe that democracy is built on well-educated citizens, then the values espoused by the nature and content of that education are of paramount importance. They must be thoughtfully studied and critiqued.”

Mr. Prindiville came to St. Patrick in 2014 through the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi’s partnership with the University of Notre Dame Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), which helps recruit and train teachers for service in Catholic schools throughout the country.

John Schoenig, Senior Director of Teacher Formation and Education Policy for ACE commented on Mr. Prindiville’s accomplishment. “From his outstanding work as a classroom teacher to his singular contributions as a graduate student [at Notre Dame], Peter has made an extraordinary impact,” said Schoenig. “This is a well-deserved honor for a young man who has no doubt just begun to forge systemic solutions to many of the challenges faced by schoolchildren on the margins of society.”