Carrie Leigh (carrie_leigh) wrote,
Carrie Leigh

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Teacher Appreciation Week

You know, I'm such a mom sometimes that I get sort of wrapped up in Teacher Appreciation Week for my own children, and I honestly forget what it means to me. I've had some amazing teachers in my life, men and women who quite literally shaped the way I think, behave and exist in society and in my field of study.

To my second grade teacher, Mrs. Peggy Tillman, I thank you for believing in me, for encouraging me, and for telling me that being smart was okay.

Fast forward some years to high school, where I'd like to thank Janice Battles, for repairing the damage that my junior English teacher inflicted (when she told me I'd never be a writer and I should stop trying), for reading my work and laughing in all the appropriate places, and writing countless recommendations for me. In addition, I thank Nancy Montague, who introduced me to theatre, taught me more about the subject in one semester than I thought possible to know, co-wrote two plays with me, and then helped me to become the teacher I am today. Nancy was the most dedicated teacher I ever had. I'm so grateful to her, so much more than it would be possible to put into words.

And last, but definitely not least were the Holy Grail of Acting Teachers at the University of Texas at Arlington: Dr. Dennis Maher, Dr. Andrew Gaupp and Joe Chapa.

For some strange reason, I took Acting One as a graduating senior, but Joe didn't let me rest on my laurels. (Though honestly? That's exactly what I was trying to do.) He pushed and poked and cajoled and called me out in front of a bunch of freshman, and I've used his same speech on other talented kids who are just as insistent as I was about pulling a monologue out of thin air. (I think his exact words were. "You just pulled that out of your butt. You're better than that.") Thanks, Joe. I work hard and try not to rest on the base layer of talent, thanks to you.

Andrew Gaupp was my director more than my teacher - I think I took a theatre finance? (the mind reels) from him, but from Andrew I learned about how acting is all listening. I learned how to immerse myself in the moment, and that giving to other performers makes me a better actor. And I loved being in his plays. LOVED IT.

As for Dennis Maher? I think I have to give credit him for everything else. He guided me in changing my major from business to theatre (can you imagine?) and I took every one of his lectures that I could (becoming dangerously close to having too many hours in theatre). I learned about the History of Theatre, History of American Theatre and Dramatic Theory, acting, directing, and what simply being an artist means. In fact, the current title of this journal can be attributed to Dr. Maher, who after a tough rehearsal one evening, stood, put his hands behind his head, puffed out his cheeks, blew out a sigh and said, "You're thinking too much. Memorize your lines and don't bump into the furniture. That's all you have to do." Of course, he's right. Sometimes in the thick of rehearsal, I forget that I'm a performer. I'm not performing neurosurgery. It's THEATRE. It's FUN. Dennis also inscribed these words on a book he gave me: "Tell a story, make it happen, and have fun!" Boiled down to barest essentials, I've adopted this as my own philosophy and shared it with the students that I teach, because if you tell a story ("Enunciate!" "Diction!" "Slow down!"), make it happen ("Don't let this become a play about a prop!" "I'll give you your character's motivation, but you won't like it!") and have fun, you're doing theatre the way that it was meant to be done. So... thanks, Dennis. I definitely owe you.

To all of these educators, directors and teachers, I extend my very sincere thanks. You've all made a difference in me, and to me, and in turn to the students that I now have the honor of teaching.

You're all loved immeasurably.
Tags: school, teaching, theatre

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