Mountain View High School humanities teacher Rebecca Gardner says there are many similarities between the Classical Greek society and today's society.

What's more, she believes those similarities can be helpful in teaching students to understand various periods of history, especially the current one.And to help Gardner better understand those similarities herself, the National Endowment for the Humanities says she needs to take a one-year leave from teaching. The endowment Thursday named Gardner as its 1991 Reader's Digest Teacher-Scholar, which means Gardner will be paid to study the Classical Greek period for one year. Gardner was one of 49 teachers selected across the country to conduct an independent-study project in the field of humanities.

"These awards give outstanding teachers what they need most - time for study and reflection," said Lynne Cheney, NEH chairman.

Gardner said she will use the award to study philosophy, literature, art and the history of the Classical Greek and Hellenistic periods. She will make comparisons of the Classical society with the Hellenistic society. Her study will include an eight-week tour of historical sites in Europe, and she plans on reading more than 30 books.

"My focus will be to find the perfect example to show students the shift from emotion to reason," Gardner said. "The changes that occurred as fifth-century Athens moved into the Hellenistic period closely parallel our experiences today. High school students experience conflicts between reason and emotion on a daily basis. I see this struggle within my students today. I feel they can better understand that struggle if they can compare their own experiences with those of a specific culture."

During her leave, Gardner will be paid a stipend of about $27,000 to cover her annual salary. Mountain View High School will also receive $500 to purchase books for the school's library.

Sabbaticals for research and study are common for college professors, but opportunities for public school teachers to conduct research are rare. Gardner said she is excited to have the year to learn more about the subject she teaches, and she believes it will make her a better teacher.

Her hope is that "students will be able to take my models to better understand all history," she said.