By Jennifer Abella
If you’re thinking of applying for the Jane Austen Summer Program’s teacher scholarships, don’t wait too long: The deadline to apply is April 4!
Our teacher scholarships are a great way for educators to meet scholars, avid readers and fellow teachers — and to soak up all the Austen they can to bring back to their students.
We caught up with two of our 2015 scholarship winners to see how their year has gone since attending the 2015 program, which focused on “Emma.”
Anita Curry: The ‘me time’ teachers often lose
Anita Curry, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Knox Middle School in Salisbury, N.C., has been teaching full time for seven years and part time for two.
For Curry, the Jane Austen Summer Program took her out of her comfort zone. Austen wasn’t assigned reading for Curry in high school or college, and she had never attended such a program before. “[Austen] was someone I heard a lot about, so I was curious to see exactly how the Jane-ites were. I knew that if I liked what I saw, I could bring something back to my students.”
Curry says the program afforded her “the “me time” that we, as teachers, often lose.” “I was not forced to be a teacher while I was there,” she says. She added that if she had had to read Austen’s novels to prepare for “teacher mode,” she would have “lost some of the fun that came with the literature that some deem as difficult.”
Curry says she liked being able to interact other literature lovers. “That was special to me because I was with people that love literature and were not teachers.”
Although Curry hasn’t incorporated Austen into her classes yet, she has applied some of the ideas from the program to other pieces of literature. “For example, I was able to re-create a scene from a book like we did at the [Box Hill] picnic and the Regency ball. When we read ‘The Taming of the Shrew,’ I was able to show my students how people in the Elizabethan era dressed and looked.”
Curry has some advice for this year’s scholarship winners: Keep an open mind, whether it’s trying a new food (for Curry, it was scones) or learning to dance for the Regency ball. “I am not even the best person to learn a choreographed dance routine,” Curry says, “but I tried my best and we had a great time.”
“For a few days, I allowed myself to transport to a time period that is very different from what I am accustomed to. I lived, ate and spoke in the same manner that my characters did.”
Looking back at the program, Curry suggests that teachers allow literature to come alive. “If you can make it come alive for you, with just a few touches, your students will come to love (or at least listen to) what you love.”
Paulette McMahan: ‘The magic, the richness of Jane’
Paulette McMahan is a 25-year teacher who teaches AP English, Junior English Honors, English IV at Mitchell High School in Bakersville, N.C., about 60 miles northeast of Asheville.
McMahan says the assistant superintendent of her district shared the program with staff. “I had much hope to be included because Jane Austen is the go-to author for all my friends and family.”
Last year’s JASP was McMahan’s first time at such an event, although she has traveled to Great Britain and Ireland a few times — except for Bath. She says she’d would love to visit and attend the festival there. “It is on the bucket list,” she says.
At JASP, McMahan says, she was “treated as a valuable member of the educational process and given the opportunity to attend and treated like a worthy teacher/queen.”
She says she has been able to apply “the magic, the richness of Jane” in her AP classes using “Pride and Prejudice” — “a staple on AP exams,” she says.
McMahan tells prospective scholarship applicants to apply and enjoy. “It is a special treat for all lovers of Jane.”
Jennifer Abella is a TV/movie/pop culture/knitting/sewing/Jane Austen geek. Oh, and a total Anglophile. Follow @nextjen on Twitter.