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Asbury University kicked off its Engaging Culture Weekend on Thursday afternoon with a documentary screening hosted by the School of Education, followed by the Music Department’s annual “Sounds of Stage and Screen” concert.

Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday joined Asbury faculty, students and guests for a panel discussion and screening of the documentary “American Teacher.”

Released in 2011, the documentary follows the challenges faced by four teachers in public schools throughout the United States. The panel addressed the primary concern of the film — low teacher pay — and added perspectives and insights on other issues as well, such as barriers to educational success and the relationship between education and economics.

Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday spoke during a panel discussion at Asbury University.“These are complex problems without easy solutions,” Holliday said. “There are trade-offs in class size, teacher effectiveness, pay and advanced degrees. …But if the representatives [in the Kentucky General Assembly] can hear excitement about students learning from a teacher, they’ll move mountains to get funding. They will pay attention.”

Other panelists included Jeff Hawkins, executive director of the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative; Linda France, director of Next Generation Learning Partnerships at the University of Kentucky and former coordinator of Asbury’s educational leadership program; and Robin Lowe, the Response to Innovation coordinator and special education teacher in Scott County.

Hawkins and France spoke to the relationship between education and the economy from the perspective of rural Eastern Kentucky educational systems and state-level policy, respectively.

“We need to consider that what we really have is an educonomy — where education meets economic development,” Hawkins said. “Our goal needs to be making kids college- and career-ready.”

Panelists, from left, included Jeff Hawkins, Robin Lowe, Linda France and Dr. Terry Holliday.Throughout the discussion, one common point of agreement centered on the importance of high-quality teacher preparation programs. With a nationally accredited School of Education that offers undergraduate degrees as well as graduate programs in Principal Licensure, Teacher as Leader and more, Asbury’s faculty spoke with conviction about their commitment to training creative, competent educators.

“With all the different issues in education that we could talk about,” said Dr. Verna Lowe, dean of Asbury’s School of Education, “I think we all can agree on this: every child deserves a great teacher every year. That’s what we’re committed to at Asbury.”

Nearly 200 students performed in the “Sounds of Stage and Screen” concert through the six ensembles on the program: Asbury’s orchestra, Chorale, Women’s Choir, Men’s Glee Club, the handbell choir and the concert band.

Film score excerpts included the recent “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1)” and a salute to the late Robert Sherman, who wrote the scores to “Mary Poppins” and “The Jungle Book.” The Asbury Chorale performed “Ubi Caritas” by Paul Mealor, which was written for the recent British royal wedding seen by millions around the world.

The grand finale, a medley of Irving Berlin hits including “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Blue Skies” and “Puttin’ On the Ritz,” featured the Women’s Choir, Men’s Glee Club and the Orchestra.

“This concert appeals to the widest range of audience, and is among the most accessible and pleasing offerings this year,” said Dr. Ron Holz, professor of music. “Our students excel at this kind of entertainment — they can really sell these wonderful selections from the silver screen and musical stage.”

The Engaging Culture Weekend continues Friday with a full schedule of workshops, a stage performance of “Steel Magnolias” and a screening of the latest episode of Asbury’s sitcom, “Friends Like You.” On Saturday, the event concludes with the Highbridge Film Festival and reception.

Friday, April 20

Workshops are open to all students and the public, and will take place in the Miller Center Screening Room unless otherwise indicated.

9 a.m. — Brian Baugh, Film Director (“Visual Design: Constructing the Look of a Film”)

10 a.m. — Chapel (Karen Covell, TV Producer), Hughes Auditorium

11 a.m. — Peter Lehman, Audio Director (“Balance: For Audio, Career and Your Life, Part 1”)

1 p.m. — Karen Covell (“How to Break In/Stay In the Industry, Without Losing Your Soul”)

2 p.m. — Peter Lehman (“Balance: For Audio, Career and Your Life, Part 2)

3 p.m. — Brian Baugh (“Directing Actors: Two Concepts for Great Performances and Less Frustrated Actors”)

5-7 p.m. — Senior Art Exhibits and receptions


    • Matt Poole (Graphic Design), Reasoner Hall


    • Meg Barker (Graphic Design), Kinlaw Library


    • Meredith Knowlton (Photography), Art Gallery


    • Greg Weinberger (Sculpture), Student Center


    • Samantha Morlote (Painting), Art Gallery


7 p.m. — “Steel Magnolias,” Greathouse Theatre (inside Miller Center). Tickets are available from the box office for $6.

10 p.m. — Screening of Asbury University’s sitcom, “Friends Like You,” Hughes Auditorium. Admission is free.

Saturday, April 21

2 p.m. — Screenwriting workshop with Janet Batchler, Miller Center Screening Room

7:30 p.m. — The Highbridge Film Festival, Hughes Auditorium, with reception following in the Miller Center. Tickets for the film festival cost $10 and are available at the Z.T. Johnson Cafeteria during lunch and dinner hours, the University bookstore, the Miller Center box office and online at