Next month the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture will celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of its summer enrichment programs for teachers and principals. Over the years, Humanities Texas has supported these programs with thirteen grants.

The Summer Institute for Teachers, a two-summer sequence of three-week multidisciplinary courses, is part of the Dallas Institute's Teachers Academy, which offers classes and conferences throughout the year. It was designed by Dr. Louise Cowan in 1983. Each July since 1984, the institute has offered "The Epic Tradition" and "Tragedy and Comedy" in alternating years. This summer's session, to take place July 7–25, will focus on "The Epic Tradition."

Originally designed as an NEH summer seminar for high school English teachers, the Summer Institute enjoyed the support of the NEH for its first four years, until it outgrew the NEH's class limit for summer seminars. "Now each Summer Institute includes sixty K-12 teachers from all disciplines," said Dr. Claudia Allums, director of the program, "because Dr. Cowan's original vision proved to inspire and deepen not just English and language arts teachers, but teachers in general."

"It is not a class of pedagogy," added Dr. Allums, "although daily practice in critical reading, seminar and panel discussions, participating in workshops, listening to lectures and guest speakers, and viewing and discussing films sharpens the teaching skills of all participants. It is a class that is designed to revive the imagination vital to every teacher through an immersive study of some of the greatest literature known to humankind."

Participants have found the experience to be profoundly rewarding. One alumnus from 1984–85 who is still in the classroom said, "The Summer Institute was the turning point in my teaching career." Another alumnus, a high school math teacher who attended in 1988–89, said, "The Summer Institute made me a better teacher because it made me a better person," and 65 percent of the class of 2007 said it "transformed" the way they think about themselves and their careers.

Participants in the 2007 Summer Institute heading for a lunch break. Photograph courtesy of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.
Dr. Larry Allums, executive director of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, lecturing to Summer Institute participants. Photograph courtesy of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.
Participants listen thoughtfully to a lecture at the 2006 Summer Institute. Photograph courtesy of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.