The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ruettgers lectures and seminars enrich CCHS experience

For the past ten years, Ruettgers seminars and lectures have provided opportunities for Concord-Carlisle High School teachers, students, parents and community members to explore interests outside the classroom. Sponsored by the Ruettgers family of Carlisle, the program “fosters the academic and intellectual life of the community,” says Joseph Pickman, faculty liaison and visual art teacher. “It’s a chance for students and teachers to share an academic dialog.”

“We wanted to encourage intellectual curiosity,” says Maureen Ruettgers, who with her husband Michael and three children, established the lecture/seminar series. The idea arose after their last child graduated from CCHS, and to celebrate, the family invited several teachers and the principal to dinner. The success of the evening prompted the family to look for other ways to pay tribute to teachers who had made a difference. “We were so impressed with the public school,” says Ruettgers. “We asked ourselves what was needed.” The result was the establishment of the Ruettgers Family Foundation to encourage CCHS teachers who were “maybe tired of doing the same thing, to explore other gifts they have to give,” says Ruettgers.

Pickman explains that the Ruettgers program now encompasses two tracks, a lecture series and two seminars per year. The lectures, of which five or six are scheduled annually, allow “any teacher to speak for 45 minutes on a passion or interest,” says Pickman. Often the subject derives from a hobby, personal project or travel. A math teacher who was a pilot spoke on aerodynamics. An English teacher with an interest in local history shared stories about The Old Manse. A science teacher explained genetically modified foods. Pickman himself gave two lectures before becoming liaison, one on contemporary art and another on Islamic architecture. A panel of history teachers this year analyzed the mid-term elections on October 21, and a lecture on November 4 explained adoption through the Department of Children and Families (see article this page).

The second track offers two seminars, one in the fall and another in the spring. “This is the opportunity to teach the course of your dreams,” says Pickman, “and a remarkable opportunity for students to work with a teacher who is really passionate.” Twelve students are chosen for each seminar from an applicant pool that often exceeds 40 submissions. Choices are made by a committee, based on academic achievement and diversity, with a balance of sexes, interests and home locations. The first semester is usually comprised primarily of seniors and the spring seminar of juniors.

The seminar takes place after hours once per week for 90 minutes, and runs for 15 weeks. Two and a half credits are given, and the course is typically pass/fail. “Students are interested and compelled by the subject,” says Pickman. “They can have fun just exploring.” Seminars are primarily reading and discussion, with field trips often a component. A teacher does not have to be an expert on the subject, and sometimes is learning right along with the students. “It’s a wonderful chance to embark on an academic journey without the pressure of testing and judging the kids,” says Pickman.

English teacher David Nurenberg, who recently taught a seminar, says, “I had a wonderful group of 13 students last spring. We read four Shakespeare plays together, acted out scenes, saw films and plays, and shared food. It was a very different kind of atmosphere, one that I looked forward to every week.” He adds, “It’s a wonderful opportunity for teachers to design a course about something that really fires their passion, and have some ownership over the material and the class. Students get the

chance to experience a small, intimate seminar environment that can be a preview of what college classes are like.”

The Ruettgers have been very pleased with the success of their project. Says Ruettgers, “It’s been fascinating to learn about the backgrounds of the teachers and their interests. It’s a chance to reinvent, even in a time of budget constraints. “Each year her family gathers and chooses which charities to support, and though there are many needs in the world, the seminar series remains. As we spoke, Ruettgers was preparing for a trip to Rwanda for another charity with which she is deeply involved. But, she says, “It’s important to do what we can in our own community. It’s a privilege, and we’re fortunate to be able to do this.”

Pickman notes that the lecture series is open to students, faculty, staff and the community. He encourages anyone interested to attend one of the lectures listed on page 4 to take place in the Little Theater at CCHS H building at 2:30 p.m. ∆

2010-2011 Ruettgers Lecture Series

1. October 21, 2010

Ethan Hoblitzelle, Tracy Davies, Samantha Fox-Morrow, Ben Kendall: Midterm Elections and the Future of the Obama Presidency

2. November 4, 2010

Johnny Woodnal, Shelley Hull: The Triumph of Adoption

3. December 9, 2010

Elliot Lilien: Philosophy and Methods in the Coaching of Athletics

4. February 10, 2011

David Nurenberg: Yes, we all did get along: The secret history of peace between Christianity, Islam, and Judaism throughout the ages

5. March 17, 2011

Andrei Joseph: 58 Concerts Later: How Bruce Springsteen Won My Heart - And Broke It

6. April 28, 2011

Sophia Rovitti: Interpreting Ancient Roman and Etruscan Archaeological Findings

© 2010 The Carlisle Mosquito