As another academic year ends, our 2023 UTeach Theatre graduates finished their college careers as student teachers this past spring. They’ve spent months blocking scenes, assisting with curriculum and encouraging students to be the truest, most creative versions of themselves. Our UTeach grads learned first-hand that teaching is more than just sharing information – teachers serve as support systems and role models for the next generation of creative thinkers, artists and future educators. We spoke with a few of our 2023 UTeach Theatre grads about the lessons they learned in the classroom and the advice that carried them through their months of student teaching.
What have you learned from your time in classroom spaces this semester?
Morgan Co (student teacher at Cedar Ridge High School and Cedar Park Middle School): One thing that I’ve learned during my time as a student teacher is the importance of relationship building. Students might not remember every lesson, activity or performance that they did in your classroom, but they will remember the way that they felt when they were there.
Davina Silva (student teacher at Ojeda Middle School and Anderson High School): Over my time in the classroom this semester, I have learned many, many things. Most importantly, I’ve learned more about the type of teacher I am going to be as I enter the profession. Forming relationships through my student teaching has been one of the most rewarding parts of the experience, and I’ve learned about how I will cultivate and nurture them with my future students as we create some memorable works of theatre.
Savannah González (student teacher at Gorzycki Middle school and Whitestone Elementary School): One of the biggest things I’ve learned from my time in the classroom is that students need you to be someone they can rely on. Whether that’s relying on you to keep them safe, keep them on a routine or even just to keep them occupied so that they have something to focus on while they’re in your classroom.
Trinity Gordon (student teacher at Northeast High School and Ojeda Middle School): I have learned so much during my time in student teaching, but the most important lesson I learned was teaching and leading with empathy first. Being at two Title I schools I learned that some students are facing a world of problems. Being able to help encourage their creative freedom and talent in the classroom has been such a gift! Leading with empathy in the classroom creates an environment of love and acceptance. For some students that is the only place where they feel safe.
What piece of advice did you learn from one of your professors or teachers (past or present) that has really resonated with you?
Savannah González: One of my professors (Michael Ávila) told me that it’s important to be yourself in a classroom so that students can get a sense of who you are and trust you, while also making sure you maintain your personal distance. Also, “Be a friendly teacher, not a teacher who is a friend.”
Trinity Gordon: The best piece of advice I’ve received from my professor here at UT, Sara Simons is “structure plus improvisation.” Some things in life and in the classroom need structure in order to run smoothly, and with that always be prepared to pivot and improvise if need be. I find myself utilizing that in the classroom a lot.
Morgan Co: Looking back, I would say one the most resonant pieces of advice I’ve received regarding teaching is to celebrate the small accomplishments. Even if you had a chaotic or “bad” day, you can find comfort in knowing that at least one student came into your classroom and left feeling better than they did when they came in.
Davina Silva: There is an important piece of advice that I have received from multiple wise people I have had the pleasure of working alongside, including my teachers and professors, and it’s that teaching doesn’t require a costume. Stepping into the role of teacher is not the same as stepping into a role for a play. My students will value my own individuality, and all of the things that make me unique is what will make me a great teacher. Trusting in myself and allowing myself to be vulnerable has greatly helped my confidence and ability to connect with students. I’m thrilled to become a theatre teacher and have a classroom of my own!
Many of the 2023 UTeach Theatre graduates will go on to teach in classrooms across Texas, with multiple students having already accepted positions for the coming school year. Through their student teaching and empathetic leadership, they’ve built strong foundations as they prepare to take on classrooms of their own.
Written by Sydney Pattillo.