BELTON, Texas – Elizabeth Howson is known for bringing history to life for her eighth grade students at North Belton Middle School. 

Some of the U.S. history teacher’s favorite ways to engage students involve dressing up in costumes, letting them touch artifacts and using flashlights.

“I teach the really hard stuff with a fun twist,” she said. “My goal every day is to smile. It is to have fun. It is to engage students and make learning something they enjoy. When students walk into ‘campfires’ and folk music, they want to know what’s going on. They want to solve the mystery. It’s about them wanting to learn and being a part of the lessons.”

Howson was recently honored as the Junior Division Teacher of the Year by the Texas National History Day organization. The recognition, which includes a $500 prize, honors a middle school educator for outstanding work and dedication to students.

It’s an extra special honor for Howson because she competed in National History Day competitions herself as a student. She currently serves as an advisor for the organization.

“The history fair is something that is so close to my heart. It gave me the skills to go to college and be successful,” Howson said. “It impacted me so much that I wanted to share that with future students, so I became a history teacher. And now, all of the things that I learned as a student influence my teaching.”

Principal Michelle Tish said Howson has a unique way of connecting with her students.

“She is a gifted educator who finds fun and innovative ways to deliver content to her students,” Tish said. “The students can see and feel her passion for them and the subject matter, which ignites their own passion for learning even beyond Mrs. Howson’s classroom.”

Howson is now in the running to be named the National History Day’s Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year at the national competition in June – an award that comes with a $10,000 prize.

“This recognition fills my heart and teaching soul,” Howson said. “It is not just for me, the teacher, but also for me, the student growing up in a not-so-great area and having stars in my eyes. Now I’m inspiring dreams in kids every day and empowering their futures. It’s a joy to be able to make such an impact.”