With the arrival of June, Wesley Knaack's waiting game is almost over.

A few months ago, the Decorah Middle School teacher was nominated for the Hannah E. (Liz) MacGregor History Teacher of the Year Award during the National History Day in Iowa state contest in Des Moines. He'll learn whether he wins on June 13 during the National History Day national contest at the University of Maryland.

"National History Day is one of the country's premier programs that helps students develop the skills they'll need for success in the future," said Susan Kloewer, administrator of the State Historical Society of Iowa, which oversees the National History Day program in Iowa. "Mr. Knaack has devoted an enormous amount of time and energy to his students and this program. We congratulate him on this well-deserved nomination."

Knaack, a native of Vinton, has been teaching for 14 years, including nine at Decorah Middle School. He uses the National History Day program in his American History and Current Events eighth-grade curriculum. Each year, about 140 of his students create a National History Day project and compete at the Montauk District Contest in Decorah. District winners advance to the state contest, and state winners advance to the national contest.

"National History Day allows students to learn something that interests them by using research and critical thinking skills," he said. "They create projects based on their strengths and use primary resources to support their arguments. They become the specialists and historians on their topics by diving into those primary resources. I always help my kids understand 'why is this important to learn about' and 'why do we need to know about this.' My goal is to make history relevant to an eighth-grade mind."

Each of the 57 National History Day affiliates may nominate one middle and high school teacher each for the teacher of year award. Each winner will receive a $5,000 award for their commitment to engaging students in historical learning through innovative use of primary sources, implementation of active learning strategies to foster historical thinking skills and participation in the National History Day Contest.

A team of teachers and historians will choose the winners. Nominees' work must clearly illustrate the development and use of creative teaching methods that interest students in history and help them make exciting discoveries about the past. The award is sponsored by James F. Harris in honor of his sister and is awarded to one middle and one high school teacher each year.

National History Day in Iowa is overseen by the State Historical Society of Iowa, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. More information is available at iowaculture.gov or 515-281-5111.