Outstanding Teacher of American History: Matt Barnett

By: Mia Anderson M

The Education Division at Indiana Wesleyan University is one of the largest academic divisions on campus. To honor the students and graduates of this department, we will be telling the stories of several alumni and how they are using their God-given gifts to teach others. Special thanks goes to the alumni that participated in interviews, the faculty of the Education Division, and to the Division Chair, Dr. Jim Elsberry.

History is the grandest story of all time—telling the tale of nations, people, and events and Matt Barnett believes that, “America has a really great story to tell.” The mark of a truly great history teacher is found in the significance that this knowledge brings to each student’s life. Matt Barnett (’07, Social Studies Education) is one of those history teachers that are not easily forgotten by students.

Matt Barnett and his students gather around the hand-carved canoe he made.
Matt Barnett and his students gather around the hand-carved canoe he made.

Since graduating from IWU, Barnett has taught United States history, American government, and psychology at Lewis Cass Junior/Senior High School in Walton, Indiana. History is a true passion of his, which is shown through his hands-on approach to teaching U.S. History. Barnett enjoys teaching his students by immersing them in the time period they are studying—whether it be by building a 14-foot long dugout canoe and painting it by hand with his students, bringing in Native American replica tools for the children to see and use, dressing up in full Civil War uniform or as George Washington, or playing baseball the good ol’ way—with Civil War rules and equipment. He loves to see his students have that, as Barnett put it, “Light bulb moment,” where students open their minds up to the subject matter and how it applies to their lives.

Matt and Jaclyn Barnett with their children Lily, Caleb, and Lincoln.
Jaclyn and Matt Barnett with their children Lily, Caleb, and Lincoln.

Barnett’s teaching style has not gone unnoticed. Not only does he have the opportunity to see the impact of his teaching during parent-teacher conferences where parents are amazed that their children suddenly love U.S. history, but Barnett has just been granted a prestigious award. In the entire state of Indiana, Matt Barnett has been recognized by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) association as the “Outstanding Teacher of American History”—an award given to a teacher in each state. Barnett has the opportunity to be awarded this similar award, but on a national level. He will be recognized for his excellent teaching at the Indiana State DAR meeting in Indianapolis. This award was given to Barnett because of his patriotism and ability to make U.S. history connect with his students.

Barnett came to IWU pre-declared, unsure of what he wanted to study or where God was leading him. He began to realize he had interests in worship leading, music, and history, but he had trouble figuring out how to integrate his passions into a degree. As Barnett looks back on his time at IWU, he says, “God was prepping me the whole time. When you’re in the moment it’s hard to see what He’s doing, but then when you look back it all lined up perfectly.” He soon chose his major of Social Studies Education after having a transformational class with Dr. David Bartley and an enriching student teaching experience. Barnett recalls realizing how he wanted to teach his students by way of example of Dr. Bartley’s story-telling style, “If you can tell a story that grabs someone’s attention and someone’s heart—you have succeeded,” said Barnett.

Upon hearing about Barnett’s accomplishments, Dr. Bartley had this to say:

At Indiana Wesleyan, we hope to do more than inform our students.  We hope to share our passion for life-long learning and to see that passion carried into the next generation.  As we are faithful to that task, we can have confidence that the Lord will continue His work in the lives and careers of our graduates.  We cannot imagine where their life journeys will take them.  On these occasions, though, we get a glimpse of what can happen when our students heed God’s call on their lives.  Receiving this teaching award, Matt has reached a level of teaching excellence as recognized by an organization well known for its love of America’s history. Clearly the Lord has multiplied our investment in Matt’s life, and will now increase Matt’s investment in the lives of his students.  To that measure, we join in the celebration of Matt’s accomplishment.  On behalf of the Social Science Division, congratulations Matt!

Matt Barnett not only teaches, though—he is also a worship pastor at McGrawsville United Methodist Church in Anvoy, IN. Barnett is also the husband of Jaclyn (’07); and father of Caleb (5), Lily (3), and Lincoln (1). Matt Barnett has embraced God’s calling on his life by utilizing all of his passions and knowledge.


Written by Mia Anderson, Blog and Social Media Manager/Storyteller for the Alumni Office. Mia is a Senior at IWU studying Strategic Communication with her concentration in Public Relations. She is the Vice President of IWU PRSSA and hopes to work at a PR agency in Indianapolis after graduation in December 2016. Mia loves hearing others’ stories and sharing them with the world. Visit Mia’s personal website at www.MiaLAnderson.weebly.com.