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Thursday, Apr. 17, 2014

Innovative efforts earn educational honors for former resident

Sunday, September 17, 2006

(Photo)
Leigh Ann Keller and some of her students
BROKEN ARROW, Okla. - Efforts by a former Sikeston, Mo., resident to encourage her students to find the drama, emotion, conflict and glory in history has earned her local and state honors. Now, Leigh Ann Keller is being considered for national honors for her innovative teaching.

The daughter of Bob and Norma Porter of Sikeston, Keller is a 1977 graduate of Sikeston High School. She has a bachelor of science in human environmental science from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a teaching certificate in early childhood development from Northwestern State University.

However, she traces her love for history back to elementary school in Sikeston, in particular, her fourth grade teacher Ruby Silverthorn. In a professional biography, Keller writes of how Mrs. Silverthorn was able to challenge and encourage her students.

"She allowed the creative, musical side of me to peek out when I got to be a pioneer girl in the play about the history of Missouri," recalled Keller. "It is ironic that an experience that happened 35 years ago has helped influence my teaching choices today. I still feel that art, music and drama have a place in the regular classroom."

Keller is making use of the American Girl literature series in her third grade curriculum. The American Girl collection, which features a series of books on different historic periods written at the 3rd and 4th grade levels, also includes dolls, props and other accessories from the various time periods.

Keller has created a series of History and Heritage kits using the various books and accessories which are now used by other classrooms.

She has even used the series to create a "readers theater" production researched, written and performed by her students for their parents. Also for a segment on World War II, Keller invites local veterans to attend the performance and talk with the children.

The Peters Elementary School, where Keller teaches, named her the 2003

-2003 Teacher of the Year and she was the Union School District Teacher of the Year in 2006. The Masonic Fraternity of Oklahoma has named her a Teacher of Today and Keller received the Military Purple Heart Citation for service to the community.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States cited Keller in 2006 for statewide honors. Now, she is the state candidate for the Elementary National Citizen Education Teacher Award.

Although Keller has several honors to her credit, she is adamant that her work is always centered around her students.

"Using our new History and Heritage Kits has opened up a whole new way of teaching reading, American history, social studies, science, language arts and Character Counts all at the same time. When we start a new story and study a new time period it is like opening a box of magic, and it never gets old for me or for the children," she wrote.

"My reward is all the positive feedback from parents, grandparents, fellow teachers and administrators," Keller continued. "The biggest reward however, has been from the students themselves, who truly seem to enjoy school and look forward to each new day."