EDMOND — Grant Gower gave a lecture to his U.S. History class at Deer Creek High School on former President Woodrow Wilson, his Fourteen Points speech and the League of Nations on Monday.
Then Gower left the room to get his “guest speaker.”
After a few moments of anticipation, a voice boomed from outside the classroom.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson,” the voice said.
And in came Gower, dressed as the 28th president, with “Hail to the Chief” blaring from his iPhone speaker.
Gower, Deer Creek's head football coach, books all the best speakers for his classes.
Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Richard Nixon and Will Rogers are among the roughly 12 historical figures that annually visit Room 109 at Deer Creek High School.
Gower taught math for the first part of his career and then entered administration. When he came back to the classroom about 10 years ago, he began teaching history.
“It really is a way to get students motivated and get them involved,” Gower said. “In algebra, it's hard to come in as Pythagoras.”
Gower said he got the idea from the 1980s movie “Teachers.” In the movie, a teacher named Mr. Gower teaches history by dressing up as historical figures.
Wilson, a more academic president, is much tamer than some of Gower's other, more outlandish, characters. He recently came in as Theodore Roosevelt, the boisterous, adventurous 26th president.
After the Christmas break, Gower will come — in a wheelchair — as Franklin Roosevelt, the polio stricken president during the Great Depression and World War II.
“That is to illustrate that you can overcome anything,” Gower said of the wheelchair.
The first “guest” Gower has each year is Senator Henry Clay, known in his time for his powerful public speaking.
“He comes about the third or fourth day,” Gower said, adding, in character, “He talks about the ‘Compromise of 1850.'
“That's a big one to grab them; ‘Oh, OK. This isn't going to just be a traditional history class.'
“A big part of it is trying to bring some personalities to the textbook.”
To pull these acts off, Gower has to significantly change his voice. For Wilson, from New Jersey, he took on a Northeastern accent.
“God blessed me with the ability to use my voice in different ways,” said Gower, who also serves as Deer Creek's basketball announcer.
In addition to giving his students a unique way to learn history, Gower is fighting a stereotype.
“I'm trying to erase some of that stigma, of ‘Oh, he's a coach,'” Gower said. “Particularly as a head football coach, some might think that's all I do, instead of actually having an academic impact.”
Teaching and coaching go hand-in-hand, Gower said, because a lot of the skills you need to do one can apply to the other.
“The goal of all of this is that hopefully students will remember the League of Nations this way,” Gower said. “Hopefully they'll remember the elements of Teddy Roosevelt. I hope this can help trigger their memories.”