OKLAHOMA CITY –Thirty-six Oklahoma educators can hardly wait to return to the classroom after experiencing a week of historical immersion into early American life at the 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 marks the 27th 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 is second in the nation, following California, in the number of teacher institute participants, with 1,044 graduates.
“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.”
This summer’s Oklahoma participants included 27 fifth-grade teachers and nine eighth-grade educators. Fifth-grade teacher participants, listed by school district, are Myriah McVay, BEAVER; Pam Norris, BEGGS; Jannean Thompson, BERRYHILL; Lecia Hopkins, BRIDGE CREEK; Gabrielle Figueroa, BROKEN ARROW; Alicia Mitchell, CHEROKEE; Jamie Spradlin, CLINTON; Tina Green, ENID; Jennifer Shearer, FRIEND; Beau Keener, JENKS; Cheryl Smith, LUKFATA; Kelli Chambers, MUSKOGEE; Monique Ratliff, MUSTANG; Brooke Lee and Skyler Smith, NOBLE; Bryan Karinshak, Janet Villani and Tiffany Wylie, NORMAN; McKenzie McCall, JOHN REX CHARTER SCHOOL, OKLAHOMA CITY; Haley Nelson, OWASSO; Susan Barnes, PAWHUSKA; Shawnacie Tresler, PURCELL; Monica Hiller, PUTNAM CITY; Wendy Sheets, TULSA; Stephanie Harris, WEATHERFORD; and Jourdan Bustos and Taryn Ellis, YUKON. Teresa Potter, a teacher at OAKDALE Elementary School in EDMOND, was selected by the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute to serve as peer 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 June Sindelar, ADA; Brandy Baldwin, ARDMORE; Justin Ennis, BROKEN ARROW; Sean Dooley, CHOCTAW-NICOMA PARK; Justin Shaw, DICKSON; Brent Mahan, LAWTON; Dennis Paul Butler, OKLAHOMA SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND, MUSKOGEE; Sarah Drake, RUSH SPRINGS; and Rhonda Cegielski, VERDIGRIS.
Sarah Drake, who teaches U.S. history at Rush Springs Middle School and High School, 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. 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 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 the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and former board member of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Joullian died in 2006. Graduates of the institute now 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.
(EDITORS: Oklahoma’s Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute participants are listed below by hometown and the cities in which they teach. Photos and quotes from individual teachers are attached, when available. If you would like to interview a local participant, contact Brenda Wheelock at 405-236-0006 for information.)
ADA – June Sindelar teaches eighth grade at Ada Junior High School.
ARDMORE – Brandy Baldwin is an eighth-grade teacher at Ardmore Middle School.
Justin Shaw, a resident of Ardmore, teaches eighth-grade history and science at Dickson Middle School.
BEAVER – Myriah McVay teaches fifth grade at Beaver Elementary School.
BEGGS – Pam Norris, an Okmulgee resident, teaches fifth grade at Beggs Public School.
BLANCHARD – Lecia Hopkins, a Newcastle resident, teaches fifth-grade social studies and math at Bridge Creek Intermediate School.
BROKEN ARROW – Justin Ennis teaches sixth through eighth-grade social studies at Centennial Middle School.
Gabrielle Figueroa, a Tulsa resident, is a fifth-grade teacher at Aspen Creek Elementary School.
BROKEN BOW – Cheryl Smith teaches fifth-grade social studies and science at Lukfata Elementary School.
CATOOSA – Dennis Paul Butler, a resident of Catoosa, teaches eighth-grade history at the Oklahoma School for the Blind in Muskogee.
CHEROKEE – Alicia Mitchell teaches fifth-grade social studies at Cherokee Elementary School.
CHICKASHA – Sarah Drake, a resident of Chickasha, teaches social studies at Rush Springs Middle School and High School.
Jennifer Shearer of Chickasha teaches fifth grade at Friend Elementary School.
CHOCTAW – Sean Dooley, a resident of Midwest City, teaches eighth-grade U.S. history at Nicoma Park Middle School.
