PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Port Arthur

June 3, 2014

Memorial High School students relive the 60s

PORT ARTHUR — Students in Patricia Spears’ English III class took a step back in time to the early 1960s on Monday.

Spears, dressed in a beige 60s era Sunday dress topped with an apron, greeted her students at Memorial High School as she moved around the room which had been transformed into scenes from the book and the movie The Help.

“This addresses multiple learning abilities,” Spears said of the diorama that is her classroom. “Not every child learns while sitting at a desk. Many students are kinesthetic learners and with a project like this, every child can be successful.”

The veteran educator didn’t just toss the book to the students and tell them to read it because she does things “a bit differently,” as she is known to say. The students have not only read the book but they’ve viewed the film, studied a comparative analysis of the time period, studied the history and culture of the times.

The study unit culminated with the special room set-up as well as a southern feast that students were able to partake of during their lunch periods.

Students Davia Dugas, Aysia Jefferson and Kynzaria Thomas were excited about the project.

“I really like it. It came together nicely,” Dugas said with a smile. “She’s the only teacher I know who will go through all of this. I feel like I’m in the 60s. I’m there.”

Jefferson called Spears “one of the best teachers in the school” while Thomas said she learned a lot in Spears’ class.

“I feel I learn better with the visuals than just the book,” Thomas said.

Spears, with the help of a handful of students, created scenes from The Help. A small table with a vintage tablecloth held a framed photo of a graduate and a spiral to one side. Above the table was a “fresh baked pie” sitting in an open window framed by floral curtains.

The bathroom was the setting of a major part of the book/movie and was also included in the room. Towels hung from racks above a toilet made from box material and construction paper was used to create a drawing of a roll of toilet paper in which the sheets were numbered.

The room also featured an ironing board with linens and an elegant table with punch.

Spears’ exuberance was almost palpable as her students stopped by, thanked her and gave her a hug.

“Seeing the excitement in the children’s’ eyes,” she said when asked what is the best part of teaching. “They thought I was crazy as a loon trying to undertake a major project at the end of the school year. When I was in college we were told that the student must be engaged until the end of school. What’s better? Sitting and watching meaningless movies or walking the hallways or this?”

Teaching to different learning styles can seem difficult but for Spears it’s a calling.

“My job is to dig and find the gold, dig and find the diamonds, knock off the rough edges,” she said. “A creative teacher can bring out creativity in students.”

E-mail: mmeaux@panews.com

Twitter: MaryMeauxPANews

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