Syracuse Social Studies Teacher Reflects on 9/11 Terrorist Attacks, How She Teaches it to Students

Sep 11, 2019

Syracuse ITC Social Studies teacher Katy Argus stands in front of sticky note reflections on 9/11 posted by students.
Credit John Smith / WAER-FM 88.3

Students at New York Public Schools observed the anniversary of 9/11 under a new law Wednesday.  It requires a day of remembrance and a moment of silence on the anniversary of the attacks. Unlike any other time throughout the year, today may be equally important for the students and the teachers.

"Any moment where people are unified, and I can think people are unified, it helps me feel like I'm not alone."

Syracuse Social Studies teacher Katy Argus remembers when the planes stuck … it was her fifth day as a teacher at Oswego High School.  None of her current students lived through the events, and it’s up to Argus to fill in the gaps.

"It's really about context.  It's the buildup to the knowledge of the moment in time that that happened.  I don't believe and I don't teach ath 9/11 was an isolated incident, and the students need to understand what happened, why Al-Qaeda developed.”   

Credit John Smith / WAER-FM 88.3

Her 9/11 curriculum extends beyond the textbook. She says it’s important for teachers to build on personal experience.  

"We're kind of a living artifact, too, in that we can provide the students with all this information and evidence.  We were there at that moment, where it's not pictures in a book, it's not watching a video necessarily.  It is...these are my real-life experiences, you care about me, they'll be able to process  a little bit better."

On the other hand, Students’ experiences lie in the ongoing battle against terrorism. Argus combats islamophobia in her curriculum.

"I pay special attention to normalizing Islam so the kids don't see it as something that's not OK."

After learning about 9/11, Argus’ students posted their feelings about the attacks on posters and sticky notes along the hallways.

Credit Scott Willis / WAER-FM 88.3