Cathie English received her Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in December 2011. Her emphasis was in Rhetoric and Composition, and she was also a part of the Place Studies program. She teaches secondary English and currently serves as a teacher consultant for the Nebraska Writing Project.
What prompted your interest in the Place Studies program?
My interest in place studies began in June 1997 when I attended the first Nebraska Writing Project Rural Institute in Henderson, Nebraska. The teachers who participated that summer experienced place-based teacher demonstrations at local sites in the surrounding area. We traveled to Farmer’s Valley cemetery where we listened to the stories of the people buried there and the Little Blue River and the Marie Ratzlaff Memorial Prairie where we explored local flora and fauna. Each demonstration concluded with all of us writing about our experience with these places. This rural summer institute left an indelible mark upon my teacher career.
What have you accomplished with your focus in Place Studies?
Since that initial rural institute, I have worked toward developing place conscious curriculum that encourages the five senses Toni Hass and Paul Nachtigal believe educators need to instill in their students: A sense of place, or living well ecologically, a sense of civic involvement, or living well politically, a sense of worth, or living well economically, a sense of connection, or living well spiritually, and a sense of belonging, or living well in community. Throughout the past fourteen years, I have attempted to accomplish this task by engaging my students with local citizens through oral histories with nursing home residents, family members, local farmers and local business owners. I have also asked my students to conduct local inquiry projects about concerns of our school, city, or state, which required them to make contacts with many citizens as resources or experts in their fields.