Poetry Fridays: Summer Programs for Teachers

July 8, 2011

Michele Russo, Poetry Coordinator

Our blog today focuses on some of the most important professionals in our society—teachers.  The demands of being a teacher make it feel like a juggling challenge where every few minutes someone throws something new at you.  First it’s a few tennis balls: teaching students, managing the classroom, and assessing learning, which is plenty!  Then add in testing.  And parent conferences.  And budget crises.  Before you know it, you’re juggling three tennis balls, a live chicken, a block of ice and a bowl of spaghetti.  Phew!  The Dodge Poetry Staff, some of whom are former teachers, recognizes teachers for all they do.   We want to tell you about two summer programs which make it possible for teachers to recharge their batteries—creatively and intellectually–over the summer.

The Artist/Teacher Institute (aTi), co-sponsored by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and Arts Horizons, immerses educators and artists in a variety of art forms including book arts, creative movement, dance, music, printmaking, storytelling, theater, mixed media and writing. Held over two weeks at Rutgers Camden and William Paterson in Wayne, aTi’s atmosphere is warm and collegial.  I know from personal experience—I attended aTi in 2009 and 2010 in Camden.  I was thrilled to take poetry workshops with Peter Murphy, who provides the perfect blend of validation, inspiration and challenge.  And I also dabbled in book arts and collage with Mary Phelan and Barbara Bullock, two outstanding artists who helped a visual art newbie like me make artworks that meant something to me.  aTi celebrates everyone’s achievements and efforts on the last day, when everyone shares their work in performances, exhibits and readings.  Registration for the Camden session (August 1-12) is open, and scholarships may be available.

The next program is one I’ve had my eye on for years.  I’ve often wished I was a teacher just so I could take it.  The New Jersey Council for the Humanities (NJCH), the state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, offers summertime Teacher Seminars–six-day residential programs that provide in-depth exploration of topics in the humanities. The 2011 Seminars are: Race in American History and Culture: New Perspectives (July 10-15); Narratives of Immigration: Latino/a Lives (July 17-22); Poverty, Affluence, and the American Dream (July 24-29); and Adolescent and Young Adult Literature (July 31-August 5). The educators for this program are experts in their field—our own board member Clement Price, Professor of History and Director of the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience at Rutgers University, Newark happens to be one of them.  Seminars are tuition-free; housing, meals, and books are included. Participants in all seminars can earn 45 professional development credits and stipends. Participants have the opportunity to submit a research paper for graduate credit.  The only expense is a modest registration fee.  If you’re interested, contact MaryGrace Whealan at mwhealan@njch.org or 609-695-4838.

One more thing we wanted to tell you about is the NJ Humanities Teacher of the Year Award.  The award is given each year to an exemplary elementary, middle, or high school educator involved with teaching the humanities in New Jersey.  The winner receives at $1000 prize and is honored at the annual NJCH Awards Event in October at the Montclair Art Museum. More information is here.

Our Clearing the Spring, Tending the Fountain teachers have told us the summer is their time to catch up on the stack of poetry books they’ve been meaning to read, and for some, to do their own writing.  What will you do this summer to recharge? We’d love to know.