Last night’s Oscars telecast inspired some awards of our own. Without further ado, we present a few of our 2018 Fellows who designed learning experiences around the performing arts…
Most Creative Use of Funds
Diana D’Emeraude | Canyon Vista Middle School – Austin
To make the most of her 42-day stay across the pond, Diana found hostels with private rooms and pet-sat in three different homes — including one that had two cats and four chickens. Saving money on accommodations meant she could apply her $5,000 grant toward participating in a Shakespeare training program for teachers at the Globe Theatre in London, and attending 15 plays, ten classes, six tours, a conference, and multiple museums. Her goal was to create curricular units for middle and high school language arts/theatre teachers that help students develop critical thinking skills in the classroom and beyond.
“Taking classes on teaching Shakespeare with U.K. teachers helped me compare notes on their schools, how they taught, learn engaging activities, learn about and teach the plays and more about the English language,” said Diana. “Attending an International Theatre Teacher Conference helped me learn how theatre is taught in other countries and ways to improve my teaching, and classes at the Globe Theatre helped me learn more, not only of Shakespeare’s plays but also of other works written in that era.”
With her new knowledge, Diana started a Shakespeare Club where students explore the Bard’s plays, his style of writing, the importance of his works, the era, and how to perform monologues, scenes and the plays.
Warren Pemsler, Ari Hauben and Chris Busch | McKinley South End Academy – Boston
In 2007, this teaching team was awarded a Fund for Teachers grant to tour art museums, theatres, stages and facilities in England, and then meet with outreach departments at museums in the Netherlands, to expand on their school’s partnerships with the Huntington Theatre and Institute of Contemporary Art. Eleven years later, these same teachers returned to London on their second FFT fellowship to explore London’s street art, contemporary art, and theatre communities to develop in-depth performing and visual arts units in collaboration with Boston Public School’s pilot Fab Lab.
Warren would like to thank his colleagues for their learning:
“Honestly, it was the collaboration with my colleagues that brought out new energy and ideas. By immersing ourselves in the content we teach and meeting with professionals who do similar things in London, we have planned new avenues to make our curriculum more vital to our students. After 28 years of teaching, I feel like I am embarking on a journey that will sustain me professionally and personally for years to come! I couldn’t be more thankful!”
This teaching team is working with students to create four large murals of the artists and playwrights they read and admire on exterior walls of the school building. This will lead to four “openings” for the school and neighborhood, as well as T-shirts so students can show off their work to the wider world.
Best Supporting Teacher
Christine Jamerson | Roseburg High School, Rosburg, OR
Christine designed her fellowship around information she learned from a previous workshop with Eric Jensen called “Teaching with Poverty in Mind.” There, she learned that the working memory of students who experience poverty is very limited. As a drama teacher, Christine knew how memorizing lines and stage directions helps build one’s working memory, in addition to self-efficacy and self-confidence. Therefore, she participated in the Broadway Teachers Workshop in New York City and learned strategies for using theatre to support brain and soft-skill development.
“I learned so much about technical design, directing, and running a smooth program in the few short days I was at the workshop, it just blows me away.” said Christine. “I feel like my world has been opened up to different approaches I can take with my plays and musicals, and it all benefits my program. I have also gained a lot of confidence – I’m not only bringing new approaches, but I’m implementing them well.”
In order to reach the largest number of students possible, Christine and her theatre department formed an improv troupe open to all. They perform at assemblies, football game halftimes, and local middle schools.
John Matthiessen | Branford High School – Branford, CT
John arrived at the Globe Theatre’s “Teaching Shakespeare Through Performance” workshop as a 58-year-old literature teacher and completed his fellowship as Ophelia, Hamlet’s love interest. He explains:
“Our director told us he was going to cast us ‘against type,’ and consequently, I was cast as Ophelia. Playing a teenage girl was a stretch. To do this, I had to not only overcome a certain amount of self-consciousness and stage fright, but also try to imagine and portray the emotions experienced by this doomed young girl. I was very proud of my final performance!”
John’s English students now spend less time interpreting text and more time in creative activities to demonstrate their understanding. Although he still includes rigorous reading and writing activities, he now concludes some units with a final role-play presentation (like the one he did) as a major grade. He’s found this kind of active, student-centered assessment makes learning a more social activity alongside their peers than the typical summative assessments.
The BIG winners are the students, whose learning changes from text to technicolor after their teachers return from summer fellowships. In her Best Supporting Actress acceptance speech last night, Regina King called herself an example of “what it looks like when support and love is poured into someone.” We believe the students of our Fellows look (and feel) the same way.
Pictured above: David Williams (Bacon Academy – Colchester, CT) who attended the Teaching Shakespeare Through Performance course at the Globe Theatre in London to learn practical approaches for engaging students from a variety of backgrounds and academic levels.