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April 15, 2009

CW Teacher Institute makes history education relevant for more than 5,800 teachers across U.S.

Each summer, Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute provides teachers from across the United States with an intensive seven-day immersion into early American history. Teachers return to their schools with a new understanding of how we became Americans, new historical content and methods of engaging students in learning, and a renewed enthusiasm for teaching.

Teacher Institute celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2009 with 17 separate sessions – 12 for elementary teachers, four for middle school teachers and one session for high school teachers. The program helps teachers meet national and state history/social studies standards through on-site, hands-on immersion experiences in American history. Historical content and teaching strategies for the different sessions are geared to the appropriate grade levels and curriculum.

“Teacher Institute doesn’t just give the teachers historical content,” said Tab Broyles, director of teacher professional development. “We provide them with new methods for teaching history and ways in which to make the stories of our past relevant to students. Teachers receive a CD with lesson plans, primary sources, and other materials they can use in their classrooms –along with facsimile artifacts and documents and a subscription to one of our award-winning Electronic Field Trips.”

During the week-long session, teachers are up early and follow a full schedule well into the evening, sharing new ideas, brainstorming and forming lifelong friendships. Teachers begin their week at Jamestown, where the docents, park rangers and interpreters at Historic Jamestowne and Jamestown Settlement provide insight into what life might have been like for the English who arrived on the shores of Virginia in 1607. The continuing archaeological discoveries of 17-century artifacts at Jamestown dramatically demonstrate to teachers how they can use primary sources in the classroom and the powerful impact they have on learning.

The teachers also visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Great Hopes Plantation, an interactive living history site that represents how the rural middle class and enslaved Africans lived. They meet interpreters, explore the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library, study portraits in the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and visit the trade shops. The teachers remove worms from tobacco plants, participate in debates and courtroom trials and end their week on the battlefields of Yorktown.

Tuition for this summer’s program is $1,900. While some teachers pay their own way, others receive grants (such as the Department of Education’s Teaching American History grants) and support from donors. Tuition includes the week of programs, educational materials, meals and lodging in the Historic Area.

"I’ve been with the program since its inception in 1990, and I never tire of seeing the enthusiasm generated by Teacher Institute,” said Broyles. “The all-out effort by our staff provides the inspiration for teachers to return to the classroom and inspire students who will be our future citizens and leaders.”

Teacher Institute provides participants with extensive background in early American history. Participants share teaching strategies to improve instruction, raise literacy levels and enhance historical thinking skills. When teachers return to their school districts, they agree to conduct in-service training sessions to share their experience with other teachers and develop lesson plans that are shared with future attendees.

Spurred by a lack of student understanding of American history and the principles behind the nation’s freedoms and its government, the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute began with 44 fifth grade teachers from two southern California school systems. Today there are more than 5,800 teacher graduates of the program from 48 states. Colonial Williamsburg also sponsors Teaching American History conferences around the country. These one- and two-day workshops bring the Colonial Williamsburg teaching techniques and strategies to thousands of teachers in their school districts each year. This school year, Teaching American History conferences will take place in Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

For more information about attending the 2009 Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute, visit .

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 – while historic trades people research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution guests interact with history through “Revolutionary City®” – a dramatic live street theater presentation.

Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

Media Contact:
Barbara Brown
(757) 220-7280