Workshop showcases vibrancy of poetry

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Glenis Redmond, a poet and Kennedy Center performer, showed Jasper Middle School seventh-graders the motions to go along with a poem she taught them to recite from memory Tuesday afternoon at the school. Redmond, a South Carolina native, led a two-day workshop for 20 area teachers. During the session at the middle school, the teachers observed how Redmond worked with the students.

Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — The most important part of teaching students to write poetry is to make the experience rich for each of them, according to Glenis Redmond.

The poet and Kennedy Center performer made her third trip to Jasper on Thursday — her first since 2006 — to host a two-day workshop. About 20 teachers from Jasper High School, Jasper Middle School and Vincennes University Jasper Campus were invited to attend the training through the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Partners in Education collaboration that was formed between the Jasper Arts Center and the school corporation in 2005 and grew to include the college in 2011.

On Wednesday, Redmond, a South Carolina native, taught the teachers the ins and outs of writing a poem about their hometowns. She then did the same exercise for the students on Thursday, reciting from memory her own original poem, “Mama’s Magic,” to a group of high school seniors before asking them to deconstruct her words.

“It was really cool. I don’t write poetry, but I sing, so it kind of goes along with this,” senior Shannon Sonderman said of the workshop during which she chimed in to list foods, games and memories from her own childhood that could become pieces of her poem. Redmond listed all of the contributions on the whiteboard.

When Redmond asked the students to close their eyes and picture one aspect of their childhood homes, images of rural Jasper came out. Students raised their hands to share images of hay fields, cows, wooden fences and sunsets. Redmond explained, in her confident voice and with humor that was youthfully playful enough to to reach the 18-year-olds in the room, that those descriptors could be used to liven up any poem.

The purpose of the exercises was to reach students of different learning styles, even the ones who have little or no interest in writing, Redmond explained to the teachers after the final session.

“It’s all about multiple intelligences,” Donna Schepers, education outreach coordinator for the arts center, said of Redmond’s presentation. “It’s kinesthetic, it’s visual, it’s literary.”

High School English teachers Erin White and Kathy Overton agreed that a diverse group of students could benefit from the group collaboration.

“For me, it was seeing how to use poetry and make it affordable for all students,” White said. “It was taking it beyond us reading it and sculpting it for the students and making sure that they can understand how to use it. It really helped us develop a new curriculum.”

Schepers said she and the other four members of the Kennedy Center partnership guiding committee — Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools Superintendent Tracy Lorey, school board President Nancy Habig, VUJC Dean Alan Johnson and arts Director Kit Miracle — meet regularly to decide which performers or instructors to bring in each year. Because the school corporation places much emphasis on building vocabulary and writing skills among its students, Schepers said Redmond’s workshop was a natural fit.

“She’s worked with students from third grade all the way up to university,” Schepers said. “Opening up the process of writing, opening up the process of performance, that’s the beauty of these workshops.”

In December and April, the partnership will host a classroom management training session for elementary school teachers. Schepers said the group will remain dedicated to providing arts education to students and teachers throughout the area.

“I go to a meeting every year to research artists, to learn about different workshops that are available,” she said.

“Dr. Lorey and I work closely together with regard to what is happening in the schools, what the school goals are and what needs the arts can meet with regard to those goals.”

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