NORMAN — Norman teacher Sana Hanif, who teaches fifth grade at Kennedy Elementary School, and Vanna Owens, a teacher at Little Axe Elementary School, were among 29 Oklahoma teachers who walked in the footsteps of America’s patriots and British colonists during the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute in Early American History, hosted this summer in the restored capital city of 18th-century Virginia.
“The teacher institute was amazing. Experiencing life as presented in the Colonial historic area really put into perspective the events from our history. The character interpreters, the historic taverns and sites took us back, not only seeing, but reliving the past as a colonist,” Hanif said.
“I was especially intrigued to be on the site of an archaeological dig where the human skull ‘Jane’ was discovered in Jamestown. It was an amazing experience that will definitely be integrated within my classroom,” Hanif said. “This experience will bring history to life with in my classroom. My students will see artifacts, role play, experience life as a colonist and be visited by various historical characters.”
Owens was selected by the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute to serve as peer facilitator for the Oklahoma delegation. Owens, who is a 2011 Teacher Institute alumna, met daily with the group to discuss teaching techniques and develop creative lesson plans based on their experiences in Williamsburg.
In addition, Owens and Teresa Potter, from Fisher Elementary School in Moore, were selected as Colonial Williamsburg’s master teachers. Potter has been a peer facilitator for more than eight years; she has helped mentor new Oklahoma teachers who attend the Teacher Institute as well as develop curriculum materials for e-newsletters and Electronic Field Trips.
Their new responsibilities as a master teacher with Colonial Williamsburg may include curriculum writing, reviewing lessons and new products, testing new educational materials in the classroom, facilitating Teacher Institute sessions, presenting at conferences and workshops across the country, conducting webinars, monitoring Colonial Williamsburg’s online Teacher Community, developing materials for English Language Learners and Common Core, and being part of the Electronic Field Trip Focus group.
As part of the new tier of master teachers, Owens and Potter attended a one-week training at Colonial Williamsburg in June. Owen will present a session at National Council for Social Studies in November with Colonial Williamsburg staff Kelly Curtright, Oklahoma State Department of Education, director of Social Studies on “Partnerships: Revolutionizing Content, common core, and Civil Discourse.”
The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence celebrated the 20th anniversary this year of its partnership with Colonial Williamsburg in sending Oklahoma teachers to the renowned teacher institute. Oklahoma is second in the nation, following California, in the number of teacher institute participants with 842 graduates.
The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence selected the teachers to receive all-expense paid fellowships to the summer institute in Williamsburg, Va., as well as $300 stipends for classroom materials.
In addition, participants receive a one-year subscription to the Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trip series, which combines Internet activities and live television broadcasts to help bring the Colonial Williamsburg experience to the classroom.
While at Colonial Williamsburg, Oklahoma teachers met character interpreters of 18th-century people and were immersed in early American history through hands-on activities and re-enactments of historic events. The week’s lessons were built around the theme “What It Means to Be an American.”
Participants also visited Jamestown, which is the site of the first permanent English colony in America, and spent a day at Yorktown visiting the battlefields where the Continental Army forced the British to surrender.