Williamsburg, Va. – Tammy Markland, a teacher at West Side Elementary School in Elizabethton, Tenn., recently completed an intense, week-long immersion in American history at the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute. Though she is a 4th grade English Language Arts, she uses historical novels to integrate history into engaging cross-curricular lesson plans. For her, the Teacher Institute allowed her to personally experience American history and provided an array of new project-based learning lesson ideas and resources.
“It was the best professional development I’ve ever attended,” said Markland. “There’s no comparison to walking in the footsteps of our founding fathers, to be there eating dinner in the room where George Washington became a Mason, to touch the first original printing of the Declaration of Independence, and to be on the Battlefield at Yorktown.
“Now I have so much to share with my students. It showed me even more how important our local history is. I can’t take them to Williamsburg, but I can take them to Carter Mansion and Sycamore Shoals and help them see how our founding fathers’ decisions impact us today.”
Now in its 29th year, the Teacher Institute helps prepare teachers to help students meet national and state history standards through hands-on immersion experiences in colonial history. Markland was one of 12 recipients of a national scholarship to attend the program, in addition to state-level recipients.
As a historical reenactor with the Washington County Regiment of the North Carolina Militia based at Sycamore Shoals State Park, it’s not difficult to make history exciting for her students. But now, with the resources and ideas from the Institute, she said she has a deeper understanding and passion for teaching ELA through history.
While attending sessions at Colonial Williamsburg and the surrounding area, participants engage in an interdisciplinary approach to teaching social studies with American history as the focus. Teachers exchange ideas with historians, meet character interpreters and become part of the story in The Revolutionary City. Throughout each day, they work collaboratively with Colonial Williamsburg staff and Master Teachers to examine interactive teaching techniques and develop instructional materials that improve instruction, raise literacy levels, enhance thinking skills, and bring history to life in the classroom.
“I went to witch trials, heard ghost stories and plays, but most of what I got out of it was from the hands-on and simulation activities,” said Markland. “For example, we were each assigned a character for the week, so anytime we did an activity, we were supposed to think about it from their perspective. I was the prominent merchant, John Greenhow. I could do this activity in my classroom to tie in the perspectives of different historical figures.”
Participating teachers agree to conduct in-service training sessions following their attendance at Teacher Institute in order to share their experience with other teachers. Teachers are also required to develop lesson plans to implement in the classroom.
Tammy Markland is a teacher in Elizabethton City Schools and has taught for nine years at West Side Elementary. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Tusculum College, a master’s degree from Milligan College and is currently a doctoral student at Milligan College.
About Teacher Institute & Colonial Williamsburg
Colonial Williamsburg builds on a nearly 60-year educational outreach tradition by exploring new technologies, expanding successful initiatives and offering new ventures to fulfill its educational mission. Teacher Institute was developed to improve the quality of American history education in the nations’ schools and insure that every student gains an understanding of the principles behind our system of government. The program began in 1990 with 44 fifth-grade teachers from two southern California school districts. Today, more than 9,300 teachers from all 50 states, two territories, and five foreign countries have participated since the inception of the Teacher Institute.
Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture — stories of our journey to become Americans. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. Williamsburg is located 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. To learn more about Teacher Institute, visit www.history.org/history/teaching/tchsti.cfm.