College plans back-to-school weekend for teachers

The College is set to begin a “Teachers as Scholars” program, allowing College professors and local district teachers to discuss scholarly topics in four specific two-day seminars.

Funded by a $15,000 grant from the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation, the College will host four seminars designed to stimulate conversation about topics such as the Civil War, slavery, perspectives on “Moby-Dick” after 9/11, and ancient writings. If the program goes well, the College may receive an additional $15,000 to fund another set of seminars next year.

Originating at Harvard University in 1998, the “Teachers as Scholars” program now exists at 28 colleges and universities nationwide, including such institutions as Princeton University, Fordham University and the University of Illinois.

“We are in very good company,” Robert Bartoletti, director of the event and a director for the Teacher Education Programs department, said. “It is a great opportunity for teachers as well as the College.”

Bartoletti is responsible for bringing this program to the College. “I feel it will rekindle the teachers’ passion for learning,” Bartoletti said. “The teaching and learning is going to be a give-and-take relationship. Hopefully, they will go back and become better teachers.”

Four professors will represent the College by hosting seminar topics about which they are knowledgeable and passionate. Nineteen teachers will be given “the honor” to attend each seminar, Bartoletti said.

Prior to their two-day seminar, visiting teachers will be given reading material to enhance their understanding of a topic. Only one teacher from each district will be chosen to attend each seminar. Bartoletti made clear that there will be no lecturing during the program, rather there will be open discussions and group activities.

Bartoletti said the opportunity is also open for any professor, regardless of his or her field of study, to create additional seminars.

David Blake, associate professor of English, will be running one of the seminars, titled “Moby-Dick: Before and After 9/11.” “Teachers are often given a chance to improve their professional skills at workshops,” Blake said. “However, what we do not give teachers a lot of is intellectual stimulation.”

Blake said he looks forward to interacting with fellow teachers who have a passion for learning. He said he has been teaching “Moby-Dick” for 20 years, but it was not until a few years ago when a student brought in a video on American-Muslim relations that he began to view the book from a different perspective.

“The terrorist bombings have made Americans more aware of the way other nations perceive us, particularly the Muslim world,” he said. With the help of themes found within the novel, Blake hopes to generate discussion about the topic.

Cassandra Jackson, assistant professor of English, said it is important to foster growth in teachers as well as students. “We need to allow (teachers) space to explore intellectually,” Jackson said. She will hold a seminar about remembering slavery through the works of various African-American writers and visual artists.

She said the “Teachers for Scholars” program should provide an outlet for passionate teachers to learn, grow and become students again. “It is not often you have the opportunity to come full circle and make contact with teachers,” Jackson said.