Teacher wants humanities shared by all Liberty High educator to use her award to expand program

July 21, 1996|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

Only the smartest students take the humanities course at Liberty High School, but it doesn't have to be that way, says English teacher Dorothy "Dottie" Farley.

She's using a recent $2,000 national award to modify the course with CD-ROM technology. Her hope is that more students and teachers will embrace the humanities -- a mix of the arts, architecture, literature, dance, theater and language.

"It's a celebration of human achievement -- what makes human beings want to create," Farley said of the course, now offered to accelerated students in their senior year. "My whole thing was to make humanities accessible to all ability levels."

She is a recent winner of an "Education's Unsung Heroes" award, given by Minneapolis-based Northern Life Insurance to 80 educators across the country.

According to Northern Life, the Unsung Heroes award rewards educators "who have the vision to pioneer new methods of getting kids excited about learning."

In her application, Farley wrote: "It is my belief that a real and urgent need exists for all students to become culturally literate.

" many high school graduates today do not have confidence in their own evaluation of literature, art, history, personal decisions, value clarifications, ethical issues confronting them, and self worth," she wrote. "The Humanities is an attempt to tie all the 'blades of grass' together for them and to illustrate in very tangible ways that education is best served by an integrated approach to learning, and by applications of what students have learned."

Farley will use the $2,000 to buy a CD-ROM drive for the English department at Liberty High School. It will be one step toward her goal of a network system that will allow a whole class to view

information simultaneously on individual screens.

She is eligible to compete for Northern Life's top three awards of $5,000, $10,000 and $25,000. If she wins one of those, she'll buy hardware for the network, she said.

"If I could put [the course] on CD-ROM, I could virtually walk them through the pyramids, through the modern architecture buildings," she said.

As it is, the class takes at least one field trip, to Washington, where they spend eight hours going from one end of the Mall to the other, seeing paintings in the National Gallery and the architecture of the buildings between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol.

The humanities course can be intimidating not just to students, but to teachers as well.

Few teachers have the broad background needed to teach the interdisciplinary course, Farley said. Only Westminster High School and Liberty offer it this year.

"It's all of the arts -- language and literature, dance and theater, painting, sculpture and music," Farley said. "So to find one teacher who has a broad range of interest isn't easy."

Farley is one of the most celebrated teachers in Carroll schools, having won several county and state awards and now a national one.

She is known for her impassioned advocacy of literature, once successfully defending a classic piece of ancient literature when administrators proposed that the school board remove it from the classroom after a parent complained that the text was obscene.

She takes students on summer trips abroad, acting as their educational tour guide. This month, she will take six students -- many of whom took her humanities course -- to Greece and Turkey.

Northern Life, one of the top three providers of teacher retirement plans, will put the winning projects, including Farley's, on its World Wide Web site: www.unsungheroes.com. In addition to summaries of all the projects, one will be featured in depth each month on the Web site.

Pub Date: 7/21/96

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