Let the Ripple Continue: Scholarship in the English-Speaking Union

London’s deep darkness and oppressive heat combined with the overwhelming sense of where I stood, the magnitude of the experience threatening to make me forget my lines.  I perched alone on the upper stage, with a birds-eye view of the crowd milling about.  The performance of Romeo and Juliet on the New Globe Theatre stage was about to begin.  I spotted the first cast members entering the yard, heading to their places, and weaving through the audience.  Still I waited for my cue.  The lighting over the groundlings dimmed and I whispered a brief prayer.  

My voice rang out the ancient church hymn, chosen by the theatre practitioners, signaling the start of that well-known tragedy of love. Oh, to hear your voice in that marvelous O, so tonal and full from the natural acoustics.  The sound of the human voice in that theater was unlike anything I have ever experienced.  My voice carried on the night air, linking me into the very fabric of Shakespeare’s legacy.

This final performance of the three-week course, Teaching Shakespeare through Performance, left an indelible mark on me as a woman, performer, and teacher.  If only all teachers of English could be so fortunate as I, to live what we teach, by performing in a living, working museum of language.  

I was selected for this honor as the 2009 Kentucky Branch Teacher Scholar, through a rigorous selection process established by our branch Board of Directors in the 1960’s.  Our branch president at the time, Sylvia Bruton, observed my commitment to my student’s participation in the 2008 Kentucky Shakespeare Competition.  She recommended I apply for the scholarship, and although hopeful, I doubted I would be chosen to be part of the program.  She saw in me a drop of creativity and her interest in my participation started the ripple.

Fortunately, due to strong Board of Director commitment, countless Kentucky scholars have been sent to study in the British Isles.  To date, our branch has sent 512 scholars with another three slated for 2021.  Our scholarship committee carefully selects the finest students and teachers to experience the life changing knowledge acquired in this wonderful scholarship program.  Kentucky plans to send scholars far into the future.  The legacy of our program can be seen by observing the astounding life accomplishments of past recipients.  I consider myself fortunate to be one of the attorneys, teachers, professionals, politicians, and artists selected as Kentucky Branch past scholars. 

At the Globe, teachers gain techniques to provide rich and active instruction for their own students while digging deep through the ancient texts, learning more about the life of the Bard. We participated in Shakespeare scavenger hunts, played theater games, chunked arcane text, danced across the stage, and learned to appreciate the careful Globe methods of preservation.  These techniques are experienced through studying period costumes, sets, and theatre construction.  Live theatrical performances by outstanding artists in the Globe provided a much deeper understanding of life during Shakespeare’s day.  Like archeologists, we dug through the course work and grasped experiences in order to build a deeper connection for our students to better understand the legacy of the great playwright. 

Over the years, I have taught thousands of students the Globe techniques, improving as I went along.  The memories of watching young Britons learn through these targeted techniques established real world instructional practices. My course-mates have shared with thousands of students during their teaching careers.  No doubt, these extraordinary teacher’s lessons continue to reach far beyond the Globe experiences. 

The ripple continues, since I currently serve as President of the Kentucky Branch.  I became President because the scholarship made such an impact on me.  

Now, one of my past students, Cana Herron Hibpshman, a young teacher of English, is slated to go to the Globe to study Teaching Shakespeare through Performance, as soon as the limitations on London lift.  The Kentucky Branch selected her based on her deep interest in studying Shakespeare the “Globe Way.” Cana experienced the power of my scholarship ripple first-hand as a student at South Oldham High School, and this bright teacher would like to attend in order to improve the effectiveness of her own classroom instruction. She awaits her opportunity serving on the Kentucky Board of Directors because of the powerful impact of my instruction on her own life.

While the National E-SU Scholarship Program has a rich history of sending students and teachers to study at Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, and the Globe Theater, the true legacy of the E-SU can be best observed in the study-abroad scholarship program.  Providing courses that offer such a powerful educational impact solidifies the true purpose of the English-Speaking Union.  Scholars remember, repeat, and celebrate through learning that enhances the meaning of life, letting the ripple continue.  Being drenched in these types of lessons burrows deep and remains, outliving our short human lives to become the true legacy of our organization.