SHAWNEE — Junior education major John Clark is the first St. Gregory's University student to be named a DaVinci Scholar.
Five pre-service teachers are chosen each year to receive a DaVinci award, presented by the DaVinci Institute, a private partnership of leaders in higher education across Oklahoma.
Students are nominated by their universities, then submit a proposal for an interactive lesson plan that would allow students to learn about a topic and put those lessons to use in a real world setting.
“I was pretty surprised that I won,” Clark said. “It was a little bit of a shock because no one from St. Gregory's had ever won one. I looked at previous winners, and not many males had ever won it either.”
Clark's winning lesson plan focused on Arizona Senate Bill 1070, which gave law enforcement in that state the ability to ask anyone to provide proof of citizenship without first having committed a crime or suspicious act. He compared the bill to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which banned the hiring or immigration of Chinese workers, and to the Japanese internment camps following the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, which led to the rise of Mexican immigrant worker populations in the West during World War II.
“I thought it would be good for students to look at past events and relate it to current events,” Clark said. “Students would be working in groups and analyzing each event and debate about them and talk about how they were similar. The service project was to go to the Oklahoma City Archdiocese, which has a help center for undocumented immigrants.”
Gayle Fischer, St. Gregory's director of teacher education, said winning a DaVinci award requires someone who is scholarly and willing to put in the extra effort.
“It was good timing with the topic of immigration, and it was a good lesson,” she said. “You can't send a bunch of high school kids down to Haiti, but they can go down to Catholic Charities and work with immigrants.”
Clark is a member of the university's basketball team in addition to maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average. He will begin student teaching in the fall.