The winners of this year’s JASP Teacher Scholarship are Valerie Person of Currituck County High School in Barco, NC and Christina Geradts of St. Thomas More Academy in Raleigh, NC. Congratulations! The winners received full tuition for the Jane Austen Summer Program 2014. These two scholarships were funded by the proceeds of last year’s silent auction, and were organized by Ronnie Jackson. Thank you, Ronnie!
Below are excerpts about their experiences teaching Austen in High School.
Valerie Person: “I teach primarily English II and AP Literature and Composition to seniors at Currituck County High School in Barco, NC. Last summer, I attended the first Jane Austen Summer Program which highlighted Pride and Prejudice and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was able to attend with a colleague who teaches with me, and traveling together helped reduce our costs. This year, I would like to attend but if I do, I will be attending by myself. Although I enjoyed all of the program last year, two parts stand out in their helpfulness to me as an ELA teachers. Having the small group discussions with grad students over the four days was awesome. I took copious notes and considered so many aspects of P and P that I was able to bring home to my students. We read P and P in AP Lit and Comp. I’ve not taught Sense and Sensibility before, but if the program with it is even close to what I experienced with P and P last summer, I would very much want to try it with my AP Lit and Comp students. I love being a learner myself, experiencing a new work of literature as a newbie, just as my students do. It keeps me humble and reminds me of what it’s like from their perspective to read and analyze a text.
The second part of the program that directly benefitted my students was learning some of the dances for the ball we had. I was able to share some of the steps of the dances with students, and that combined with what we were able to Youtube made it possible for my AP Lit students to learn a dance as we were reading the novel. As a creative teacher, I aim to help bring a novel to life for students. Their engagement increases ten-fold when they view the characters and conflicts beyond the pages of ink. Virginia Woolf said that teaching without zest is a crime. Receiving a scholarship to attend this summer’s Jane Austen Summer Program would give me the resources to add more zest to the Jane Austen unit I teach. Specifically, I would like to have my students hold a ball in the unit this next year and invite other students and teachers to attend. Participating in the Jane Austen Summer Program will equip me with resources to do just that.”
Christina Geradts: “I currently teach Ancient Literature (9th grade) and Modern European Literature (11th grade) at St. Thomas More Academy in Raleigh, NC. In my junior class, we read Austen’s Mansfield Park each year, and it is always a highlight for me. It’s actually one of my very favorite novels, but I remember completely disliking it the first time I read it, as Fanny Price infuriated me. I then came to realize that the reason for this is because I am actually very similar to Fanny, and I saw a lot of her flaws in myself. It’s a longer story than there’s room for here, but the point is that I find it [my initial experience with Mansfield Park] helpful to relate to students who do not like the book and are having a tough time with it. I find that, generally, several students absolutely love Austen, and a good chunk absolutely does not. Regardless of students liking or disliking the text, one of my favorite things I have done for the past two years is dedicate a class period to pure, student-led discussion on the text, in conjunction with a tea party. Students bake scones and bring in tea, everybody sits down in a discussion circle, and for some reason, each year this provides the most fruitful discussion. I’m trying to find ways for the students to really connect with the characters and the lifestyle the novel portrays. I’m hoping that this conference will help give me a few more ideas of how to make Austen more accessible in the classroom. I am even considering offering an Austen elective next year at my school, so I am hopeful that this conference will help give me some ideas for that!”