ALBA’s Back in School

June 9, 2016
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ALBA's Gina Herrmann works with Spanish teachers in Seattle.

ALBA’s Gina Herrmann works with Spanish teachers in Seattle.

ALBA’s Teaching Institutes continue to break new ground across the United States, reaching more teachers in new communities, expanding opportunities, and seeing exciting results.

Thanks to a special grant from New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, 20 local teachers participated in a four-day ALBA program that emphasized hands-on research with archival sources. Guided by ALBA’s faculty members—James Fernández (NYU), Carlos Ramos (Wellesley College), Fraser Ottanelli (University of South Florida), and Peter Carroll (Stanford)—these veteran teachers embarked on an intensive study of historical and literary sources that they are already incorporating into their own classroom activities.

“Oh my goodness! I am so excited, thank you,” wrote Lenore Hinson, an English teacher at the High School of Economics & Finance who’s introducing Spanish Civil War stories to her students as well as screening The Good Fight. She reports that her students are deeply engaged in various projects including a field trip to the archives in the Tamiment Library. Another teacher, Geoffrey Cobb, with a passion for Brooklyn history, dug into the files of Lincoln volunteer Topsy Kozar and wrote an original article uncovering fresh historical material (see page 10). Other teachers have also arranged to bring their classes to the Tamiment Library to give their students a chance to touch the original material.

“This is the work of historians,” said George Snook, teacher at Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn. “This is not just fooling around….I mean this is the real stuff, and there is something that happens when you actually can hold history; people speaking across time. And you guys are preserving something for the future that is of immeasurable value, so there is no question that this should be done, and students should be allowed to experience the process of creating something from primary source material.”


“This is the real stuff. There is something that happens when you actually can hold history: people speaking across time.”


As ALBA’s programs include new topics relevant to today’s classrooms, Peter Carroll joined with history teacher Eric Smith (Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy) to present an afternoon workshop at the annual Illinois state social studies teachers conference in Aurora. Their subject: teaching human rights from the Spanish Civil War through World War II, from Guernica to Nuremburg and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

ALBA's Tony Geist works with Spanish teachers in Seattle.

ALBA’s Tony Geist works with Spanish teachers in Seattle.

In Boston, Carroll worked with Carlos Ramos and Massachusetts high school teachers Kelley Brown and Amelie Baker in a one-day professional development program that included social studies and Spanish teachers and was co-hosted by the Collaborative Educational Services and the Library of Congress. Here the focus was again on primary sources, including visual documents such as Spanish Civil War posters, children’s drawings from refugee camps, and unique photographs taken by civilians during the war. Teachers used the opportunity to develop lesson plans for their own classrooms. David Gómez, for example, who teaches Latin American studies at Dover-Sherborn High School and who already introduces his students to issues of displaced persons that result from the drug wars in Colombia, used the children’s art from Spain to amplify the impact of civil wars on families.

Meanwhile, ALBA’s programs have expanded on the west coast. In Seattle on April 23, ALBA Executive Committee members Gina Herrmann and Tony Geist, in collaboration with the Center for Spanish Studies at the University of Washington, led a teacher’s institute on art and literature of the Spanish Civil War for teachers of Spanish. Thirty teachers attended the four-hour workshop and were deeply engaged with the poetry of Rafael Alberti and César Vallejo, as well as with posters from both sides of the conflict. ““I found this workshop to be incredibly helpful,” one participant said, “and I enjoyed particularly the chance to compare graphic representations from both the Republican and Nationalist sides, as well as examining poetry. I will definitely use these types of activities in my High School Spanish Classroom.” The institute was so successful that the participants asked Herrmann and Geist to offer another one next academic year.

In San Francisco, Peter Carroll is collaborating with the educational non-profit The World As It Could Be human rights education program led by Sandy Sohcot and the staff of Balboa High School to create a semester long project that culminates a theatrical performance focusing on the Spanish Civil War and the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. And there’s more to come!

We give special thanks to supporters of these education initiatives, especially to the Puffin Foundation and the Kurz Family Foundation.

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