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In the News: Monterey Co. 8th grade history teachers become students for a day, learn about Hamilton

Thousands of 8th grade students in Monterey County are getting the opportunity to see the smash hit “Hamilton” at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco. On Tuesday, teachers were in their own classroom for an all-day crash course on the founding father and titular character, Alexander Hamilton.

“Just like the kids are going to learn about Hamilton, I’m learning stuff about him I didn’t even realize,” said Lulu Brigham, a history teacher at San Benancio Middle School in Salinas.

“Learning about new ways to bring the content to them to make it accessible and to build connections,” expressed Matt Garcia about teaching his students the new content. Garcia is a history teacher at Vista Verde Middle School in Greenfield.

Dr. Linzy Brekke-Aloise is the project director for teaching History with Hamilton from Stonehill College. She was brought in to lead the intensive course, teaching about Hamilton inside and out.

“They’re learning how to engage students in the musical before, during and after as part of the 8th grade U.S. history curriculum,” explained Jennifer Elemen, the Educational Administrator for the Monterey County Office of Education. “We’re aligning engaging lesson resources to standards in the state of California. So, that students are prepared to understand the meaning behind the musical.”

This is an all-expenses paid trip by the Dan and Lillian King Foundation.

“Being perfectly candid, a year ago I didn’t think we could pull this off and we have,” said Stephen Collins, the Executive Director of the Dan and Lillian King Foundation. “The experience for these students, the enthusiasm of the educators and the Monterey County Office of Education is unbelievable. So, we’re doing this. It's never been done anywhere else in the United States according to what we’ve been told by the Orpheum and others. I mean this is really a landmark sort of thing.”

Teachers, like David Burke from North Monterey County Middle School, know how much this experience means to students. He says there’s one student in particular that was ecstatic when she heard the news.

“She literally screamed out and said how it just made her life. She actually broke into tear,” said Burke.

The hope for some teachers who haven’t seen the musical is to build a brand-new connection with students.

“I’m excited for me on a personal level to go see Hamilton,” said Brigham. “To be able to share that with the kids, we have something in common in terms of what we can experience and talk about together.”

There will be multiple trips for this performance. The first group of students will go on September 18.