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Chickasaw Teacher Revels in History and Culture

Chickasaw Nation teacher Ellen Brooker teachers her history students critical thinking skills and is a Chickasaw language student in Texas.
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Chickasaw teacher Ellen Brooker has taught for 26 years at Southwest High School in San Antonio, Texas. She was named the 2012 Chickasaw Dynamic Woman of the Year, and was once awarded Outstanding American Teacher.

“Ellen Brooker epitomizes the best attributes of a true educator,” said Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby in a press release. “She does more than help students learn the subject matter, she inspires them to see every situation as an opportunity to learn and grow as an individual. She helps her students understand the importance of lifelong learning.”

Brooker has a master’s degree in education with a specialization in instructional technology from Houston Baptist University. She is also a student of the Chickasaw language and culture and incorporates traditional regalia and Chickasaw phrases in her classroom.

“I am passionate about teaching history; passionate about American history and economics,” Brooker said. To her, history isn’t just about remembering dates, it’s about teaching students critical thinking skills, research skills and how to evaluate problems and reach their own conclusions.

“The teacher who instructs critical thinking will give students the skills to be successful,” she said.

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Last year, Brooker was chosen to participate in a series of Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Summer Teacher Institutes from May to August. Teachers who attended the institute developed primary-source teaching strategies they took back to their classroom.

“Primary sources are the raw materials of history—original documents and objects that were created at the time under study. They are different from secondary sources, accounts or interpretations of events created by someone without firsthand experience,” states a press release announcing the teacher participants. “Students working with primary sources become engaged learners while building critical thinking skills and constructing new knowledge.” Teachers working in the Library’s collections explored the largest online collection of historical artifacts and had access to millions of unique primary sources they could then use in classroom instruction.

Brooker serves as the vice chair of the Chickasaw Community Council of South Texas where she helps Native American students and other members of the community to establish tribal affiliation, learn about traditions, and apply for scholarships.

What is Brooker’s favorite part about being a teacher? “Being there when the light bulb comes on and they get it, understand it and are excited about what they have just discovered,” she said.

Don’t forget today is the last day of Teacher Appreciation Week so thank that special teacher in your life.