Let’s celebrate Dan Davis Jr from Meadow Woods Elementary School in his fifth year of teacher theatre!
What drew you to education and specifically the important role of theatre teacher?
Believe it or not, I spent most of my middle school years thinking I wanted to be a doctor – a pediatrician or neonatologist to be specific. I event went into the magnet program in high school to start me on a medical career path. That was until I found out what a cadaver is in 9th grade and that was the end of that.
By the time I was a sophomore in high school, I realized I wanted to return to education as a teacher once I was done with college. As a kid I would always play teacher when doing my homework. I would line up all of my toys and just teach them whatever lesson I was working on that night. I honestly thought that I would be a Language Arts teacher, as I had never taken drama or theatre as a class because of my course schedule. I kept coming back to my formative experiences though and everything pointed back to the arts and the important life skills that they gave me – team work, public speaking, project planning, and most importantly self-confidence. I took a very active role in leading my Thespian troupe my senior year and knew then these were the experiences and skills I wanted to coach my students through when it was my turn to lead a classroom.
What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I absolutely love fostering the imaginations of my students. Right now, students need a creative outlet more than ever with schools racing to close the “learning gap” from the pandemic. Believe it or not, but we are in our third school year where COVID has impacted the learning environment. There’s nothing more fulfilling this year than providing my students a chance to step away from high-stakes testing, tutoring, and other rigors of the “homeroom” class and watching their imaginations engage through creative drama activities.
Which projects or classroom assignments are you most excited about and why?
I love teaching stage directions and the nine acting areas to my students. I use a couple of different strategies and activities to help them gain this knowledge. My favorite for my younger kids is helping them connect the concept of stage directions to the cardinal directions using a compass. I actually tape out a compass rose on my classroom floor and have students build a compass to use to help them find their way on stage. For my older kids, I use Minecraft: Education Edition to have them build their own stages in a common world and identify their stage areas within their builds. Some students do the basic 3 x 3 grid then go off to explore, but the majority of students create full theatres complete with a house and elaborate entrance, with a few reminders to make sure they label their stage. Watching my students engage in these gamified learning activities and build the knowledge without realizing they are learning makes this one of the most exciting units that we do each year.
What is a recent proud moment you had with/for your students?
I have a lot of English Language Learners and students who aren’t comfortable getting up in front of any audience to perform. My older students just finished a Holiday Haiku performance back in December, which was their first solo performance ever. To see these students step in front of their classmates and perform those 17 syllables, some in their home language, was a very proud moment for me.
What ways can the community support theatre in our schools or your program specifically?
Other than being present for performances, I think the best way any community can support school theatre programs is through material and financial support. I feel like a lot of people who have never been on the producing side of a program realize the cost associated with materials. Just for a classroom set of scripts for a script study, we are spending at least $300 for every student to have a copy in hand during class. For a show, the cost is even more expensive because you now have to add royalty payments for permission to perform the show, plus costumes, sets, props, sound, and lighting costs. Some items can be donated, but not everything can be. We can make magic happen with very little money, but before that can happen scripts and royalties have to be purchased. Right now that’s my program’s challenge – finding the financial support to get started.
Do you have plans to celebrate Theatre In Our Schools (TIOS) month? How so?
In OCPS, we actually celebrate Arts in our Schools month! Even though we (Theatre) started the awareness campaign, as I tell my students Theatre is the best of the arts because we are ALL of the arts!
Thank you OCPS Arts for sharing your theatre teachers with us!