Rabun Gap teacher expands horizons in Italy

Emily Neidle, fourth-grade teacher at the Evelyne Sheats Lower School and Clayton resident, spent a month in Italy this summer as a teaching fellow for the Spoleto Study Abroad Program.

Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School is among a consortium of 12 independent schools that partner with Spoleto Study Abroad, creating travel study opportunities for students in the arts and humanities. Rabun Gap students regularly travel to Spoleto on spring break group trips, as well as individual summer sessions in the arts. Each year, Spoleto Study Abroad offers teaching fellowships to four consortium school faculty members who have been teaching in their respective schools for three years or less.

Head of School Dr. Anthony Sgro is a chair of the board for Spoleto Study Abroad.

“Rabun Gap’s partnership with Spoleto Study Abroad is so valuable. We’re excited that we have the opportunity for our students to study abroad at the Spoleto educational center. We are members of a consortium that allows us to have a campus in Italy,” Dr. Sgro said. “I am proud that Ms. Neidle represented Rabun Gap as a teaching fellow in Italy this year, and I look forward to seeing how her experience shapes her teaching style this year.”

During her fellowship, Ms. Neidle helped primarily with the residential side of the program, working with three other fellows to facilitate a safe and welcoming living environment for students in Spoleto. They took turns writing daily blog posts to update the parents on what the students did every day.

For Ms. Neidle, experiencing the Italian culture was a major highlight of her trip.

“The program did a great job of making it a cultural experience for both the students and faculty. The arts are a big part of the Spoleto. We were provided with the opportunity to attend concerts, ballets, and art exhibits,” she said. “I also loved traveling to different cities around the area. We traveled to Assisi, Siena, Florence, Ostia, Tivoli, and Orvieto.”

Ms. Neidle plans to bring back the many teaching methods she learned to her classroom at the Evelyne Sheats Lower School this year. She had the opportunity to meet with  Dr. Jan Guffin, co-founder of Spoleto Study Abroad, who explained an instructional approach called “Town as Text.” Ms. Neidle said she has been dreaming about and brainstorming Town as Text lessons to do with her fourth-graders this year.

“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to travel abroad as a teacher. I loved getting the opportunity to meet and collaborate with the teaching faculty of the program. I enjoyed sitting in on their classes and learning different teaching styles and ideas. As a humanities teacher, this program gave me a new perspective on ways to integrate the arts into teaching history,” Ms. Neidle said. “I loved the opportunity to collaborate with professionals in fields that I wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to work with. It taught me that regardless of what subject or grade you teach, there is always something to learn from teachers and/or experts in different fields. For example, one of the most influential teachers that I worked with was the screenwriting teacher. I have already made plans to do a collaborative screenwriting lesson via Skype this year with him. As a teacher, I left feeling renewed in my field and excited to get back into the classroom.”