BETHANY, W.Va. – Herb Weaver, the Jennie Steindorf Renner Chair of Fine Arts and Professor of Fine Arts at Bethany College, is spending the 2007-08 academic year on sabbatical from Bethany and is taking advantage of the opportunity to return to his roots.

Weaver is about to spend a week in February as “Artist in Residence” at McLaughlin Middle School in Lake Wales, Fla. Weaver’s teaching career began three decades ago as an art instructor at the middle and secondary school levels and he says it’s helpful to maintain contact with every stage of instruction.

“In many ways, teaching in the middle school environment can be a grueling task,” Weaver said, “but it can also serve to strengthen my skills as an educator on any level.”

Sabbaticals are traditionally granted every seven years as a way for college professors to recharge their instructional batteries through research, study or travel opportunities. Weaver says the freedom has enabled him to focus on three elements of personal reinvigoration: short-term teaching assignments, curriculum development and the creation and presentation of art.

“That’s one of the great things about working at Bethany College,” Weaver said. “It’s an institution that cares about keeping its faculty enthusiastic and vital. Every day on sabbatical is a gift I have been given. I try to make the most of each moment.”

Under Pressure

Weaver says most of his efforts have been directed toward the actual making and presentation of artwork. He has exhibited his work at Old Dominion University, Iowa Wesleyan College and the Southeastern College Art Conference in Charleston, W.Va. In addition, Weaver’s ceramic sculpture titled “Under Pressure” was one of only 81 pieces selected for inclusion in the 2007 West Virginia Juried Art Exhibition at the Parkersburg Art Center.

Three more exhibitions are on the horizon. He and Ohio Valley artist Robert Villamagna will open a two-artist exhibit titled “Found and Faux” on Feb. 28 at the Stifel Fine Arts Center in Wheeling. Weaver and Lambros Tsuhlares, part-time instructor at West Liberty State College and sabbatical replacement instructor at Bethany, will join with selected students from each of the two colleges for an exhibition titled “Rising Mud” at the Wheeling Artisan Center on March 6. Also in March, Weaver will present a solo exhibition at the Eastern Mennonite University’s Library Art Gallery in Harrisonburg, Va.

Weaver’s reputation as a respected instructor and art educator has kept him busy. He spent a week during the summer conducting a “Master Workshop” at Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Mass. As part of the enhancement program for the prestigious girls’ boarding school, he developed and implemented a curriculum for its ceramics and sculpture area.

He also continues to work as a consultant and grader for the College Board Advanced Placement program. Part of that job involves the grading of nearly 30,000 portfolios administered each year at the Louisville (Ky.) Convention Center. On March 20, Weaver will represent the College Board Advanced Placement program at the National Council for the Education of Ceramic Arts conference in Pittsburgh.

Weaver says his sabbatical has been one of the most intense yet rewarding periods of his life. “I would equate this experience to that of an educational barometer,” Weaver said. “It has given me the opportunity to refine and recalibrate my teaching philosophy.”