Cornell University

After a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES and the Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University were able to join forces once again to offer local teachers a one-of-a-kind professional development experience.

On Monday, March 13 at the Johnson Museum of Art, several teachers from nearby school districts attended a workshop for educators day titled “The Year 79 C.E. – The Ancient World.” 

The day was spearheaded by Dr. Verity Platt, Cornell Professor and Chair of the Classic Department and Co-Curator of “Wonder and Wakefulness: The Nature of Pliny the Elder.” She took everyone through the exhibit she helped co-curate, telling many fascinating stories about Pliny the Elder.

The day also included a scavenger hunt, giving the teachers time to talk and collaborate with one another, and the following guests and presentations:

  • Patrick Stevens, Acting Director of the Rare and Manuscript Collection, Kroch Library and Emily Beran, Assistant Librarian at the Rare and Manuscript Collection (At the Kroch Library)
  • Catherine Kueffer Blumenkamp, Associate Director of the Cornell Fashion and Textile Collection, College of Human Ecology, “The Chiton and the Pleated Cloth”
  • Dr. Don Rakow, Associate Professor, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University, Nature as a Part of Who We Are, and Will Always Be”
  • Dr. Frederic Gleach, Curator of the Anthropology Collection (At McGraw Hall)

The day’s agenda was put together by Carol Hockett and Maryterese Pasquale-Bowen of the Johnson, and Teresa Heatherman of Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES Regional School Success department. All indications were the day was an overwhelming success.

“It was a total team effort,” Pasquale-Bowen said. “This was the first time we’ve done it in three years since the pandemic. It has been incredibly exciting to see this revival. We went to Pliny as our focus in part because it wasn’t as encyclopedic. We thought it could appeal to a large audience. We wanted to make it as broad and multicultural as we could. The Roman Empire helps us with that, as it includes Africa, Asia, and a lot of connections – not just Europe.

Hockett alluded to the notion that while everyone came for a day, Cornell is a resource that can be tapped into more than once.

“I hope everyone here today was able to see all the resources available at Cornell for their K to 12 classrooms,” she said. “All of the different units that they can really incorporate to their different lesson plans. And finally, I hope it’s just a day of stimulation and learning and sends them back to the classroom recharged.”

Teachers in attendance came from neighboring districts such as Trumansburg, Dryden and TST BOCES itself, among others. It was clear they all welcomed the change of pace, and the opportunity to be the learners on this day.

“I always get a lot of inspiration out of a day like today,” TST BOCES art teacher Ann Harper said. “Lots of ideas for things I can implement back into my classroom. I loved the whole Pliny the Elder exhibit. It tells you a lot about history. As an art teacher I’m often fascinated by it being art being the thing that tells us what happened during ancient cultures.”

Sara Apker and Jenna Stearns – both teachers from Trumansburg Central School District – were impressed with the workshop as well.

“I just love to get the opportunity to ignite my love of learning,” Aker said, “and also seeing what connections I could possibly make of what I learn here today to be able to take it back into an elementary school art classroom is very exciting and challenging.” 

Stearns said she was struck by how well coordinated the day was, and how welcomed everyone felt.

“I haven’t been on an off-campus professional development day where I’ve felt like I’m being treated like a professional in many years,” Stearns explained. “Like close to a decade. Today has been incredible. It feels extremely special to get a chance to take a step back from the day-to-day and get inspired and mix things up with some of your peers.”

Dryden teacher Kara Wilcox was especially excited to increase her knowledge for Pliny the Elder and looked forward to bringing some new tricks back to her students.

“My expectation was to learn more about how to incorporate some of the history and storytelling of Pliny the Elder into my ninth-grade global history class. I teach a variety of classes at Dryden, but for many years now, I’ve taught that class, and the Roman world is certainly a big part of that one. So, learning more about him today was really great.”

Heatherman was ecstatic that everyone in attendance was seemingly finding as much enjoyment and education throughout the day that she was.

“We were so excited to partner with the team here at Johnson,” she said, “and to help teachers learn about this amazing resource right here in our community. Cornell University is a tremendous collaborator and I just hope all our participants leave today with a new perspective on something that’s probably very familiar to all of us. And I hope they just get to spend some time being the learners and take that excitement back to the classroom.”

For more information on TST Regional School Success events, visit