NEA Honors Kansas Educator for
Advancing Intergroup Understanding

April 4, 2005   -  2005 NEA Human and Civil Rights Award Winners Announced

Washington, D.C. -- Pittsburg, Kansas, resident Linda O'Nelio Knoll was selected by the National Education Association (NEA) to receive the H. Councill Trenholm Memorial Award for advancing intergroup understanding within the education profession.

Knoll will join 10 other civil and human rights recipients who work tirelessly to promote social justice and dignity for all citizens at an awards ceremony in connection with NEA's Annual Meeting in July.

The students at Pittsburg Middle and High School and Girard High School were unaware that during the latter part of the 19th century, immigrants from as many as 50 nations settled in southeast Kansas when the state supplied one-third of the nation's coal.

The immigrants worked 10 to 12 hours daily in unhealthy conditions in dark coal mines that left many riddled with black lung disease. By 1921 between 3,000 to 6,000 women known as the "Amazon Army," among whom was Knoll's grandmother, marched from mine to mine to protest a law that denied workers the right to strike.

Knoll's lessons on life in the mining community where companies paid their workers in company scrip or coupons redeemable only at the company store and the labor unrest enthralled students and teachers alike.

Teams of middle school teachers under Knoll's guidance developed a thematic unit on their mining heritage using history, math, science, geography, government, and music to explore unionism, accident statistics, water and soil, and more.

The rich legacy of the Kansan mining immigrants unearthed by Knoll continues to inspire the community. To date, Knoll has developed a social justice academic program for the state's honor academy, directed her own original play, "An Army of Amazons: An Oral History of Southeast Kansas," coordinated the creation of a multi-district mural based on her research, and is planning an "Immigration Park."

Knoll lectures extensively and is building upon her "Mining Our Heritage" and "Army of Amazons" projects on the area's diverse history.

"One creative educator ignited the minds and passions of her students, colleagues, and community by encouraging them to explore their rich history as an immigrant mining community," said Reg Weaver NEA President. "What began as an idea for a history competition evolved into a revolution of historical retrieval that spanned and enriched virtually every subject taught at the school and beyond into the community."

The NEA Annual Human and Civil Rights awards ceremony, held each year during the Association's Annual Meeting, provides national recognition to local heroes and is expected to attract 2,500 educators and invited guests. The awards are named after human and civil rights pioneers and commemorates NEA's 1966 merger with the predominately Black organization, the American Teachers Association.

Tickets to the 2005 NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner may be ordered by faxing (202) 822-7578 or mailing a request to NEA Human & Civil Rights Award Dinner, 1201 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036.

For more information, contact:
Christy Levings, Kansas NEA President (785) 232-8271

The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing 2.7 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, and students preparing to become teachers.

Amazon Army