CLAREMORE – Rhonda Cegielski, a Claremore resident, teaches eighth-grade history and civics at Verdigris Jr. High School.
CLINTON – Jamie Spradlin, a Weatherford resident, teaches fifth-grade social studies and English at Washington Elementary School in Clinton.
COLLINSVILLE – Haley Nelson, a resident of Collinsville, teaches fifth-grade social studies at Barnes Elementary School in Owasso.
EDMOND – Teresa Potter teaches fifth grade and gifted & talented classes at Oakdale Elementary School. A 2000 Teacher Institute alumna, she was has served 12 times as peer facilitator for the fifth-grade Oklahoma teacher delegation at the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute.
ENID – Tina Green is a fifth-grade teacher at Coolidge Elementary School.
LAWTON – Brent Mahan teaches eighth-grade U.S. history at Central Middle School.
MIDWEST CITY – Sean Dooley, a resident of Midwest City teaches eighth-grade United States history at Nicoma Park Middle School in Choctaw.
MUSKOGEE – Dennis Paul Butler, a resident of Catoosa, teaches 6th through 10th grade at the Oklahoma School for the Blind.
Kelli Chambers teaches fourth through sixth-grade at New Tech at Cherokee Elementary School.
MUSTANG – Monique Ratliff, a Yukon resident, teaches fifth-grade social studies and science at Horizon Intermediate School.
NEWCASTLE – Lecia Hopkins, a Newcastle resident, teaches fifth-grade social studies and math at Bridge Creek Intermediate School in Blanchard.
NOBLE – Brooke Lee, a Noble resident, and Skyler Smith, a Norman resident, teach fifth grade at Pioneer Intermediate School in Noble.
NORMAN – Bryan Karinshak teaches fifth-grade social studies and science at Jefferson Elementary School.
Skyler Smith, a Norman resident, teaches fifth grade at Pioneer Intermediate School in Noble.
Fifth-grade teachers Janet Villani and Tiffany Wylie of Norman teach at Truman Elementary School.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Jourdan Bustos, an Oklahoma City resident, teaches fifth-grade social studies at Lakeview Elementary School in Yukon.
Monica Hiller teaches fifth-grade social studies and math at Rollingwood Elementary School in Putnam City Schools.
McKenzie McCall teaches fifth grade at John Rex Charter School.
OKMULGEE – Pam Norris, a resident of Okmulgee, teaches fifth grade at Beggs Public School.
OWASSO – Haley Nelson, a resident of Collinsville, teaches fifth-grade social studies at Barnes Elementary School.
PAWHUSKA – Susan Barnes is a fifth-grade teacher at Pawhuska Elementary School.
PURCELL – Shawnacie Tresler teaches fifth grade at Purcell Intermediate School.
RUSH SPRINGS – Sarah Drake, a resident of Chickasha, teaches eighth-grade at Rush Springs Middle School.
SAND SPRINGS – Jannean Thompson, a resident of Sand Springs, teaches fifth grade at Berryhill North Elementary School in Tulsa.
TULSA – Gabrielle Figueroa, a Tulsa resident, teaches fifth-grade social studies at Aspen Creek Elementary School in Broken Arrow.
Beau Keener teaches fifth and sixth-grade special education at Jenks East Intermediate School.
Wendy Sheets teaches fifth-grade English, French and social studies at Eisenhower International Elementary School.
Jannean Thompson, a Sand Springs resident, teaches fifth grade at Berryhill North Elementary School.
WEATHERFORD – Stephanie Harris teaches fifth-grade history and language arts at West Elementary School.
Jamie Spradlin, a Weatherford resident, teaches fifth-grade social studies at Washington Elementary School in Clinton.
YUKON – Jourdan Bustos of Oklahoma City and Taryn Ellis of Yukon teach fifth-grade at Lakeview Elementary School.
Monique Ratliff, a Yukon resident, teaches fifth-grade social studies and science at Horizon Intermediate School in Mustang.