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  • Shannon Stoddard

Leaving a Legacy

I have recently made the decision that at the end of my contract in June that I will be moving on from CSA. Last week I had to tell my (older) students the news -- which was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Ironically, a few days later in my Facebook memories it reminded me that 6 years ago I told my students at the Academy similar news about how I was moving on to attend Grad School.


It's odd because these discussions were so similar; but also, so different from each other. In 2016 I was sharing how I was moving on to further my education IN Theatre Education and how they were the ones who inspired me to do so. Those 6 years of teaching at the Academy of the Arts were some of my best memories and it was also my first adult job right after college! I was so proud of the program that me and my students built over the course of those 6 years. It was a bittersweet goodbye and there were many tears amongst us all. I treasured those last 6 months with my students creating beautiful memories and producing spectacular shows until I moved to NYC for Grad School. It made my heart so happy to keep in touch with so many of them (and their families) while I was in NYC, and I loved getting to reconnect with so many of them when I moved back!


This time my decision doesn't have an exact plan for what's next in my life. I am trusting the universe and putting all my faith in God that everything will work out. I have been such a planner throughout my life... that NOT knowing exactly what I'm doing in a few months is terrifying... but it's also kind of exciting! The only thing I know is that my journey of teaching students about the love of music and theatre is far from over! Teaching is what keeps my heart beating and connecting with students is my passion!


Having to tell my students now that I am leaving and not having an exact plan of what I'm doing next made it harder. I don't have a cool excuse of why I'm moving on... but I know that it is time. It was hard telling my kids. Really hard. There were tears... but for me I also went home and had some peace about a realization... I am sad to be leaving a program that I've essentially been building over the past 12 years of my life (6 at the Academy... I was gone for 2 years for Grad School... and then 4 years at CSA). But I am at peace knowing that the students that I've taught in those 12 years (which I'm not great at math... but it has to be close to 1,000 by now...) they are my legacy. They've built and shaped this program as much as I have! The magic we've made and the memories we've created will always be there. And I trust that they'll continue making magic there (and everywhere else) for years to come!


Here's what I hope that they will remember:

- Always follow your dreams... no matter how crazy they may seem!

- Always believe in yourself... if you don't... who else will?!

- Always be brave! Try new things... even if they're uncomfortable!

- Always be kind... you never know how your paths will cross with someone again!

- NEVER let anyone make you feel like you are less than you are. YOU are incredible!


I am looking forward to the next 5 months of making magic and creating lasting memories with these current students! And I know that our journeys are not over after June... I imagine I'll stay as connected with them as I did when I moved on last time. And even as they grow up and do grown-up things... I will still be cheering them on no matter where we are in our lives!


(Below is a picture before making magic during The Wizard of Oz in 2019. I had my teens and kids who were in the show and the children's group who were performing a pre-show preview of Little Mermaid. It was so special getting to make magic with all 3 Theatre Companies at one time!)


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