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Black history month ends, but memories live on

Jacqueline Morris, a two-year veteran Pre-K teacher at East Elementary School, talks with Jayla Sturdivant, 5, and Keyara Wallace, 5, both Pre-K students at East Elementary School who portrayed President Barack Obama’s children, Malia and Sash Obama during East Elementary School’s rendition of the Oprah Winfrey Show Friday, Feb. 27, 2009.

The Oprah Winfrey Show came to East Elementary this month, offering a unique and fun way for students to learn about important African Americans in history.
Jacqueline Morris, a two-year veteran Pre-K teacher at East Elementary School, was asked to portray Oprah Winfrey earlier this month by the School Improvement Team. Their idea (the brainchild of East Elementary teacher Amy Beidari) was to have two live TV shows that would interview famous black Americans (portrayed by students) in honor of Black History Month.
Students throughout the school were chosen by their teachers to be interviewed by “Oprah.” The Oprah shows were shown during the morning announcement on the last two Fridays of the month, February 20 and February 27.
“This production is a way to introduce black historians,” Morris said. “It’s another way for children to learn about black history.”
Morris said the best way to portray Oprah was to mirror her enthusiasm and genuineness. “I decided I was going to have fun with it, because I see that Oprah enjoys her job. She’s done it for a long time. She’s relaxed. She knows what’s she going to talk about and she’s having fun. So I said, ‘I’m just going to have fun with it.’ ”
Some of the important black American that students portrayed included Dr. Martin Luther King, Malia and Sasha Obama, Madam C.J. Walker, and Dr. Ben Carson.
Raheem Bowers, 11, a fifth-grade, portrayed Emmitt Smith, 40, a former running back who still holds the title of the NFL’s all-time rushing leader. Bowers said remembering and honoring African Americans that have immerged in this country’s history is important because their sacrifices led to many of the freedoms held by African Americans today.
“If it wasn’t for many of them, we probably wouldn’t have freedom and may still have slavery,” Bowers said. “If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be here today.”
Morris said the school’s unique approach to teach about these historical figures fits in with teaching in diverse methods. Teachers have to diversify their teaching styles in order to reach all children, she said.
“Where a child may not sit down to read a book, this may get his attention,” she said. “They’re entertained, while they get some information at the same time.”
Portraying important figures meant learning enough about each character portrayed that the student could answer questions from Oprah. And maybe help the students think about their own futures.
“I hope it helps them decide what they want to do in the future,” Morris said. “What mark do I want to leave? What’s my desire? Plus, I want them to realize that somebody worked really hard in order for them to be where they are right now. I need to take advantage of the opportunities they worked so hard for.”
A side benefit of the show, Morris’ friends and coworkers are starting to call her Oprah. “I love it. I have to admit, it makes me smile.”

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, Publications Coordinator
Posted: Feb 27, 2009 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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