OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Teachers are getting ready to head back to the classroom, but not without learning some key lessons themselves.

Friday culminated the end of the Clara Luper Teacher Institute , offering OKC teachers a primer on the history, methodology and civic engagement of Clara Luper, a civic leader, schoolteacher, and pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement.

Luper was a high school teacher in Oklahoma City, as well as a civil rights activist and advisor for the Youth Council of the Oklahoma City NAACP.

She is well-known for organizing The Katz Drug Store sit-in during the civil rights movement.

The non-violent protests led to the desegregation of Katz Drug Stores and opened the door to the desegregation of Oklahoma City lunch counters, businesses, and other public spaces for the next several years.

“Clara Luper was known as a master teacher [and] a legendary educator who taught a generation of students not just how to sit in but also how to be excellent at everything that they do,” said Dr. Karlos Hill, facilitator.

“That’s the legacy that she leaves behind and that’s the legacy that we try to share,” he added.

Drawing on the life and legacy of Luper, the week-long experience was a collaboration with Oklahoma City Public Schools, The Clara Luper Legacy Committee and Restorative Justice Insitute of Oklahoma.

Teachers examined the history and methodology of Clara Luper’s legacy in and out of the classroom through a range of topics:

  • This history of Clara Luper
  • The methodology and civic engagement of Clara Luper
  • Non-violence as a change strategy
  • Navigating difficult conversations
  • Expecting excellence
  • Student Engagement
  • State Standards and lesson building

“We have to be able to respect, honor and appreciate each other in our democracy. What they do in the classroom will stay with these young people for the rest of their lives,” said Clara Luper’s daughter, Marilyn Luper.

One participating teacher from Star Spencer High School said she hoped her experience would help her push her students to go beyond their usual boundaries.

“If we did not have the framework that we’ve learned from the Clara Luper Institute and Freedom Classroom, I don’t think that many of us would be prepared to go into the classroom as effective as we will. Right now, we are energized,” said Dr. Christina Kirk.

“My scholars know that when I say ‘Go be great somewhere else‘, they’re really going to go and be great somewhere else in a different space,” she added.

“This institute has validated that for me. It made me feel like what I’m doing in the classroom is going to live beyond me, because it’s never really about me. It’s about them in the first place.”

Oklahoma City will commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Katz Drugstore Sit-In in August.