Last month, North Zulch ISD world history and English language arts teacher Joan Osth was selected to attend a prestigious professional development institute in San Antonio sponsored by Humanities Texas.
Osth participated in “Teaching the American Literary Tradition,” which took place from June 11 until June 14.
“From a teaching perspective, this was extremely enriching for me,” said Osth. “My background is in history and journalism, but I also teach English now as well, so being able to further my knowledge in that field was helpful.”
The institute focused on topics and skills central to the state’s high school English language arts curriculum. Topics included the American Renaissance, the literature of the Civil War era and the Gilded Age, the Harlem Renaissance, American writing during World Wars I and II, contemporary American fiction and poetry and how American life is portrayed not only in literature but also music, drama, television and film.
“It was exciting to get together with these teachers and just talk about some of this stuff,” said Osth. “I think it is easy to get caught up in the ‘teaching, teaching, teaching’ part of it, so it is terrific to go back to learning about it.”
Distinguished scholars from universities across the nation spoke to and worked with the teachers during the Institute. It offered dynamic presentations, probing discussions and focused seminars in which scholars and teachers developed strategies for engaging students. Poet Joe Jimenez and National Book Award finalist John Phillip Santos were two of the guests who were in attendance.
“The speakers were experts and extremely knowledgable with specific focuses,” said Osth. “It was refreshing to talk to somebody who was so well-versed in their information as well as approachable. They wanted to share their craft and I think they were chosen because of their ability to present it the way they did.”
It was certainly a great experience for Osth personally, but the overarching goal of the Institute is to benefit the students.
“The information was one thing, but the most important questions was how are we going to bring this back to our kids,” said Osth. “Some material could come off as boring or dry, so how could we make it more enticing?”
One had to apply in order to attend the Institute. The application included multiple questions for the teachers to answer and several hundred applied. Her meals and transportation costs were covered and she stayed in a dorm room at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Humanities Texas is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Its mission is to advance education through programs that improve the quality of classroom teaching, support libraries and museums and create opportunities for lifelong learning for all Texans.