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Summer Appalachian program for teachers expanding, accepting applications

ISSUED: 29 November 2016
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has asked Shepherd University to expand a summer program for teachers wanting to incorporate Appalachian themes into their classrooms. NEH awarded Shepherd a $142,000 grant to host “Voices from the Misty Mountains: Appalachian Writers and Mountain Culture” July 9-29, 2017.

Shepherd is accepting applications for the summer institute, which Dr. Sylvia Bailey Shurbutt, NEH project director and coordinator of Shepherd’s Appalachian studies program, said will expose teachers to many aspects of Appalachian culture.

“Next July we’ll be bringing more people on campus from all over the country to enjoy the Contemporary American Theater Festival and to talk about Appalachian writers, Appalachian music, and all things Appalachian,” Shurbutt said.

Shepherd hosted NEH seminars in 2013 and 2016. Sixteen teachers were able to attend each of those seminars. The upgrade to an institute will allow 25 teachers to participate next summer.

“This is something really fine that the NEH provides for schoolteachers and the institute is just a better way to touch more of these individuals and give them information about the voices from the misty mountains,” Shurbutt said. “The focus is on teacher education and taking what they learn here and applying it directly to the classroom.”

Shurbutt believes Shepherd was given more money to host the larger institute because NEH was pleased with how well the two previous seminars were organized and with the quality of the workshops offered. She noted that 121 teachers applied to get into the 2016 seminar and Shepherd received great evaluations after both seminars. Shurbutt said last summer’s seminar at Shepherd was one of two offered in the country funded by NEH in 2016 that focused on Appalachia and both were easily filled.

“I think that’s indicative of the fact that there’s a tremendous amount of interest in Appalachia, in Appalachian storytelling, in the music and culture, and I think the people as well,” Shurbutt said. “In a world and a country that is changing, the traditions of Appalachia are a part of American life that we want to hold on to. I think that is one of the reasons for the popularity of the study of Appalachian voices.”

The NEH summer institute is open to full-time and part-time classroom teachers and librarians in public, charter, independent, and religiously affiliated schools, as well as to home schooling parents. Other K-12 school personnel, including administrators, substitute teachers, librarians, and classroom professionals, are also eligible to participate.

Highlights of next summer’s institute will include participation by novelist and playwright Silas House, poet Nikki Giovanni, and storyteller Adam Booth. Those who attend the institute will see plays and dramatic storytelling workshops at the Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF). They will also attend storytelling and Appalachian music workshops and programs hosted by Dr. James Broomall, director of the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War; Rachael Meads, ethnomusicologist and director of the Performing Arts Series at Shepherd; and Shurbutt. The institute will culminate in an Appalachian road trip to the Culture Center in Charleston, Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, the town of Thurmond in the New River Gorge, and Hawks Nest State Park.

Teachers can apply to attend the institute until March 1, 2017. Application information is available at www.shepherd.edu/neh. Click the application, letter to participants, and eligibility criteria links. For more information, contact Institute Shurbutt at sshurbut@shepherd.edu.

Listen to the interview HERE.

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