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An inquirED Blog

Exploring the Lasting Power of Stories

The Power fo Stories in the Classroom

In a recent Special Teacher Appreciation Webinar, we had the chance to deep-dive into the world of storytelling with Julie Burstein, a Peabody Award-winning producer and co-creator of PRI's Studio 360. We were also joined by Libby King, a theatre-maker and member of The Team and Nedra Marie Taylor, known for her roles in Book of Mormon, Invasion, and Orange Is the New Black, for a special performance from Live from Mt. Olympus, a podcast from the Onassis Foundation that retells classic stories from mythology.


Key Takeaways

  • Stories in education have a lasting impact, connecting individuals to each other and the world, offering new perspectives, and deepening understanding.

  • Effective storytelling surprises us, providing the “Aha moments” that help us think and perceive in new ways.

  • Stories serve as mirrors and windows, reflecting personal experiences and offering us views into the experiences of others.

The Essence of Storytelling with Julie Burstein

Julie Burstein shared valuable insights with us into what makes stories truly powerful and enduring. According to Burstein, the ability to surprise and connect us are the key elements of effective storytelling. "Stories," she explained, "connect us not just to each other but to the world around us, offering new perspectives and deepening our understanding of our place within it." This connection is what makes stories an essential tool in teaching, as they can significantly shape and influence our perspectives.

The power of a well-told story, especially in an educational setting, can be transformative, serving both as a mirror and a window — reflecting our own experiences while offering glimpses into the lives and experiences of others.

Impactful Teacher Stories

We invited attendees to share their stories (via chat) of the teachers who impacted their lives. To honor those teachers, we are sharing these stories again here:

  • Mrs. Cleveland from Lawrence High School in Lawrence, Kansas.  She was why I became an English teacher. She had such  passion for literature and set such high expectations.

  • My high school French teacher could raise one eyebrow when necessary.  She let me take two years of French independent study since. I majored in French, English, and Latin for my BA degree.

  • 12th-grade Psychology/Sociology teacher, Mr. David Dembowski - I was going on vacation during the chapter on women's studies (which I absolutely LOVED, and he knew it). Instead of making me take a test on material I hadn't learned, he asked me to give a presentation to the class on any women's studies topic before I left. He requested 15-20 minutes, but I ended up speaking for the entire period, and I enjoyed EVERY minute of it. I wouldn't have had that lightbulb moment if he hadn't given me that opportunity.

  • Prof. Harold Garrett-Goodyear renewed my interest in history and taught me to ask the question "Why not?" in terms of considering how we do things and how we can change the world.

  • Mr. Uhlenkott (Mr. U) helped me through a major transition - moving to a new state - through humor and story (Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH)

  • My band Teacher gave me the confidence to be myself. He helped to find my value and place in the world.

  • Mr. Becker, my high school government teacher who helped spark my love of history and civics. He was not only a help in high school but in guiding me through college and graduate school.

  • A big shoutout to my biology teacher who always supported me, giving me high self-esteem and belief in myself and my potential. Nothing is impossible to achieve, and always remember, 'I can do it!'

"Live from Mount Olympus" – A Modern Take on Greek Myths

We wrapped up the webinar with a performance from the award-winning podcast "Live from Mount Olympus", produced in collaboration with the Onassis Foundation. This particular episode reimagined the story of Pandora, challenging traditional interpretations and offering a fresh perspective.

Live from Mt.

Actors Libby King and Nedra Marie Taylor brought this narrative to life, showcasing the podcast's commitment to exploring Greek myths through a contemporary lens. 

For those interested in hearing more from "Live from Mount Olympus" is available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. It's a rich resource for educators looking to integrate engaging narratives into their curriculum and for anyone eager to explore the depths of storytelling.

Watch the Webinar Recording

Our webinar underscored the significance of storytelling in educational contexts and beyond. Through the insights shared by Julie Burstein and the stories recounted by participants, it's clear that storytelling remains an important way to connect individuals and shape perspectives. Watch the full webinar below..

About inquirED

inquirED was founded by teachers with the mission of bringing inquiry-based social studies to every classroom. Inquiry Journeys, inquirED’s elementary social studies curriculum, is used in schools and districts across the country to help students develop deep social studies content knowledge and build the inquiry skills that are essential for a thriving democracy.


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