Even teachers have to go back to school, and they love going to the classes offered by the University of Virginia’s Center for Liberal Arts.
The center has provided workshops with enriching content to Virginia kindergarten-through-12th-grade teachers for more than 30 years and will now take its lauded program on the road to other universities, reaching more teachers.
The center offers programs for teachers’ professional development with UVA faculty presenting a variety of academic topics, including art, classics, foreign languages, history, literature, mathematics and politics. The one-day, free seminars feature three or four sessions taught by different professors and can be used for continuing education or recertification.
With a recent grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations (the center’s third), the center has begun partnering with other universities – Howard University and University of New Hampshire so far – taking the program to those schools and including a professor from those schools in the UVA workshops.
This new effort aims “to extend our longstanding model of outreach to teachers by duplicating it at other institutions,” English professor and director Victor Luftig said. In total, the three-year grant will deliver workshops and support to about 600 teachers who can also share their materials and experiences with their peers.
The center’s Spanish program will be the first to travel to the University of New Hampshire on April 1; the sessions are open to teachers from neighboring states as well. UVA’s Gustavo Pellón, associate professor in the Department of Spanish, Italian & Portuguese and a center project director, will participate in the program with two UNH professors. One of them, Daniel Chavez, assistant professor of Latin American and Latino studies, joined the faculty at the UVA program last spring. Chavez, along with Pellón and Spanish professor María Inés “Mané” Lagos from UVA, gave presentations on the history of Latin American immigration, including from Mexico and Cuba, to the U.S.
“We strive to bring cutting-edge research and insights to the teachers, who are enriched by it and then glean what they know will work for their courses,” said Pellón, who has worked with the center for more than two decades.
He also commented on the exponential impact of its programs. “[Virginia] teachers have taken what they have learned at CLA events and enriched their course offerings throughout the commonwealth, sharing the materials obtained at CLA programs with other colleagues in their school districts,” Pellon said.
As has become typical for center programs, attending teachers gave enthusiastic evaluations after the program, commenting on the expertise of the faculty and the “brilliant new material” that they plan to take back to their classrooms.
“It is so wonderful to learn more about our subject matter, in Spanish, surrounded by other Spanish speakers,” one attendee’s evaluation said, mentioning that “all of our training at the county level is technology.”
Another said, “It was a terrific opportunity to learn about the immigrant experience. As a Spanish teacher, it is important to be informed and understand the cultural significance of native Spanish speakers and those who have a heritage from other countries.”
Last fall, a workshop on teaching classical mythology brought Howard University assistant professor Caroline Stark to UVA, joining classics professors John Miller and Ivana Petrovic and Associate Professor of Classical Art and Archaeology Tyler Jo Smith.
“This was exactly what I had hoped it would be,” one attendee commented, writing that she got specific information to use as a starting point in specific lessons.
“I enjoyed the close readings and the close examination of the art. This is something I want to do more of in my class,” said another evaluation.
Rave reviews have become a recurring refrain for center programs, with many returning again and again as new topics are offered.
Since the Center for the Liberal Arts’ beginning, it has built an outstanding reputation for offering high-quality workshops and programs. The center “has also sustained and nurtured respectful relationships between University faculty and those K-12 teachers as they collaborate with education and technology specialists and master teachers to create pedagogical tools and materials,” according to its website.
“This kind of public service is not usually expected of top faculty,” said Luftig, who has been director since 2000.
The Center for the Liberal Arts continues to be a shining example of UVA’s strong commitment to public service.