ENID, Okla. — Thirty-six Oklahoma educators — including one from Enid — experienced a week of historical immersion in early American life at Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute, held at the restored capital of 18th-century Virginia.
While in Colonial Williamsburg, the world’s largest living history museum, Oklahoma teachers met character interpreters of 18th-century people from Powhatan Indians and plantation slaves to British loyalists and Founding Fathers. Educators were immersed in early American history through hands-on activities and reenactments of historical events.
This marked the 27th year Oklahoma teachers have attended the institute through a fellowship program coordinated by Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a statewide nonprofit that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in public schools. Oklahoma is second in the nation, following California, in the number of teacher institute participants, with 1,044 graduates.
Coolidge Elementary School's Tina Green said the information and experiences are something she can share with her fifth-grade students.
“Our week at Colonial Williamsburg was an amazing week full of information and reenactments of the past. One of my favorite reenactments was the meeting of the 2nd Continental Congress at the Capitol, where Patrick Henry quoted, 'Give me liberty, or give me death!' The messages presented were powerful and strong, which really brought history to life," Green said. "After my visit to Colonial Williamsburg, I will be able to go back and make history come alive in my classroom. Thanks to our wonderful Oklahoma donors, I was able to purchase books and materials for our classroom.
"I have been given a vast amount of knowledge over the past week that I will be able to share with my students.”
“My week in Williamsburg has been fantastic,” said Brooke Lee, a fifth-grade teacher at Pioneer Elementary School in Noble. “From meeting historical character interpreters and learning trades to exploring buildings, I have been immersed in the colonial history of our nation. My favorite part of the week was examining original documents in the special archive collection and exploring original structures.”
Lee said she feels better prepared to help her students understand the lives of everyday people who lived in the colonies and to help students “connect their lives today with historical moments that shaped our nation.”
Sarah Drake, who teaches U.S. history in Rush Springs at the middle school and high school levels, said the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute was the best professional development experience she has attended in her 26-year teaching career.
“Our group debated voting for independence in the very chamber when the Virginia Burgesses voted to join the independence movement,” she said. “We were privileged to meet several interpreters of historical figures, including Martha Washington; French Revolutionary war hero Marquis de Lafayette; Nat Turner, who led a slave rebellion; and Jenny Joseph, a slave woman."
Drake said she looks forward to sharing personal stories and applying lessons she has learned in both middle school and high school classes. Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute provides participants with interactive teaching techniques and skills to become mentor teachers who can assist other educators to develop active learning classrooms and make history exciting for their students. Participants share strategies to improve instruction, raise literacy levels and enhance thinking skills.
Oklahoma’s teacher institute program was founded and supported through the fundraising efforts of the late Oklahoma City businessman Edward C. Joullian III. A trustee of Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and former board member of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Joullian died in 2006.
Graduates of the institute receive lapel pins and certificates designating them as Edward C. Joullian Oklahoma Scholars. Joullian’s family, along with a group of loyal donors, continues to support the program, which has transformed the way many Oklahoma educators teach early American history.