The 16-by-20-foot map of Tennessee is part of National Geographic’s Giant Traveling Map program, a nationwide geography effort.

Charlotte Ellington

The map of Tennessee is so big you can walk on it. And you’re encouraged to do it — in sock feet, of course.

In 2016, National Geographic gave state-specific copies of maps — which stretch 16-by-20 feet — to all 50 states. As part of the Giant Traveling Map program, they then were sent across each state to various schools, mostly elementary but some middle and high.

For the past couple of years, Charlotte Ellington, a graduate and adjunct professor in the UTC School of Education, has been in charge of coordinating the scheduling and shipping of the two copies of Tennessee’s map.

“They threw me this bone and said, ‘Figure out what to do with it,’” Ellington says with a laugh.

She figured it out pretty well. Her exemplary work at the task has earned her the 2018 Lottie and Alden Beverly Geography Teacher of the Year Award from the Tennessee Geographic Alliance.

The alliance, part of the University of Tennessee College of Arts and Sciences, praised Ellington for the “exceptional effort you have put into making the Tennessee Giant Traveling Map program such a success and how that has resulted in hundreds if not thousands of elementary-age students receiving geography instruction where they otherwise might not have.”

At any point in the year, the Tennessee maps usually are in a school somewhere with students poring over them, walking on them and learning from them. Along with the maps, lesson plans and discussion suggestions are sent, too.

While the kids are impressed by the maps’ sheer size, they’re not the only ones, says Ellington, who graduated from UTC in 2003 with a master’s in education. When she takes the maps to teacher workshops or conferences, adults are amazed, too.

“You hear people when they first see it, they say, ‘Oh wow!’”

Ellington spent about 15 years as a teacher in private and public schools in the Chattanooga area, including Lakeside Elementary and Clifton Hills Elementary. Before retiring in 2016, she spent her last three years at Chattanooga Charter School for Excellence Middle School. Her enthusiasm for a career in teaching can still be heard in her voice when she talks about it.

The Lottie and Alden Beverly Geography Teacher of the Year Award comes with a $500 check and a plaque, both of which will be presented at the Tennessee Council for Social Studies annual conference in March.


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