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Community of Learners: Local Teacher Deborah Springhorn Receives Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical Grant

Hood Quarterly, summer 2013

Lebanon High School teacher Deborah Springhorn has been awarded a Christa McAuliffe sabbatical grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation for the 2013–14 school year. The foundation awards this grant to only one teacher in the state of New Hampshire annually, so this represents a huge honor for Deb and, indirectly, for the museum as well, since the project she proposed was inspired in part by her use of the museum and works of art in her classes over the past two decades. In particular, it was inspired by the success she has had in integrating images by the noted photographer James Nachtwey, Class of 1970, into her curriculum.

In 1993, Deb participated in a “Learning to Look” workshop offered by the museum, designed to help teachers develop the skills to lead conversations about works of art with their students. She also participated in a sequel workshop, called “Making Connections,” that focused on integrating works of art across the curriculum. Ever since, she has been integrating trips to the museum and reproductions of works of art into her social studies and English courses, often to great effect. Deb understands how to use art to address complex ideas. She also understands that one of the great strengths of visual art is its ability to affect and engage students on an emotional as well as an intellectual level.

The grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation covers her salary for the school year, enabling Lebanon High School to hire a one-year replacement teacher and freeing Deb’s time to work on this project. During her sabbatical, Deb will be developing an interdisciplinary high school curriculum designed to engage students in the study of the global community since the end of the Cold War, and to better equip them to be world citizens. Based on the success she has experienced engaging students in discussions about contemporary and historic issues through the use of works of art, the curriculum will use photographs by James Nachtwey to initiate each unit of study. Highly interdisciplinary in nature—as all of Deb’s teaching is—the curriculum will be designed to further students’ knowledge of complex global issues and also provoke inquiry, engender compassion, and inspire change.

Twenty years ago, Deb transformed her own world cultures curriculum and students’ experiences at Lebanon High School through the integration of Nachtwey’s photographs. Now, thanks to this grant, she will have the opportunity to transform the learning, thinking, and lives of many more students throughout New Hampshire—and perhaps eventually throughout the United States. Deb’s integration of works of art into her curriculum in general, and through this project in particular, is a wonderful fulfillment of the Hood’s mission as a teaching museum that fosters transformative encounters with works of art.

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