The Norman Transcript

October 6, 2012

PLS invites Big Read teacher participation

Transcript Staff
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Pioneer Library System is inviting high school teachers to participate in The Big Read 2013 by teaching the featured novel, Tobias Wolff’s “Old School,” in their classrooms.

Following their completion of an application and workshop process, participating teachers will receive copies of the novel to lend to students, a two-week lesson plan prepared by the National Endowment for the Arts, support materials and access to online resources, and advice and mentoring from one of Oklahoma’s most respected educators.

The teachers and their students also will have the opportunity to meet the author when the Pioneer Library System brings him to Shawnee, Norman and Moore in April.

“‘Old School’ is a great choice for high school students because it has teen characters, is set in a private boy’s school in the early 1960s and is full of references to popular authors of the day such as Robert Frost, Ayn Rand and Ernest Hemingway,” said Gary Kramer, public information officer for the Pioneer Library System. “The conflicts in the novel deal with issues of honesty, self-identity, competition, peer pressure and responsibility. These are great topics for discussion with teens.”

Dr. Betsy Ballard will serve as a teacher resource and mentor for educators who will be teaching the novel. Ballard taught English, debate and competitive acting until her May retirement, concluding 36 years at Norman High School.

During her tenure at NHS, Ballard was named Norman Public Schools Teacher of the Year, was recognized as a Distinguished Teacher by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars and received numerous state, regional and national awards for excellence in speech and drama education.

Ballard received National Board Certification in 2002 and is the 2012 winner of the Medal of Excellence in Secondary Teaching from the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence.

This fall, Ballard will conduct an in-service workshop for teachers planning classroom participation in The Big Read.

She will discuss ways to customize instruction to meet specific needs and goals of each classroom and teacher.

The teacher workshops will be scheduled at times and locations appropriate and convenient for the participating teachers. Documentation for CEUs will be provided.

Any public, private or homeschool educator working in Cleveland, McClain or Pottawatomie counties is eligible to participate in the 2013 The Big Read.

Applications are available at public libraries in Blanchard, McLoud, Moore, Newcastle, Noble, Norman, Purcell, Shawnee, Southwest Oklahoma City and Tecumseh. A PDF version of the application also is available from the website.

Completed applications are due Oct. 19. Once applications are received, workshops will be scheduled and materials will be distributed. The proposed times for teaching the 10-lesson unit of instruction are between Jan. 2 and April 25.

For more information, contact Kramer at 701-2646 or visit

The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

Local sponsors include the Norman Arts Council, The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation, the Oklahoma Humanities Council, University of Oklahoma Outreach and the Pioneer Library System Foundation.

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