Santa Elena Foundation hires historic education Director, looks to rewrite history books
The Santa Elena Foundation Board of Directors welcomes Dr. Charles Cornett as Director of Historical Education. Cornett, a retired school superintendent, will serve on the Foundation’s advisory board and coordinate education outreach.
“Our goal is to align American understanding of our colonial past with historical evidence, particularly archaeological evidence that confirms the Spanish established the Santa Elena settlement on Parris Island circa 1566 ,” explained Cornett. “Santa Elena predates Jamestown and Plymouth by decades. Unfortunately, while school history texts describe the Pilgrims’ arrival and First Thanksgiving — with their cast of English characters — they say little about life at the earlier Santa Elena, a Spanish town that existed for twenty years. Of course in the past, only the victors wrote the history.” Cornett is facilitating the implementation of the National Park Services (NPS) Santa Elena curriculum by encouraging educators to use and enhance what he calls “inquiry – based” lesson plans that engage students in discussion, analysis of maps, use of the Internet and much more. In particular, he points to how the NPS plans seek to have students synthesize conclusions and apply new learning. For example, students are challenged to find ways to educate their own communities.
“The Santa Elena story should be a point of pride for South Carolinians and all Hispanic students,” Cornett said. “ Santa Elena’s 450 – year anniversary comes up in 2016 and we hope to have made real progress by then. The National Park Services will soon release a resource for teachers, including web – based lessons plans that challenge students to delve into the fascinating history of Santa Elena.
The Foundation plans to open a local interpretive center in Beaufort County to educate visitors about Santa Elena, which has achieved the designation of National Historic Landmark. Furthermore, Cornett is working with local, state and national educators to revise the K – 12 history curriculum.
Cornett holds a Bachelor of Science in biology and chemistry and a Master’s in biology and education. His Ph.D. is in School Finance and Business Administration from Miami University. During a thirty – year career in education as a teacher, principal, and school superintendant, Dr. Cornett also taught graduate courses in administration and published a variety of journal articles and curriculum materials. Since retiring , Cornett has worked as a researcher on textbook projects, most recently for Pearson Publishing. “We also hope to also revise the Spanish story in current textbooks, including those dealing with South Carolina history,” Cornett said. “It’s an exciting prospect and great volunteer opportunity for a retired educator.”