Faculty receive professional development grants

Last spring and summer, thanks to grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Stanton Foundation, several Lauralton teachers had the opportunity to sit on the other side of the desk and experience the thrill of being a student. Social studies teacher Marilyn Cummings received a $5,000 grant from the Stanton Foundation’s Innovation in Civics Education program; religion teacher Elizabeth Burns received an NEH grant to attend a seminar on Punishment, Politics, and Culture at Amherst College and religion teacher Jennifer Madray received an NEH Grant to attend Religious Worlds of New York 2012, a seminar sponsored by the Interfaith Center of New York that explored American Religious Diversity.

“Faculty culture is an incredibly important component of any academic program,” says Lauralton Academic Dean Cynthia Gallant. “A faculty focused on lifelong professional growth provides an energy without which education is lifeless—a collection of books and lectures, assignments and assessments. At Lauralton, faculty enthusiasm runs high and teachers are excited to undertake new learning opportunities, especially during summer vacation. While the school provides significant support for professional development, we are proud that our faculty also seek out and receive grants which provide them with even further opportunities.”

The core concept of the Stanton Foundation’s Innovation in Civics Education program is to identify teachers who are innovators, giving them resources to pass along creative ideas to their students. In addition to providing funds to purchase iPads for the school, the grant allowed Marilyn Cummings to attend several workshops focusing on use of technology in the classroom including an Authentic Education UbD Technology workshop. She also participated in numerous webinars and an online class on iPads in the classroom. “The workshops and courses were inspiring,” said Mrs. Cummings. “I am eager to begin incorporating iPads into lessons to inspire student interest in civics, which is especially important during an election year.”

Mrs. Cumming’s students will be competing in activities such as the Constitution Scavenger Hunt, which utilizes the Constitution App to explore the principles of the Constitution. They will also be using several election apps such as the 270 to Win app which allows students to reconfigure electoral votes for states to predict possible election outcomes.

Religion teacher Jennifer Madray is equally excited to share her summer learning experience with her students. “I was overjoyed to be selected to attend the NEH Summer Institute – Religious Worlds on New York 2012, as it directly related to our purpose for offering Comparative Religions at Lauralton Hall,” said Ms. Madray.  Sponsored by the Interfaith Center of New York, the three week seminar focused on exploring the world’s religions by studying religious diversity in New York City.” The seminar also focused on curriculum development and incorporated several site visits, including the Hindu Temple Society of North America, the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun Synagogue and Chogyesa Zen Temple. “It was an outstanding experience,” adds Ms. Madray. “The seminar conveyed the depth and complexity of contemporary religious life, which has inspired and invigorated my teaching approach to the study of Comparative Religions.”

Spending one’s summer vacation studying punishment may not be on the top of everyone’s list, but Religion teacherMs. burns (center) at NEH Ceminar Elizabeth Burns jumped at the opportunity when she learned she had received an NEH grant to attend a seminar at Amherst College. “The intent of the seminar, Punishment, Politics, and Culture—was to examine the nature and limits of punishment as well as its place in the American story,” said Ms. Burns. “We used a variety of material to explore the sociological, historical and literary treatment of punishment that engages pressing legal, political, and cultural issues in contemporary American society. The seminar addressed critical questions about punishment that not only provided material for lively debate, but also provided valuable resources that I will incorporate when teaching.”

Lauralton faculty’s professional development experiences will reach far beyond their own classrooms, as they will share their knowledge and resources with other faculty and students. According to Ms. Burns, “The seminar will not only influence the way that I incorporate the topics of human dignity, prisons, discrimination, civil disobedience, conscience, and the death penalty into my curriculum, it will impact the way that I respond when a student breaks a rule. I will also meet with an AP Lit class and discuss punishment as it relates to the novel Beloved.”


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