Retired teacher and principal Danny Hull has a unique way of bringing history to life in the classroom.
Watch your facts. The kids will catch you.
Retired educator Danny Hull says he’s learned a lot from youngsters during his 37-plus years in the classroom as a teacher, coach, administrator and storyteller. In his retirement, the beat goes on and he thoroughly enjoys the experience.
You see, there’s a difference between spinning yarns and telling stories, Hull said. Yarns can come off the top of your head. Storytelling must be researched. Factual accuracy is important because youngsters hearing the accounts will remember the tales for years to come.
“I’ve had kids come to me after graduation to talk about hearing stories when they were in grade school,” Hull said.
Hull said he’s found youngsters to be receptive, alert and very attentive during classroom story telling sessions. Among his multitude of experiences, he recalled an occasion when he was talking to students about the Trail of Tears, an account not usually found in textbooks or other publications. This account dealt with grandma’s death on the trail. Other members of the party continued the trip for a day or two before grandpa turned back, returning to bury his wife.
Hull’s story continued. The travelers arrived at the Mississippi River and “grandpa went out to cut down some trees to build a raft,” according to Hull’s account.
“But grandpa wasn’t with them. He went back to bury grandma,” an alert boy reminded him.
Originally from the Wilson area, Hull entered Murray State College as a chemical engineering major before going onto what is now the University of Central Oklahoma to graduate with a double major in natural sciences and social sciences, and qualified to teach both subjects.
Science and coaching were his beginning assignments at Jones before moving to Springer as a teacher, high school principal and superintendent for 12 years. He relocated to Lone Grove in 1980, serving 21 years as elementary principal and doubled up as federal grant writer. His grant writing continued after retirement and expanded to four other area schools.
Storytelling evolved from Hull’s studies for his master’s degree at Southeastern State. Limited options on a major put him into an American Way course, a historical study dated in the 1800-1840 era, primarily a research course. Hull got into several topics — the Mountain Men era, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Trail of Tears and gold rushes. He also learned his own Cherokee Indian heritage was scrapped several years ago when his great-grandmother denied the family heritage and signed off the tribal roll during the 1880s.
In his historical studies, Hull quickly learned mountain men frequently “embellished” their stories. Only by cross-checking could you arrive at factual accounts. He found Jedediah Smith and Jim Bridges related the most reliable story experiences.
Hull’s story telling began when Kitty Mitchell, an elementary teacher, invited him to “come and talk to my class.” Equipped with pictures and books from his studies and home library, the principal stepped into a new learning experience. Word passed from teacher to teacher created more “come talk to my class” invites.
Hull delights in “putting kids into his stories” by various techniques, such as creating a teepee with a rope circle on the floor to teach about Indian customs and traditions.
“Storytelling is as old as the human race,” Hull said.
“Kids are fascinated by storytelling. They (youngsters) are honest and animated in their feelings.”
Wilbert Wiggs, 221-6526