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Turlock teachers take on life of 1800s settlers
pioneer teachers pic
Wakefield Elementary School teachers Hilda Espinosa and Stella Estrada, along with Walnut Education Center teacher Mary Jo Lee, join teachers from around the country to practice their drilling skills as soldiers back in the 1800s on their Pennsylvania adventure over the summer. - photo by Photo Contributed

Dressing as a soldier, taking part in the Witch Trials and learning to make bricks with their feet were just a few of the things that three Turlock teachers experienced this summer in an effort to bring back a better understanding of their history lesson plans.  

“It brings a reality to teaching when you lived it and experienced it,” said Mary Jo Lee, fifth grade teacher at Walnut Education Center. “It will add a whole new dimension to instruction.”

Lee along with Wakefield Elementary School teachers Hilda Espinosa and Stella Estrada took on their colonial adventure from July 13 to July 20 in Williamsburg, Penn.

They were able to experience Yorktown, Jamestown, the surrender field, plantations, a church where George Washington once sat and much more. They truly lived like an 1800s settler.

“They really try to immerse you in that time,” Lee said. “It makes you appreciate what you do have now.”

The most memorable time for the teachers was the church where the seats were labeled for Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and the surrender field where battles used to take place. There was even one battle field that still had human remains that were visible.

Lee, Espinosa and Estrada were able to experience this historic adventure through a grant program ran through the Colonial Williamsburg Teachers Institute. The teachers applied for the grant, which paid for airfare, room and board, historic tours and the colonial life they took on for a week. Only 10 teachers from the Central Valley were chosen for this grant. All grants were supported from individual donors.

“This is made possible because of donors that want to keep history alive,” Espinosa said.  

These teachers can now show their own photos and share their own experiences living like a 1800s settler to their students when teaching about these historic times.

“I can go back on the experience I had and share it with my kids,” Espinosa said. “We can show our kids that this is how they did it.”

The personal experience the teachers had will help make the history lessons more real for them and give them that connection with the teacher, Estrada said.

“It will help with our personal experience showing the kids that we were there,” she said.

The colonial experience will mainly benefit the American Revolution instruction for all three teachers when they start teaching that subject in the next couple of months. But their experiences will also benefit other areas of instruction throughout the year.

“We can plug it into a lot of our instruction,” Estrada said.

To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.