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.

Among these teachers were Dennis Paul Butler, a resident of Catoosa, sixth- through tenth-grade teacher at the Oklahoma School for the Blind; and Kelli Chambers, fourth- through sixth-grade teacher at New Tech at Cherokee Elementary School.

“This was such an amazing experience,"Kelli Chambers said. "The historical interpreters were phenomenal and full of knowledge. They absolutely brought history to life. You know it is something special when one, Nanny Jones (an enslaved woman), brings you to tears with her story."

While in Colonial Williamsburg, 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.

“I was able to participate in a mock debate between those loyal to England and King George III and those Patriots who were desiring to break away from Britain and rule themselves here in the new world. It brought to my mind and heart that these were “real” people who were making and dealing with extremely hard issues, issues that would not only change their lives but would change the lives of future generations. It really made me proud to be a citizen of the United States.

"I believe that the experience will help me in having a greater passion for our heritage and history as citizens of the United States. I know in order to 'pass on passion' to my students I have to passionate myself,” Butler said.

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