Four Lawrence High School teachers spent several weeks on the other side of the desk this summer when they attended seminars sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Exhilarated by their experiences, the teachers now are eager to share what they learned with their students.
French teacher Judy Henderson and English teachers Art Sloan, Edith Bogart and Janet Mody all were awarded NEH fellowships to participate in the 1992 program of Summer Seminars for Teachers. In every case, an NEH stipend covered all or most of the teacher's expenses.
SLOAN WENT to Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, for a five-week seminar on "Studies in American Culture, 1930-45."
"The whole theme of the seminar was how between 1930 and 1945 America tried to return to the Jeffersonian agrarian dream that America was," Sloan said.
Sloan said the art and writings of the period are marked by "the celebration of the physical land of America and the idea of people tilling the soil and producing their own food."
Seminar participants studied the paintings of Philip Evergood, whose works were a social commentary on how factory life had corrupted the innocence of America.
"To think that the government paid him to paint these very anti-industrial paintings as part of the Federal Arts Project is very amazing," Sloan said.
SEMINAR participants also studied "Appalachian Spring," the ballet by Aaron Copland and choreographed by Martha Graham; "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men," a book of photographs and texts about tenant cotton farmers during the Depression; and "Their Eyes Were Watching God," a novel by Zore Neale Hurston about blacks living in Florida.
What Sloan learned, he said, will come in useful in teaching his 20th-century literature and humanities classes.
"I'll be using every bit of it at some point," Sloan said.
BOGART WENT to the University of North Carolina, where she took part in a six-week seminar on "Beowulf and the Heroic Age."
"It was a wonderful experience. It was one of the best times of my educational career," said Bogart, who has taught at LHS for 18 years.
At that seminar, participants practiced Old English, discussed the Beowulf saga, an epic poem penned by an anonymous author, looked at the influence of Christianity on Beowulf and other heroes of the Middle Ages, and looked at what people of that era looked for in a hero.
Bogart said that although the epic tale of Beowulf is a somewhat violent and gory one, Beowulf did have one outstanding quality that she would like to see more of today.
"It was all right for a young hero to boast, but he had better follow through, and Beowulf did," Bogart said. "If every person were as good as his word, the world would be a better place."
MODY TRAVELED just up the hill to Kansas University for a four-week seminar on "American Women as Writers: Wharton and Cather." Seminar participants studied the works of Edith Wharton, 1862-1937, and Willa Cather, 1873-1947.
Cather's "The Sound of the Lark" is a somewhat autobiographical novel about a girl born in a small Midwestern town who gains importance and leaves. Although that character became an opera prima donna instead of a writer like Cather, Mody said, "They both experienced many of the same artistic ambitions and frustrations."
One of the most exciting parts of the seminar, she said, was going to Red Cloud, Neb., which Mody described as "a living museum of places depicted in `The Sound of the Lark' and in other stories."
HENDERSON WENT to Paris for a four-week seminar on Jean Moliere, the 17th-century French playwright and actor.
"It was one of the highlights of my teaching career," Henderson said. "In addition to the excellent class sessions, I was able to visit many places in Paris connected with the 17th century and several chateaux on the outskirts of Paris."
Henderson said the seminar has made her much more enthusiastic about all her classes.
"It's given me a real boost in my proficiency, and I really hope to introduce more literature than I had before to my French classes," Henderson said. "I think it's really wonderful that high school teachers are getting the attention of these endowments."