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  • Writer's pictureShannon Stoddard

Why I Teach

Growing up I was always very shy and lacking a lot of self-confidence. I was never the coolest, most athletic nor smartest person in school - to be honest I was a little weird. It wasn’t until high school when I began theatre that I realized that it was okay to be ME. I was able to take that boost of confidence and create some real goals for myself and strived to be the best that I could be. Then during the summer of my junior year in college, I got this internship at the Ozark Actors Theatre in Rolla, MO running a couple of week-long drama camps for young children. The initial idea both scared and excited me as I jumped in with both feet for my first ALL BY MYSELF teaching experience. Throughout the week we played games and learned the basics of theatre, then ended the week with a small showcase of poetry and musical theatre songs. The joy from the parents and the students after the showcase made me feel so inspired that I knew immediately that I wanted to teach children!

After graduating college, I got a job teaching and directing students in grades K-12 with an after-school arts program (UAFS Academy of the Arts). In that time, I got to witness some truly spectacular students come in and out of my classes. My favorite memories though are of those quiet and shy kids who came to class but were afraid to even sing by themselves -- who then started to build the confidence to partake in bigger challenges -- and then eventually worked their way up to landing starring or supporting roles in the shows. Their journeys mirrored my own in so many ways that it helped keep the fire of my passion alive. Being able to watch the joy in those students' eyes as they realized what they can achieve is enough to make anyone want to teach children! And the fact that many of those students still come to me for advice makes me so happy that they still value my opinions.

I believe that the process of creating the art together is even more important than the final performance. Because if in the process they are learning and using those skills -- then the performance is going to be spectacular! Students learning to work together to support each other is one of my biggest beliefs in teaching. Those same students learning to build their own self confidence and feeling supported to take on leadership roles is another thing I strive for as a teacher. I think that all students -- no matter their natural abilities -- should be able to try theatre because everyone deserves a chance.

As a teacher, I want to build a program which supports these beliefs. To create a place where students feel comfortable to try new things and embrace their own special talents. Creating a place where those students who are serious about practicing their craft can go to expand their knowledge. I want a program where students feel supported to go on to their next hurdle in life -- whether that be college or some other activity (whether it's theatre related or not)!

Theatre is so important -- and not just for those students looking to pursue professional careers in the arts! It teaches empathy and learning to work together with a variety of people. Theatre teaches leadership, time management, self-confidence, and a variety of other traits which students need to succeed in life.

Why do I teach? Because I honestly can’t imagine myself doing anything else in life. The hearts you touch as a teacher are so unforgettable. As much as I may teach my students -- my students are also the ones teaching me. They inspire me to be better than I can be and to learn as much as I can to be able to share with them. I don’t have all the answers when it comes to theatre; but I am prepared to continue working in my artistic practice to be better and learn new things. Being a teacher is an ever-evolving process that never ends. I am thankful for the memories I’ve created thus far as a teacher and look forward to creating so many more exciting and beautiful memories with my future students!

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