|Teaching from the Heart and Soul|
The Robert F. Panara Story
Harry G. Lang
Deaf Lives, Volume 6
Teaching from the Heart and Soul: The Robert F. Panara Story, written by Harry G. Lang, is an interesting biography of beloved deaf educator Bob Panara. Panara, who taught many deaf children and young adults during his tenure at the New York School for the Deaf in White Plains, N.Y., Gallaudet College (now University) in Washington, D.C. and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y.
Panara is deeply respected for his reputation as a “master educator,” inspiring many students and sharing his love of literature and drama. He also helped found NTID and the National Theater of the Deaf (NTD), both in the same year. He also taught many students who went onto successful careers and lives, such as Bernard Bragg and Eugene Berman.
It would be injustice to categorize this book as a biography, because it’s not just a biography. While the book eloquently shares Panara’s life story (the experiences he went through during public school without an interpreter in the 1930’s is particularly touching), it also weaves in philosophy on deaf education, poetry, Panara’s love of baseball and Panara’s tender relationship with his wife Shirley.
You would think baseball, deaf education, drama and poetry wouldn’t typically mesh well with each other in a single book, but Lang successfully blends all three themes in “Teaching from the Heart and Soul.” In the early part of the book, Panara humorously recounts meeting the famed Babe Ruth (which was arranged in hopes that seeing the world’s best baseball player in person would somehow cure Panara of his deafness). Baseball continues to be weaved into the book, significantly in Lang’s explanation on how he was recruited to write Panara’s biography. It was at a baseball game where Panara’s wife, then suffering from terminal cancer, asked Lang to be the one to write Panara’s story.
I asked my colleague Larry Puthoff to read this book and share his thoughts. Puthoff, who personally knew Panara, is a deaf man who is a former deaf teacher, and superintendent of a deaf school. Puthoff said he thoroughly enjoyed the book, and was particularly fascinated with the dynamics involved between Gallaudet College and NTID during its formative years.
This book will be enjoyed by people who love baseball, people who are interested in learning about deaf education philosophies and methods, people who like drama and poetry, and by people like me who just likes a good book. Puthoff had only one thing he didn’t like about the book: “The fact that I was never a student under Panara.”
Harry G. Lang is Professor Emeritus at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology.
Print Edition: ISBN 978-1-56368-358-9, 5½ x 8½ paperback, 232 pages, photographs
E-Book: ISBN 978-1-56368-389-3
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