John Spratling, a veteran teacher at Robertsville Middle School in Oak Ridge, received the Civil Rights/Liberties: Excellence in Teaching award during the Tennessee Council for the Social Studies virtual conference on Saturday, February 27th. The award is sponsored by Social Studies School Service. He will receive a plaque and a check for $250.

Spratling’s efforts on behalf of a long-neglected aspect of Oak Ridge history, the story of the “Scarboro 85,” led to his nomination. Dr. Kirk W. Renegar, principal of Robertsville Middle School, praised Spratling’s work.

“Unfortunately, it is not widely known that in 1955, 85 brave men and women from the Scarboro community of Oak Ridge blazed the trail of desegregation of the Oak Ridge Schools, becoming the first school system in the Southeast to desegregate.”

Dr. Renegar added, “Mr. Spratling has made it his mission to not only have these courageous individuals recognized for their accomplishments, but also to ensure that future generations of students can learn about the rich history of this landmark event.”

In addition to lessons in class on the Scarboro 85, Spratling has his students perform plays on the subject. He has also curated a display in the community center, organized panel discussions featuring members of the group, and was instrumental in the fundraising that led to plaques being placed at Oak Ridge High School and Robertsville Middle School.

In speaking about the “Scarboro 85,” Spratling said, “I remember the sacrifices of the historical actors of the Civil Rights Movement. I remember how they paved the way for us to do what we do in the Oak Ridge system. I am very thankful for the sacrifices they made for me. Their stories cannot be forgotten. Our students must hear the voices of those who struggled to make their lives better.”

Social Studies School Services, Inc. created the Civil Rights/Liberties: Excellence in Teaching Award to recognize a teacher who inspires students to, “take informed action when they see injustices and to be a responsible contributing member of our democracy.” The company has been a national leader in providing instructional materials for k12 teachers since 1965.

The Tennessee Council for the Social Studies annually recognizes outstanding teachers at the elementary, middle and high school levels, and selects the recipient of the Civil Rights/Liberties: Excellence in Teaching Award. TCSS is a 501©3 organization and affiliated with the National Council for the Social Studies. More information can be found at