Oklahoma Educators Immersed in History at Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute

OKLAHOMA CITY – Thirty-four Oklahoma teachers will return to their classrooms this fall with a renewed passion for early American history and a variety of new interactive lessons plans after attending the Bob and Marion Wilson Teacher Institute of Colonial Williamsburg in the restored capital city of 18th-century Virginia.

While in Colonial Williamsburg – the world’s largest living history museum – Oklahoma teachers met character interpreters portraying 18th-century people and were immersed in early American history through hands-on activities and reenactments of historical events. This marks the 30th year that Oklahoma teachers have attended the institute through a fellowship program coordinated by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a statewide nonprofit that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in public schools.

Oklahoma ranks second in the nation, following California, in the number of teacher institute participants, with 1,111 Oklahoma graduates to date. Of that total, 922 were selected through the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence to receive donor-funded fellowships and stipends for classroom materials.

“I can’t wait to revamp my social studies plans for this year!” said Allison Resendiz, a fifth-grade teacher at Washington Elementary School in Clinton. “I feel like I’m better equipped to teach our history from all points of view, a much more ‘whole picture,’ including enslaved people, American Indians, women, and the lower classes’ perspective on the events. I’m excited about all the diverse lesson plans and resources I’m bringing back with me!”

Resendiz particularly enjoyed visiting the ongoing archaeological dig sites at Jamestown Settlement, reenacting the Virginia House of Burgesses’ debate for independence from Great Britain, and participating in a live canon firing demonstration at the Yorktown Battlefield site. “I have learned so much by experiencing colonial life at Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown,” she said.

This summer’s Oklahoma participants included 26 fifth-grade teachers and eight secondary social studies educators. Fifth-grade teacher participants, listed by school district, are Christa Salesberry, AZTEC CHARTER SCHOOLS; Traci Jones and Traci Morris, BIXBY; Allison Acee, BROKEN ARROW; Robin Muse, CACHE; Allison Resendiz, CLINTON; Jessica Nicholson, DEPEW; Michelle Green, CHICKASHA; Janie Eaton, CLAREMORE; Julie Tucker, EPIC CHARTER SCHOOLS; Tammy Hawkins, GUYMON; Kay Lynn Osborn, JENKS; Julie Aich, MUSKOGEE; Jessica Pool, MUSTANG; Terri Curtis, Stacy Ford and Lindsay Sharp, NORMAN; Sara Black, OKLAHOMA CITY; Lisa Barricks, Rachel Ciancio and Allie Ross, OWASSO; Samantha Farmer, PUTNAM CITY; Shelly Schultz and Lynsia Sprouse, SHATTUCK; Patrice O’Dea, TULSA; and Marissa Flores, YUKON.

Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute master teachers Vanna Owens of CLAREMORE and Teresa Potter of PUTNAM CITY Public Schools served as facilitators for the fifth-grade Oklahoma delegation. They met daily with teachers to discuss interactive teaching techniques and help develop creative lesson plans based on their experiences.

Eighth-grade teacher participants, listed by school district, are Thelesa Taylor, DICKSON; Mary Robertson, FARGO-GAGE; Derek Collins, LATTA; David Burton, MOORE; Kelly Berry, RIVERSIDE INDIAN SCHOOL; Sally Cannizzaro, TULSA; and Kyle Cook, YUKON. In addition, Angela Cotton of TUTTLE attended a Teacher Institute session focused on STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.

The 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 and relevant for their students. Participants share strategies to improve instruction, raise literacy levels and enhance critical thinking skills.

“The opportunity to learn more about events and people that shaped our nation on the very ground where the events occurred made the history come alive for me,” said eighth-grade Fargo-Gage teacher Mary Jo Robertson. “Each day after we had participated in the events, met ‘people from the past’ and walked through historic buildings, we would discuss what we learned and how we could incorporate it into our classes. I now have new strategies, hands-on activities, and lessons in which my students can take active roles in learning history.”

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has coordinated Oklahoma’s participation in the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute since 1993. The program is made possible through the leadership and support of the late Oklahoma City businessman Edward C. Joullian III, who was a former board member of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and a trustee of Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. Joullian’s family, along with a group of loyal donors, continues to support the fellowship program, which has transformed the way many Oklahoma educators teach early American history.