Teaching from the Heart and Soul

The Robert F. Panara Story

By Harry G. Lang

Categories: Biography / Memoir, Deaf Communities and Cultures
Series: Deaf Lives
Imprint: Gallaudet University Press
Paperback : 9781563683589, 232 pages, September 2007
Ebook : 9781563683893, 232 pages, September 2009
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Features the life of a great deaf teacher renowned for his vivacious drama and literature classes, and for helping to found the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and the National Theatre of the Deaf.



The Sixth Volume in the Deaf Lives Series
Robert F. Panara lost his hearing from spinal meningitis in 1931 at the age of ten. However, he could read and write, and with his friends’ help, Bob (as he was known), made it through high school. His new solitude created a new passion – reading, reading, and reading. The stage was set for the emergence of one of the great deaf educators in modern time, a life fully captured in Harry G. Lang’s Teaching from the Heart and Soul: The Robert F. Panara Story.
Bob Panara’s many achievements began after his discovery of Gallaudet College in the 1940s. There, he wrote “The Significance of the Reading Problem,” which first expressed his belief that teaching “comes from the heart and soul.” The article secured him his first job at the New York School for the Deaf in White Plains. Bob returned to teach at Gallaudet College from 1948 until 1965, when he left to help found the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) and the National Theatre of the Deaf (NTD) — all in the same year. He continued to expand arts and literature at NTID until his retirement in 1987.
Bob Panara’s genius resides in the people he inspired with his vivacious teaching style. He believed ardently in involving students, that they should “be the book.” Former students tell story after story about his fabulous interpretations of drama and poetry, a legacy confirmed by his own story in Teaching from the Heart and Soul.


Harry G. Lang is Professor in the Department of Research and Teacher Education at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester, NY.



"In 1944, a twentysomething Deaf college student wrote in an essay: 'What the world needs today is more teaching that comes from the heart and soul and not of the coldly conservative and somewhat reticent mind.' This incredibly insightful student went on to become what many consider to be one of the best teachers to educate deaf students. His name is Robert F. Panara. Like Cal Ripken of baseball fame, he is probably the best there is, was or ever will be. This is the gist of Harry Lang's biography. Weaving together humorous and touching anecdotes on Bob's Italian heritage, his wife, family, baseball, and teaching along with poems and photographs, Lang illustrates how this phenomenal teacher was shaped by life experiences and the powerful influences of other great teachers."

— Willy Conley, Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education

"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. 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 like a good book."

— SIGNews