Education for Theatre Teachers

  • 1.  Education for Theatre Teachers

    Posted 03-23-2014 15:31
    This message has been cross posted to the following Discussions: Open Forum and Advocacy .
    I wanted to get some feedback from other teachers on this: degree expectation for Theatre Educators. In my state (VA) I have seen a great disparity in what is required of theatre educators. I have a degree in Theatre Education and Art Education. From what I've seen in order to be an Art Teacher I MUST have an Art Education Degree but in order to be a Theatre Teacher I simply need to have some kind of teaching degree and an endorsement in theatre. In VA that is variable in that the district you work in can determine the requirements for the endorsement. In most cases that seems to be one or two classes in theatre. Aside from my other ITS Sponsor peers, most of the other theatre teachers I encounter are not trained in a full-fledged theatre program. I feel that this method of recruiting theatre teachers diminishes our importance by requiring us to be certified in something such as English, History- etc. This also plays into previous discussions on the value of other programs; I can teach AP Studio Art (2 different kinds) and AP Art History but there is no AP Theatre of any kind. I can receive National Board Certification in Art but not in Theatre. I feel that this starts at the very essence of what's expected of theatre educators in terms of certification. This is not to say every colleague I have who is initially certified in another subject area and is endorsed in theatre should be dismissed, but I think there is something to be said for the validity of our position.

    Additionally, I have noticed a trend in eliminating undergraduate Theatre Education programs among colleges and universities. I can say that my own university closed it's program shortly after I graduated citing that they wanted to focus more on the art and craft of theatre in a more conservatory based style. In the same breath, however; in the few years I spent working for the university in recruiting prospective students I often fielded complaints from the theatre department regarding the "poor quailty" of students applying. Their main complaint was that these students were auditioning into their programs without any knowledge of what one might consider the "basics" of acting and little to no concept of advanced acting styles. I argued that if they wanted better results from the high schools then they ought to contribute to the teaching community. Ie, teach teachers what you want them to reinforce in their students. Through my other recruitment endeavors I encountered many other college and university reps with the same sentiments.

    I also know from being on the "inside" if you will- that many theatre programs do not want to invest in theatre ed programs due to the cost: hiring a full time faculty to advise and teach a small number of students, paying for student teaching stipends, and having to work with their school's education department. This is why most schools have an Art Education Department- they handle everything internally. While the adoption of Theatre Education as a program is within the Theatre Department. Ultimately they do not see the value in creating theatre educators. At my own university our Theatre Ed advisor was also the Lighting Design advisor. When he decided to retire they were faced with the choice of hiring two people or cutting one. It was completely unsurprising that they didn't want to spend the money on two faculty members and that the Lighting Design major was considerably more valuable.

    In my area (central VA) alone there are almost no professional development opportunities for theatre teachers. None of the area universities offer any classes in the summer for theatre educators. All in all, the entirety of the problem seems massive. I often try to wrap my mind around what needs to be done to solve all of these problems and I've some to the conclusion that it starts with that- Theatre Educators should have Theatre Degrees. If schools required that then universities would be more likely to introduce those programs. If you have the branches of higher education offering theatre education then the AP and National Board might take notice.

    I don't know, this diatribe has not been entirely consistent and is almost entirely based off of my own personal experiences so I'd really be interested to know if the expectations are the same everywhere. Anyone have any input in terms of their own personal experiences? I'd love to hear them. These are my thoughts, what are yours?

    Victoria Kesling Councill
    Theatre Teacher
    New Kent County Public Schools


  • 2.  RE: Education for Theatre Teachers

    Posted 07-22-2018 16:20
    Hello! My name is Savannah Hard and I am a rising senior at the University of Virginia. I am majoring in drama and would like to teach theatre, but unfortunately we don't have a masters program. I agree with your statement about the lack of educational graduate or training programs for incoming and current teachers, as well as the decline of undergrad programs. I noticed you posted this four years ago and I was wondering if you have found more programs and any advice you may have for someone who is going to graduate and wants to pursue theatre education? Many thanks!

    Savannah Hard
    Fairfax VA

  • 3.  RE: Education for Theatre Teachers

    Posted 07-23-2018 09:25
    Hi Savannah, I'm the chapter director for VA and I e-mailed you previously. 2 e-mails, same person. Let me know if you are interested in going out of state and I can give more focused advice. I would recommend looking at the career-switcher programs through the community college system in VA. As far as whether or not you can apply- the answer is yes and no. If the job positing says open to anyone you can apply. Sometimes they'll say "teacher licensure required". I'd say even in that case you can like e-mail their HR department on the possibility of acquiring certification once you've been hired. Generally speaking, large divisions will not allow you to do that while smaller ones with little history of theatre will. For example, I teach in a single high school county that didn't have a full time theatre teacher until the teacher before me. As a result, they did not require certification until around the time I applied. Although a small rural school is not ideal for everyone- it is often a great place to start because they're still figuring it out too. On the flip side, teaching in a developed division gives you access to loads of mentor teachers, resources, and curriculum. I believe firmly in "where there's a will there's a way"- which is to say: if you REALLY want to teach theatre, you'll find a way. Where is your home base after graduation?