OWASSO, Okla. — She's known for her classroom decorations and fun personality: Mrs. Wendy Stokes teaches sixth and seventh-grade Native American Literature in Owasso.
"It's ever-changing," Stokes said. "I'm still working on it every year to try to make it better."
It's an elective class that combines literature-type coursework with reading comprehension and writing skills with cultural studies.
"They learn everything from native languages to native cultures with a lot of activities," said Matt Roberts, the Sixth Grade Center Principal.
Roberts says it's a class people won't find at many other school districts. There's no set curriculum and students say there are no tests.
"We don't have tests," said Audrey Terry, a sixth-grade student. "We just do like fun little games to help us really remember."
Instead, Miss Stokes brings in speakers, virtually and in person, and includes a lot of fun activities.
"Stickball, Cherokee marbles, you name it, they do it," said Roberts.
"Like making memes about the book that we read," said Terry. "It really helps us to relate to the book."
Miss Stokes is Cherokee and has been teaching Native American Literature for about six years. She was just recognized as a national award-winning teacher for her work inspiring students to learn.
"That's what drives me," Stokes said. "I discovered the students love learning the Cherokee language. They'll greet me in the hallways in Cherokee, say hello to me, and ask me how I am in Cherokee."
Her goal, she says, is to teach her students that Native Americans are different tribes, different people, and different languages — and all have something to offer.
"I want them to think of Native Americans as today, and they're surviving and thriving, not just a past tense idea," she said.