Moore Teachers Become Students
It was a twist when 25 teaching professionals left their classrooms this fall to become students. The Sandhills branch of the English-Speaking Union (E-SU), a longtime advocate for classroom teachers, recently provided Moore County teachers with an all-expenses paid day of training.
The subject was William Shakespeare. Within 24 hours of being announced, the workshop was filled with 12 middle school teachers and 13 high school teachers.
"How to teach Shakespeare effectively to eager minds is critically needed for many teachers countrywide," said Jim Williford, one of the seminar's sponsors. "We want to thank Dr. Susan Purser, superintindent of Moore County Schools, for her support of this unique seminar and for funding the substitute teachers."
This educational seminar was led by Dr. Cynthia Lewis, professor of English, at Davidson College. With a doctorate from Harvard, many scholarly publications, and her work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, she brought many insightful techniques to the teachers. The day started with diverse interpretation theories, how to motivate students about Shakespeare, and ended with a well-received dramatic interpretation exercise in the afternoon.
The idea for the seminar represents a joint effort of Jim Williford, who sits on the local and national Education Committees for E-SU, and Ann Petersen, who teaches English at Pinecrest High School. The E-SU sends at least one Moore County teacher to study in England each year.
Williford maintains connections with many previous E-SU scholars.
"The E-SU is always interested in supporting our teaching professionals," he said. "When Ann Petersen, a former E-SU scholar, approached me this summer, saying she would welcome more continuing education courses focusing on content knowledge of Shakespeare and effective methods on how to teach Shakespeare, I knew that E-SU would want to support that need. We had already planted that seed for middle school teachers to introduce Shakespeare, and we wanted to enhance that initiative. Rachel Tuynman, one of our past E-SU scholars, had done a magnificent job of teaching Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night' to her seventh- and eighth-graders. The prose and graphics of these young students were most impressive to our committee members."
Both Petersen and Tuyman had attended the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival last fall in High Point, where Dr. Lewis was a presenter on the themes of "Romeo and Juliet."
"She (Dr. Lewis) greatly affected my approach to teaching "Romeo and Juliet,'" said Petersen. "Her presentation was lively, and her theories of the drama appealed to students. I knew I would be a more effective teacher after spending one hour listening to her."
The attendees of the workshop, held at the Weymouth Center, enjoyed a catered lunch, a free set of books covering the five Shakespearean dramas, and a stroll through the beautiful Weymouth gardens. Petersen was effusive in her praise.
"The location was wonderful, the food was excellent, and the speaker was captivating," she said. "I will incorporate much of what I learned into my teaching. It was rewarding and renewing."
Teachers filled out a brief survey at the end of the workshop. When asked in the final survey to comment on the content, venue, and food, one teacher simply wrote, "Wow!"
Shakespeare would have appreciated the brevity.
For more information on the E-SU organization, monthly programs and educational opportunities available at The English-Speaking Union, contact Jim Williford at (910) 315-1492 or Polly Schechter at (910) 295-8356.
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