WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Nancy Mulcahy and Todd Phelps, fifth-grade teachers at Hot Springs Elementary, recently completed an intense, six-day immersion in American history at the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute. The two then later joined fellow Hot Springs teacher Koreen Hammel at a similar week-long experience at Gettysburg, Pa., sponsored by Gilder Lehrman. The Gettysburg institute was entitled “The Civil War through Material Culture and Historical Landscapes.”

Both institutes are designed for the teachers to learn new methods of engaging students in history lessons.

The Teacher Institute in Williamsburg was created to encourage history education and make it engaging for students. Now in its 28th year, the Teacher Institute helps prepare teachers to help students meet national and state history standards through hands-on immersion experiences in colonial history.

The Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute provides participants with interactive teaching techniques and skills to become mentor teachers who can assist their peers and other educators to develop active learning classrooms and make history exciting for their students.

During six-day sessions on location in Colonial Williamsburg and the surrounding area, participants engage in an interdisciplinary approach to teaching social studies with American history as the focus. Teachers have the opportunity to exchange ideas with historians, meet character interpreters and become part of the story in The Revolutionary City. Throughout each day, teachers 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.

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 8,900 teachers from all 50 states, two territories, and five foreign countries have participated since the inception of the Teacher Institute.

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The local teacher’s experience was made possible through generous donations by several local business and organizations, most notably Bill Graves State Farm Insurance and Massa Dental Clinic, who each contributed $500 each to sponsor the trip

Other contributors included Farrell, Farrell & Ginsbach, Nelson’s Oil & Gas, the Hot Springs Elks Lodge and Masons, Builders First Source, Circle J Glass in Chadron and the Elementary Student Council.

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

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