The Teachers Academy
One of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture’s most enduring programs, the Teachers Academy was established in 1984 with a summer literature program for Dallas area high school teachers with a focus on recovering a sense of “Literature as a Mode of Knowledge.”
The Teachers Academy has since served more than 2,500 teachers and principals in year-round classes and conferences. Since 1984, the Teachers Academy has existed as an oasis for professional renewal, providing programs that are designed to inspire good teachers to remain in the classroom.
Praised by the National Endowment for the Humanities as a “model for the nation,” the cornerstone of the Teachers Academy is its three-week Summer Institute for Teachers held each July. Sixty schoolteachers gather as intellectual and imaginative colleagues for an intensive immersion in classic texts. In two interdisciplinary, multi-cultural literature classes taught in alternating summers, teachers are guided by expert faculty to approach the works in a method and an experience unique to the Teachers Academy.
The work of the Teachers Academy is educationally distinct in two fundamental ways:
First, instead of employing the standard focus on interpretations and summaries by secondary voices, the Teachers Academy directly approaches the wisdom of the humanities – the original documents, poems, and novels themselves – in the manner appropriate to each. This attention to the “form” of a thing, instead of to someone’s interpretation of it, helps the teacher to discover the universal qualities and themes in the most profound writings throughout history. Understanding these forms helps teachers explain to their own students how things connect and converge throughout history, how to make better sense of the world, and how to approach the issues of the day with creativity and imagination. Ultimately, this approach renders educationally a result consistent with the aim of the proverb, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.”
The second distinct quality of the work of the Teachers Academy is its dedication to teaching teachers content rather than pedagogy, treating the teachers as the intellectuals that the structures within which they work rarely acknowledge or nurture. Since 1984, the faculty of the Teachers Academy has found that engaging substantive primary texts with proven scholarly methods provides teachers with both the content and the pedagogy needed for a dynamic classroom environment. Method without content does not yield the same result. This focus on profound content taught with effective educational methods gives the teachers both professional and intellectual confidence to stay in the classroom. In short, from what the teachers say, the competencies they gain in the Teachers Academy boost both their professional morale and their intellectual knowledge.
Communitas is a monthly intellectual retreat for school teachers and campus administrators. Its purpose is to enliven our minds with higher levels of discussion and thought than are typically available to us in the school day. No preparation is required.
The Teachers Academy of the Dallas Institute was conceived in 1983 with the “Summer Institute”–a literature class for high school English teachers sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and that called the class a “model for the nation.”
“Foundations” are new series of classes conducted by the Dallas Institute’s Cowan Center for Education to revive in the hearts and minds of those who teach and lead the spirit of liberal learning that is being lost through the increasingly technologized, standardized educational trends of our day.