The Olympics hold a particular allure to twin sisters Linda and Karen Tucker.
Both teach special needs students for the Oklahoma City School District — Karen Tucker at Northwest Classen High School, and Linda Tucker in a residential program, working primarily at St. Anthony Hospital.
Through the years they have watched their students compete in the Special Olympics, and their students inspired them to travel to Athens, Greece, and to Rome to study the cultural impact of the ancient Games, they said.
"The whole city in Greece is built around the Olympics,” Karen Tucker said. "We hope that it will raise their self-esteem and their confidence,” she said, referring to how they will relay what they learned to the students.
Athens also will host the 2011 Special Olympics, her sister added.
The Tuckers received about $9,000 from the nonprofit organization Fund for Teachers to pay for their trip.
Fund for Teachers, which operates nationally, sponsored 95 trips this summer from Oklahoma. Individuals can apply for up to $5,000 in travel funds; teams of teachers can apply for double that amount.
The program encourages teachers to design professional development trips that will benefit their students when they return to the classroom.
Other Oklahoma City teachers this year traveled to European countries to study the Holocaust, important World War II locations and various cultural influences, and Florida to develop lessons based on marine organisms and ecosystems.
Stillwater High School teacher Daniel Zeroski joined the Tuckers in an Olympic-inspired quest, traveling to the host cities of London and Munich to meet with Olympic committee members and other health and fitness educators.
Now, after seeing the historical impact the Olympics can have, the Tuckers said they agree with widespread analysis that the current Beijing Olympics will have a cultural impact on China.
"They really do bring a lot of attention to themselves,” Karen Tucker said.