By Greg Hunt
This week, Braham Spanish teacher Deb Thompson will be in Washington D.C. to serve on a panel hosted by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The panel, selected from a nationwide pool of high school and college instructors, is tasked with a final evaluation of proposed educational seminars and institutes to be offered by the NEH in 2012.
Thompson has been teaching Spanish in Braham for 25 years, and she began that first year teaching interactive TV classes to other schools. Continuing ever since, this year her ITV course reaches to students in Hancock and Campbell-Tintah in western Minnesota.
“Several years ago, I started applying for NEH seminars and institutes for K-12 teachers. These are summer opportunities that last between two and six weeks. They include foreign languages, historical topics, social studies, English and music. The seminars and institutes are open to all K-12 teachers, administrators, media center specialists and counselors.
Seminars are more scholarly-oriented. Institutes are more classroom-oriented with curriculum creation. The end result of either format is creating something to bring back to the classroom.
“What I brought from two years ago studying Don Quixote in Binghamton, New York was a different way to look at reading which so critical right now for students– how to make them and myself a better reader. That was just an awesome experience. To meet with someone from California, Chicago, Texas or New York and share the love of our subject.
“The seminars are a lot of work, but we’re encouraged to tour the area to learn more. So we went to New York City to see Spanish manuscripts. We went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You never know where you’re going to end up.”
Stipends for all domestic sessions are covered by the NEH. There are also international sessions available which a portion of the costs need to be covered by attendees.
For teachers who would have a tough time breaking away for four or six weeks in the summer, NEH also offers landmark series. The five-to-seven days sessions are held all over the U.S. – including a recent one on Minnesota’s Iron Range.
“Those are a great chance to do a mini-unit and get a taste of NEH,” said Thompson.
Along with attending an earlier NEH seminar, Thompson’s selection to this week’s panel was enhanced by her standing as a world language teacher with a minor in history, along with her ITV experience.
“They (the NEH) know a lot about you when they call. I was recommended by my professor from New York. And I know that because I e-mailed him and asked, ‘How did this happen?’ and he replied, ‘Have a good time– you deserve it.’”
In preparation for the panel, Thompson has been evaluating and rating 21 proposals online since early March (the proposals range from 70 to 100 pages in length). Her panel, one of eight descending on D.C., is comprised of three college professors and two K-12 teachers. The NEH will then take the panel’s advisement to determine the final seminars and institutes for the 2012 season.
“They are very, very friendly people to work with. I am going to stay one extra day, at my own expense, since my sister is going with. On Saturday, we’ll be seeing a little bit of Washington D.C. Well, I’ll be on working at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave.– the NEH is in an old post office building– so just down the road is something else that I want to go see!” laughed Thompson.
“The big thing I’d like to promote is to get more teachers from this area attending the NEH offerings. The 2012 list will be available in November, and you have until March to submit an application. We need more Midwestern involvement, and the stipend almost covers all the costs,” said Thompson.
She finished, “I have two very good friends from the New York experience which came out of my NEH seminar attendance. We exchange curriculum, lesson plans, we send books back and forth, so it’s really been a boon to me and my teaching skills have these relationships.”