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Walnut valley Unified School District

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Walnut Teacher has very busy summer

Walnut/Diamond Bar Highlander
August 23, 2011
By Richard Irwin SGVN

Walnut Valley teacher has very busy summer

All work and no play makes for a dull drama teacher. So Walnut High's Joanne Karr decided to go to the Olympics in London after spending a month studying Chinese film at the University of Illinois.

"A friend of mine was in London, so I decided to join them for the Olympics," Karr said. "I love London, I lived there during the Fulbright Teacher Exchange program in 1997-98." During her English odyssey, the drama instructor got to see many of the improvements made in the East End for the summer games.

"I really liked giant Olympic rings hanging on the Tower Bridge. I got to watch them raise them a couple times to let ships go through," Karr said. The Walnut teacher was surprised how quiet the European capital was. She said it was just like Los Angeles when it hosted the Olympics in 1984.

"It was really quiet in London compared to the other times I've visited. You could walk right into any sight-seeing attraction. There weren't any lines," she said. Of course, Karr had to visit the Olympic Village, where she got to see a couple basketball games.

"I watched France play Nigeria and the United Kingdom play China. I had to root for China having just finished a monthlong study of Chinese film," she said. Karr was a summer scholar selected by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The federal agency sends teachers from around the country to study with experts in the humanities.

"I attended a seminar called Chinese Film and Society at the University of Illinois in Urbana," she said. Karr joined 20 other educators from different parts of the country to learn about Chinese cinema. They studied 35 films from the 1930s to the present.

"Afterward, we would discuss the historical, social and very often political implications of the film," she said. Some of the films were still banned in mainland China. And one of the seminar's directors, Gary Xu, had participated in the student protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989. The People's Liberation Army used tanks to push through blockades set up by half a million protesters. Soldiers also shot many of the students. Others were later imprisoned.

"I was sharing an apartment in one of the dorms with another teacher. She was from China and one night we began talking about our lives," Karr continued.

"It turns out that she had been one of the protesters at Tiananmen Square. Her professor told her to leave the city the night before the military cracked down. It was very interesting to hear her perspective on the demonstration," she said. The Walnut Valley drama teacher learned a lot about the history and culture of China. She says this will help her become a better instructor at Walnut High School.

"It was a great opportunity to network with other teachers from different parts of the country. I definitely have some new ideas to use in my classroom," Karr concluded.

Joanne Karr, drama teacher at Walnut High, touches the nose of Abraham Lincoln in Illinois.