Woodall teacher wins Williamsburg fellowship

Woodall teacher Tiara Fourkiller, left, helps Mylee Jackson with an assignment.

A Woodall School history teacher will be visiting Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia this summer.

Tiara Fourkiller is one of eight Oklahoma educators to receive a fully paid fellowship to attend Colonial Williamsburg Teaching Institute for a week. A first year teacher, Fourkiller teaches grades 6-8 in social studies, Western and Eastern geography, and U.S. history.

She applied for the fellowship through the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. The application process included answering questions about what and how she teaches, how she incorporates the Oklahoma state standards into her teaching, and how she's different or unique as an educator.

Fourkiller said she is excited because the experience will help her bring history alive in teaching and use that to help each child's learning style.

"I have heard only good things about the institute and I am absolutely thrilled to be going," she said.

The program is specifically designed to help educators learn about early American developments and history through hands-on learning, such as characterizations, sifting through primary sources and readings, and learning from master teachers, said Fourkiller.

"I am a very visual learner. I need hands-on type of activities to supplement reading and writing. I love that this experience will give me just that and I will be able to bring that back to my classroom," she said.

The schedule hasn't been released yet, but she's hoping to experience the apothecary and the Court House.

"I find early American court cases fascinating and how they changed and created the foundation of our government. As nerdy as it sounds, I am absolutely excited to watch other historians dressed in full character and transporting me back in time to truly get and idea of early American life," said Fourkiller.

She graduated from Northeastern State University with a bachelor's degree in history. Even though her current residence is in Tahlequah, Fourkiller still calls Stilwell home. She's married to Josh Fourkiller and they have three children.

In August 2019, she started teaching at Woodall.

"I enjoy how proud the kids are to be Woodall Wildcats. I also love that the staff here is more than just co-workers; we're a family and take care of each other," said Fourkiller.

It's a prestigious honor, according to Woodall Principal Ginger Knight.

"The knowledge she gains will help her teach American history to our students," said Knight. "Attending the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute will allow her to bring the knowledge she gains from the immersive experience back to our students at Woodall. She will also have the opportunity to collaborate with some of the best history teachers in the nation. What an incredible opportunity for a first-year teacher."

Knowing students have different learning styles, Fourkiller tries to incorporate all types of learning into lessons with videos, readings, drawing, acting out short skits, writing, and more. When they studied the Boston Massacre, she set up her classroom to look like a crime scene and they had to read primary sources and tell her about each victim in the massacre.

"I incorporate at least one standard into everything I teach; sometimes it's multiple standards at once if they go well together," she said. "I feel like I am different or unique as an educator because I am 'changing it up.' I don't rely solely on a text book or just making kids sit and read."

Research and studies have shown that kids need to be moving and doing different activities to keep them interested, she said.

"History itself is not typically any student's favorite subject, so I feel like it's my job to have them feel excited about learning of the past and understanding why it's important that we study it and keep history alive," said Fourkiller.

She said students love to ask her, "Why do we have to study something that has already happened?"

"My response is always the same. Although the old saying 'history has a tendency to repeat itself' is one that most use to try and explain why we study so we don't make the same mistakes, I always like to discuss the importance of paying tribute to those who founded our country, but also to show respect and remembrance to those whom terrible things happened to," said Fourkiller. "It's an honor to be an American, and I believe that it's important we know how we got here."

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