Fishers High School social studies teacher Deborah Hejl said “one thrilling moment succeeded another” during her week as a House Fellow.
She was one of 10 teachers from across the United States selected through her local Congressional district to spend July 30-August 3 in Washington, DC, when the House of Representatives was debating and voting on key appropriations bills.
Thrilling moments included being in the “Treasure Vault” at the National Archives and seeing original documents that her students study in U.S. history such as George Washington’s “Farewell Address” and the first Journal of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I stood in the center of the Capitol rotunda by myself at 11 p.m.; I sat at a desk in former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert’s office while he explained to us how it felt to be in the House on 9/11,” said Hejl. “I stood in the room where important Supreme Court cases were heard, such as the Dred Scott decision.”
Other experiences included insider briefings at the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives; special tours of the National Portrait Gallery, the Museum of American Art, the Library of Congress; and meetings with the Chaplain of the Congress; a journalist who specializes in covering the Congress; Indiana District 5 Congressman Dan Burton and his staff; and other House leaders.
Hejl was struck by the complexity of the lives of Congressional representatives. “They work incredibly long hours, satisfying the needs of their constituents, participating in committee business and also voting on bills and resolutions on the floor,” she said. “I met with representatives from both parties, all who shared a passion for improving the lives of the American people.”
“It was the opportunity of a lifetime for a U.S. history teacher!” added Hejl, who has taught in the Hamilton Southeastern (HSE) district since 2002. She was HSE High School ’s building Teacher of the Year in 2005. She was also the North Central Accreditation co-chair and “We the People” advisor there before moving to FHS where she is the Social Studies Department chair and Academic Team co-advisor.