War in Ukraine highlights challenges Utah educators face when teaching current events

Mar 1, 2022, 6:09 PM | Updated: Jun 19, 2022, 9:52 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Inside a geography classroom at Skyline High School, Tuesday’s lesson deviated from the original curriculum plan.

“As soon as things started to happen, they were immediately [saying], ‘I want to learn this, I want to learn this.’ They’re very eager,” Melinda Reay said about her students.

Melinda Reay, a social studies educator at Skyline High School in the Granite School District. (Tanner Siegworth/KSL TV)

Last week, as news broke of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Reay gave her class the option of a 15-minute lecture on what she knew about the situation at the time, or a full-period discussion this week. They chose the latter.

“They were very, very good on Thursday, to be prepared for today’s lesson, because they really did want to know in-depth,” she said. “They don’t just want to know a surface level. They want to go deep into this.”

Class started with Reay calling for a show of hands from students who heard about Ukraine outside of her classroom. Nearly every hand went up.

Students have seen viral tweets and Tik Tok videos, Reay explained, that include little context about the situation and can perpetuate misinformation.

“They’ve seen jokes about, you know, the draft, for example, or they’ve seen jokes about Russia invading into America, and kind of like a little bit of information that just isn’t necessarily true,” she said. “And so, providing clarity in the class helps them to be able to really understand what’s going on.”

The lesson covered the region’s history leading up to today’s ongoing conflict and incorporated social media posts and clips of news coverage from Ukraine. Reay said she spent several hours working on it outside of the classroom and over the weekend.

“One of the big things that’s important in my class is being aware of the world around you, because curriculum doesn’t matter unless it applies to actual real-life situations,” she said. “And what better way than what’s happening right now in Ukraine.”

It’s a challenging topic to teach though, Reay said, noting that she’s taught several students who have Ukrainian or Russian heritage and can find the material to be sensitive. She said it’s also become more difficult for educators to teach current events in general, due to heightened political tension and pending legislation.

“We have a lot of legislation right now that could require, you know, us posting lesson plans, months in advance, which can be really difficult when we have current events like this,” she said.

Multiple bills introduced in the Utah State Legislature this year target curriculum and learning materials for additional restrictions and requirements, including HB374, SB114 and SB157.

Another proposed measure, HB234, was met with strong pushback from educators and a petition. It would require all public school teachers in Utah to make all learning materials and syllabi available for parental review. Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan, sponsored the bill, but is no longer pursuing it this session.

Despite the balancing act that teaching current events requires, Reay said she believes it’s necessary to help her students become informed citizens.

“Education was originally started to make better citizens,” Reay said. “And so social studies teachers, that’s our job, we have to make better citizens. And to make a better citizen, they have to be informed. They have to understand what’s happening in the world around them.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

Tamara Vaifanua

Cedar City to honor beloved teacher with a park

There’s an effort underway in Cedar City to honor a beloved teacher who lost her battle with breast cancer earlier this year.
11 hours ago
(Derek Petersen/KSL TV)...
Josh Ellis

Suspect dead, officer injured after South Salt Lake shooting

One person is dead and a South Salt Lake police officer was injured after shots were fired early Tuesday morning.
11 hours ago
Domestic violence organizations saw a significant increase in request for shelter during the pandem...
Ashley Moser

Advocates encourage victims, perpetrators to seek help as domestic violence increases

Domestic violence organizations saw a significant increase in requests for shelter during the pandemic.
1 day ago
UDOT says it spend over $1.5 million on fixing potholes in the last fiscal year, FY 2022....
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Submitting a claim to the government for pothole damage? Good luck with that

A pothole can do serious and expensive damage to your car. But as Get Gephardt found, if you hit a bad spot on a Utah road, don’t expect the city or state to rush to pay for your repairs.
1 day ago
We All Belong logo....
Debbie Worthen

Parent advocacy group celebrates kids with special needs

A rally in Draper brings hundred of people together to celebrate inclusion for kids with special needs.
1 day ago
American Leadership Academy....
Shelby Lofton

A Spanish Fork high school homecoming dress code causes tension between students and faculty

Upset students are speaking out tonight after being turned away from their homecoming dance.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
War in Ukraine highlights challenges Utah educators face when teaching current events