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 Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute 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 31st 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 1,135 Oklahoma graduates to date. Of that total, 946 were selected through the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence to receive donor-funded fellowships and stipends for classroom materials.

“It was thrilling to see and experience an area so rich in our nation’s history,” said Alva fifth-grade teacher Annalisa Roggow. “I have a greater understanding and appreciation for the events and people that were instrumental in shaping the United States of America. The experience of actually seeing the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia, and walking on the battlefield of Yorktown made the history of these events so much more real. 

“I learned much more through this experience than a textbook can share,” Roggow added.  “I hope to be able to excite my students about history through the many activities I learned that will help make history more than words on a page, but something that real people lived.”

This summer’s Oklahoma participants included 23 fifth-grade teachers and 11 secondary social studies educators. Fifth-grade teacher participants, listed by school district, are Annalisa Roggow, ALVA; Christina Wertz, BIXBY; Janet Cornsilk, CHOCTAW-NICOMA PARK; Tammy Payne, CRESCENT; Sydney Vanpool, DEER CREEK; Crissy Nelson, GROVE; Anne-Marie Belveal, LONE STAR; Regina Hein, MIDWEST CITY-DEL CITY; Arica Dick, MOORE; Amy Wright, Lindsay Cross, Taylir Thompson, MUSTANG; Lily Blevins, Natosha Cagle, Lindsey Grotheer, Kristina Rodgers, NORMAN; Jennifer Day, OKLAHOMA CITY; Betty Wright, OWASSO; Toshia Riddle, PIEDMONT; Hadiqa Aslam, PUTNAM CITY; Sharla Reynolds, YUKON.  They were also joined by Beth Parker of Westminster School in EDMOND and Jodi Delgado of Epic Charter Schools in OKLAHOMA CITY.

Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute master teacher Vanna Owens of CLAREMORE served as facilitator for the fifth-grade Oklahoma delegation. She 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 Rusty Ferguson, CLEVELAND; Amy Miller, COMANCHE; Thomas Blakeley, JENKS; Garrett Mitchell, MIDDLEBERG; Brant Hagen, Jarred Turner, MOORE; Judy Bristol and Justin McLeckie, MUSTANG; Amy Prince, NORMAN; Lisa Wilkins, PIONEER. Also attending was Patricia Comstock of Carleton Landing Academy of EUFAULA.

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.

“It was a gift to experience Colonial Williamsburg and the surrounding areas firsthand,” said Lisa Wilkins, middle school social studies teacher at Pioneer Public School. “I think my students and I will most benefit from the network of other educators from around the country that shared this experience with me. It is invaluable to be able to support and connect with those teachers and share ideas that engage and improve our students’ classroom experiences. I look forward to implementing activities that foster a student’s ability to ask the right questions, to think critically and to stimulate discussion.”

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 the 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.       

“I have a greater understanding and appreciation for the events and people that were instrumental in shaping the United States of America.” – Alva teacher Annalisa Roggow, 2023 Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute participant