Archive for the ‘theater’ Category

Journeys Home – Part 3

I’m not sure I can capture everything about this amazing day. We are in Vermont, where my husband not only grew up, but where he is a descendant of the settlers of this area. I taught here in the early 70s and came back to teach here again for 6 years in the 90s. We are here now for my friend’s retirement party from teaching. She has spent¬†38 years in the same school, opening the school in 1972. It would have been 41 years, but there was time off for pregnancy and broken ankles. There was an after-school retirement party on Monday afternoon, and it was a must that we be here.

She was working so we spent the day just drinking in sights of Mt. Mansfield and all the green fields. I stopped at the district office for what became a very emotional time with people I had worked with – superintendent, financial assistant, head of special ed – all of whom I had worked closely with in other capacities when I was here. They remembered me and gave me big hugs. Blythe even said she had just been thinking about me and wished I still worked in the district. I wa overwhelmed. As someone with fairly low self-esteem and who always wonders about whether or not she had done a good job, it was such magic to know I was recognized immediately and remembered for the work I had done. From here we stopped at the middle school where I taught, and again it was hugs and welcome back. Then went to the high school and same thing. The job I had left was running our learning lab for at-risk students. The woman who took it over from me has expanded the program, and the service award named in my honor is still going strong 16 years later.

Wow. In fact, today in our travels I am stopping at the high school to give a monetary donation to fund the award. This award is for a student who has demonstrated selfless work for others in the school.  Yesterday I stopped at Williston Central School to leave a donation in honor of Al Myers, the theater teacher from whom I learned an immense amount.

But it was the party Monday afternoon that was amazing. My best friend of 35-plus years retired, along with 2 other teachers. In lieu of a retirement party, the staff meeting became a pot-luck – yes, things are getting very tight in education…..Well, all the old-timers from when the school started came, including my favorite principal, and it was wonderful catching up, seeing pictures of grandbabies, and in general reminiscensing about the old days. My friend Kathy had written her speech going back to when the school was new, and the parties we threw, and all kinds of remembrances – lots and lots of fun. I was so glad I could share that with her. This was a journey home that was wonderful – but this was not a family journey – this was to where I had come of age as an adult and as a teacher, and that made all the difference. No one knew my dysfunctional family – they just knew me and the kind of teacher I was – so it was fabulous. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything! Now off to party with the retiree on the Burlington waterfront for a few hours!!

In Memoriam – Al Myers

I met Al Myers in the early spring of 1990. We were doing auditions for “Peter Pan” at the middle school, and Al stopped after rehearsal to ask if we needed any help. His daughter Briana would be in the play, and he wanted to help. I had no idea he knew so much about theater; I just knew he taught in one of the towns over from us.

My earlier experiences with parents “helping” had not been good ones, so I figured Al could help control kids and work on props. Little did I know I had just met someone who dreamed as big as I did. “Peter Pan” at the middle school? Well, maybe the stage isn’t big enough, and you know, we could build a stage extension and platforms to increase the overall staging for the show. And we could probably modify the existing lights, bring in some new ones, and I’ll show you every step of the way.

I was pulled in to doing everything. Al sketched things out, I took him through some of my blocking, and suddenly I was in the midst of helping kids build four large platforms to extend out over the stairs to the small stage in the gym. I wrote down nearly everything Al had to say, size of lumber, how many two-by-fours, size of bolts and nuts and washers. Everything could be collapsible to store for each year in our limited wing space. And sturdy? 30 kids dancing – not a problem.

Then there was the lighting – Al brought in a friend and lots of extra lights and showed me how you really light a show. Up and down the cherry picker to angle lights – boy, it was like taking a private class in stage lighting. Al knew so much!

The show was a massive hit, and afterwards I told Al I couldn’t have imagined the show without all his help. He did the same thing the following year (minus the stage extension – we just put it all back together), and we had even better lighting for “Music Man.” After that show my job changed, and I wasn’t around to continue with the two middle school theater programs, but I carried that knowledge on – through what I learned from Al I was able to bring better experiences to another middle school theater program, and thus increase his influence.

I have been fortunate being able to say thank you to the professionals who have helped me grow along the way. After “Peter Pan” and “The Music Man” I said a great big thank-you to Al – who replied that he was just glad he could help.

When I heard the news yesterday, it was like the proverbial punch to the stomach – how could someone so young, so wonderful, just not be there any more? How could a master teacher be gone? I think every teacher hopes he or she can influence eternity. Al Myers – you will always live on in the countless people you taught, from kid to adult. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Williston, Vermont, the arts – we have lost a master teacher.

A few pics of Peter Pan – kids out on the state extension and in front of the curtain.

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