By Natalia Elmani
LAU Tribune staff
She slowly walks into the classroom and tosses her bag on the front desk. She grabs a marker and, in large letters, writes her name across the white board: “Lana Shehadeh.”
With her hair clipped up in a bun and a colored scarf laid loosely around her neck, Shehadeh sits comfortably on the top of the desk before starting her lesson.
“Who read the material I gave you last time?” she asks, as the question opens up a majority of the student’s blank expression in her Cultural Studies III class.
Shehadeh adopts a modern approach in the different classes she teaches, washing away the unresponsive look on her students’ countenances.
Immediately, the class atmosphere changes; from an end-of-the-day impassive ambiance to a back-and-forth discussion on how philosophers and historical shifts relate to a domino effect in cultures – emphasizing just how Shehadeh is a natural at sparking her students.
“I love the fact that I get such acceptance,” she said.
Shehadeh is not only an instructor of moral reasoning and cultural studies. She works on the client’s end, focusing on projects for the Council for Development and Reconstruction.
“It’s something we basically call cultural resource management. Fixing up sites, renovating buildings, providing a function to these various things,” Shehadeh explained. “I work with a team called the cultural heritage and development unit.”
Shehadeh began her first hands-on work as an archeologist after receiving her degree by digging up and monitoring ancient ruins dating back to hundreds of years B.C. in cities such as Saidoun, Ba’albeck and Byblos.
Shehadeh remembers vividly her favorite archeological piece that she had encountered on her first excavation, a large golden ring that covered the diameter of her two thumbs with a hefty sized ruby welded on the top.
“It was so beautiful and I was so proud of myself!” she said smiling.
Having been born to a Jordanian father and Lebanese mother in Kuwait, and growing up between Iraq, Cyprus and the United States, Shehadeh has taken bits of every culture she has lived in to shape her character.
She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree at AUB although she was accepted at other Ivy League schools – she was impressed with AUB’s archeological school.
Shehadeh took a break from her job after the July 2006 war and then returned to teaching at LAU in the summer of 2007.
Shehadeh still vividly remembers a class she attended with a much older female professor who still attempted to connect with the younger students at AUB.
The professor made sure to set up digital entertainment and PowerPoint presentations to attract her class, a trait that Shehadeh still tries to incorporate within her courses.
“This teacher was so well informed, it was crazy, she was amazing, so alive,” she said. “She was the best thing that happened to all of us, we were all just dumbstruck by how untraditional and unique her techniques were; she would capture our attention just because she was herself.”
This experience influenced Shehadeh’s technique. When she began tutoring, during her bachelor studies, Shehadeh realized that some students do not interact in class.
“I realized a lot of the kids aren’t getting the stuff that they are learning, because they are falling asleep in class and they’re not paying attention,” she said. “That’s when I realized I can actually teach.”
In addition to teaching and restoring some of Lebanon’s greatest treasures, Shehadeh enjoys residing in and regularly visiting at Hamra Street.
“I love Hamra and it’s where I want to be for the rest of my life,” she laughs.
“In Lebanon it’s one of the nicest places to live because there isn’t a factor of religion in it. There are students and people of different ages getting together and having a blast.”
All in all, when it comes down to picking teaching or archeology as to what she prefers most, Shehadeh says the two are completely different but equally important.
“They make me feel very different, yet I’m not sure where I’d like to end up or continue,” she pondered. “I mean spending the day with a stone or spending the day with human beings? Pretty different.”