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Folger Shakespeare Library

Folger Shakespeare Library

By Mark Miazga

When I started my career, Shakespeare intimidated me. I became an English teacher in part to share my love of reading with students, but I never had loved reading Shakespeare.

I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but my entire 13 years of public and Catholic schooling in both southwest Michigan and suburban Detroit yielded just one Shakespeare play: a reading of Macbeth in the 10th grade.

And, even though I devoured books and mainly loved English classes, the experience with Shakespeare wasn’t a good one; I remember sitting in rows, reading the play aloud, my teacher explaining lines afterwards. Nothing else.

Flash forward a few years, and I’m a high school English teacher on my own in a large urban school in Baltimore City. I held my own, for the most part, but my teaching of Shakespeare felt like the weakness in my game.

Even though I used the Shakespeare Set Free series at times, I didn’t feel confident enough to take many of the risks that the series entailed. I spent way too much time trying to make kids understand the plot, and devoted much of my energy to explaining lines, just like that uninspiring teacher I had in the 10th grade.

By the end of the unit, I think my students could probably describe some foreshadowing or celestial imagery in Romeo and Juliet, but were they any more confident in reading Shakespeare the next time they picked up a play? Would they be going to a Shakespeare play on their own when it one was being performed around town? What would they remember about their experience with reading Shakespeare 10 years from now? It was definitely “not much”.

So I applied to the 2008 Teaching Shakespeare Institute, describing much of what I just told you: that Teaching Shakespeare was a bit scary to me and I wanted to be a better Shakespeare teacher.

And the four weeks here at the Folger changed my teaching life and continue to have an impact on my students and me every single unit that I teach.  (more…)

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Gabriel Fernandez

Gabriel Fernandez

Before the 2014  Teaching Shakespeare Institute began, we did a couple blog posts with some reflections from TSI alumni from 2010 and 1991.

Now, with the 2014 TSI behind us but still fresh in our minds, we’d like to share another set of reflections from a TSI alum, Gabriel Fernandez, who participated in the 2012 program.

Gabriel teaches for the Upward Bound program for future first generation college students in San Antonio, TX, at Palo Alto College and is currently developing a Shakespeare program for Boystown in San Antonio and the Juvenile Corrections Center in San Antonio. He has taught at the high school level for five years.

Here are some of his answers to the questions we asked.

How did TSI change the way you teach?

TSI made me more perceptive of my students’ needs in regards to Shakespeare and more engaging as a teacher of his works. It also brought me closer to the eternal questions that he continues to ask of every generation.

(more…)

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What is it about the Teaching Shakespeare Institute that led one alumnus to describe it as “the best way on the planet to learn more about Shakespeare and become a better teacher”?

We’re proud of the 30-year milestone that TSI reached this year, proud of the impact it’s made on American education since the first summer institute in 1984, and proud of the legacy it’s created.

And we’re proud of the latest crop of teachers to go through our program! We’d like to share some photos of the 25 educators who spent four weeks at the Folger this summer. What an amazing time for all!

These photos show teachers collaborating together, learning from scholars, investigating primary source material in the Folger’s Reading Rooms, challenging themselves with performance-based teaching techniques, and using technology to build effective classroom material.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

See even more photos in our Flickr gallery.

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As we draw near to the end of the first week of TSI, we wanted to give you a glimpse into how things are going so far.

The days are just packed! Our TSI teachers have acted on the Folger stage, looked through rare materials in our Reading Room, interacted with scholars in focused seminars, worked through curriculum ideas, and much more.

(more…)

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Mary Bevilacqua

Mary Bevilacqua

To celebrate the 30-year milestone for the Folger’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute, we’re doing a series of interviews with alumni.

A few days ago, we talked with Geoff Stanbury, who participated in the 2010 TSI program. For our next interview, we turned to Mary Bevilacqua, a 1991 TSI alum who was a teacher for 30 years. Mary taught 9th grade English and AP Literature for twelfth graders at Western High School in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

How did TSI change the way you teach?

TSI changed the way I teach because it gave me the confidence, the tools and the knowledge that enabled me to transform my classroom into a miniature TSI, complete with costumes, set designs, and not only reading, but also acting out the plays.  The best part: I did it with “regular” classes, along with gifted and AP. And I incorporated it in everything we studied, especially poetry.

(more…)

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As we anticipate our 2014 Teaching Shakespeare Institute, which starts on June 29, we’re spending some time reflecting over the last 30 years of the program, from when it first began in 1984. To celebrate this 30-year milestone, we’re doing a series of interviews with TSI graduates.

We got in touch with a TSI graduate from 2010 to see where he is now and to hear how his TSI experience has changed the way he teaches.

Geoff Stanbury

Geoff Stanbury

Geoff Stanbury currently teaches at St. Mark’s School of Texas and just finished his sixth year of teaching 7th grade humanities. Next year he’ll be teaching 9th, 11th, and 12th grade English. He says he’s “planning on imbuing classes with as much Shakespeare as possible” and hopes to launch a Shakespeare elective class.

Here are his answers to a few questions we asked:

1. How did TSI change the way you teach?

TSI got me to internalize the fact that it’s fun and productive to ignore convention within the classroom. As long as I can imagine how students could benefit from any particular activity, no matter how weird, than any such activity is a good one.

(more…)

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Folger Teaching Shakespeare InstituteIn 1984, the National Endowment for the Humanities funded the first Teaching Shakespeare Institute, a month-long summer program at the Folger for high school and middle school teachers from across the country. Thirty years later, TSI is still going strong.

This summer we’re commemorating three decades of tradition and celebrating how TSI has transformed the way Shakespeare is taught in American classrooms.

In coming weeks on this blog, we’ll be posting interviews with alumni from past TSI programs, leading up to TSI 2014, which begins June 29. Less than a month to go!

TSI began under Folger Education’s founding director, Peggy O’Brien, who left the Folger in 1994 but returned in 2013. O’Brien edited Shakespeare Set Free, a groundbreaking series packed with practical, specific teaching ideas written by TSI faculty and participants.

In past summers, participants have studied four Shakespeare plays—a play a week—from three essential perspectives: scholarship, performance, and the secondary school classroom. However, this summer the 25 teachers in TSI will undertake a more in-depth look at just two plays: Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night. Read more.

Are you a TSI alum? Send your photos to educate@folger.edu for a photo gallery that we’re creating to celebrate this 30-year milestone.

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