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The Association of Teaching Artists (ATA) is a not for profit advocacy organization in New York State that brings together artists who teach in schools and in the community to: Educate, Collaborate, and Communicate.

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2005 - 2006 Teaching Artist Blogs
   

This months Teaching Artists' blog is supplied to us by Suzy Myers.

Suzy Myers currently serves as the Creative and Development Director for Opening Act, an innovative nonprofit providing free, long-term, after-school theater programming to New York City’s most underserved public high schools (www.openingactnewyork.org).  For Opening Act, Suzy works as a teaching artist at Walton High School in the Bronx and Graphic Communication Arts High School in Manhattan.  She also co-runs an after-school theater program at the Williamsburg Collegiate Charter School, a new school in Brooklyn that serves 75 fifth graders, and will expand each year until it serves grades 5-12.  An actress and arts advocate, Suzy received her BFA in drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she also minored in applied theater.  Her work includes developing acting, movement, and interdisciplinary arts curricula for East Side Community High School, Jane Addams Vocational High School, and the Missouri Fine Arts Academy.  As an actress, Suzy has performed with The Aquila Theater Company, New York Classical, CAP 21, and The Classical Studio. Film work includes To Be Perfectly Honest opposite John Turturro and Spike Lee’s She Hate Me.  Currently, Suzy can be heard as the voice of Stormy on Fox’s Saturday morning cartoon, The Winx Club.

Name:
Suzy Myers
Subject:
Process vs. Product
Date:
21 Dec 2005
Time:
10:23:04 AM -0500

Blog

Ah…the strike…well, my semester of teaching artist work was supposed to wrap up this week with pizza parties and video screenings of student performances. Instead, I am left to find my own mini-closure in my Brooklyn apartment and hope that February will see the return of all of our high school students to our programs. I want to talk a little about the process vs. product debate, as last week saw end-of-the-semester presentations at all three of the schools where I teach. I think the general consensus among teaching artists is to always value process over product—and I agree. However, I think we can never diminish the importance of the product, either. I think back to my theater experiences in high school (and younger) and while I cherish the memories of rehearsals and bonding with teachers, I also remember how I felt when the curtain went down on opening night. And the level of that final performance mattered to me. A lot. I think the reason we emphasize process is because we all recognize that how a student feels and grows as a person is, in the end, more important than their growth as a ‘professional actor.’ But kids are smart. They know what’s good—and we, as teaching artists, need to help get them to a place where their performances are as successful as they are. Students will gain confidence and pride when they do something really well—and that’s what I was fortunate enough to see this past week. Of course, a week before that, I saw a lot of nervous faces, unsure if they were ready, if they knew their lines, if they trusted their scene partners. And I’ll admit I was nervous, too. I always have to remind myself that that, also, is part of the process. And then, as if by magic, I am always wowed by the way the students take it up a notch and make the performance happen. And then I get to see what I love more than anything else—I get to see my students shine. Have a wonderful Holiday!

Name:
Suzy Myers
Subject:
Getting Started as a Teaching Artist
Date:
13 Dec 2005
Time:
01:25:04 PM -0500

Blog

This was the first year that I was responsible for the bulk of the recruiting/interviewing/hiring process for Opening Act and I had multiple teaching artist candidates ask me in interviews how--if they didn’t have much teaching artist experience, but were completely passionate and charged to do this work--could they get started in the city. They were concerned that with so many teaching artists, it would be impossible to get a job without some kind of “in.” And it’s true – there are a lot of teaching artists here. When Opening Act put its job posting on idealist.org, we received well over 100 resumes within a month – with a great portion of them listing masters degrees from various Ivy league schools, or otherwise well respected programs. It made the hiring process both exciting and scary for me, as I looked at far more qualified candidates than I had positions for. What made one resume and cover letter stand out from the next? 1. Yes, experience. I like to see that a candidate has worked with a similar age group and population to the one we serve. But this can be volunteer experience or paid experience (see advice #1 below). 2. Passion! A cover letter that really gives me a sense of who you are and why you want to be a teaching artist will make me want to set up an interview with you much quicker than the experience factor. Tell the prospective employer why you want the job, what makes you love being a teaching artist, and why, specifically, you want to work for that organization. 3. Like-mindedness. This goes with what I said before about why specifically you want to work for that organization. Do your homework on the organization, know how you fit into their mission, and articulate that desire in your cover letter. If there are performances by the organization that you can see, see them. If there is a website, check it out. Be informed when you get to the interview stage. 4. Follow instructions. If we ask for a cover letter to address certain questions, and those questions aren’t answered, I assume the person applying either didn’t take the time to read the directions, or doesn’t really care that much about getting the position. Know what the employer is asking, and answer those questions to the best of your ability. What else can you do to get that much-needed experience? 1. Volunteer. There are plenty of arts-in-education organizations in the city that need volunteers. The 52nd Street Project relies almost entirely on volunteers, and as an employer, if I see that a candidate cares so much about the work that they are doing it for free, I am impressed. Volunteering also gives you a chance to get to know an organization and how it works, and gives you oodles of experience working with kids. 2. Network. Let me take a moment to plug a new program we started at Opening Act – the Theater Exchange. After hearing from so many teaching artists who wanted to share classroom ideas, get feedback, and practice their craft, we set up a monthly workshop to do just that. It’s open to teaching artists from all over the city, and in addition to learning tangible classroom material, gives teaching artists a chance to network and find out about other opportunities in the city. Go to www.openingactnewyork.org and look at Theater Exchange under ‘Get Involved’ for more info. We would love to see you there!

Name:
Suzy Myers
Subject:
The Buzz
Date:
08 Dec 2005
Time:
12:45:08 PM -0500

Blog

I can’t say that I’ve ever been high, but I feel pretty confident I know how it feels. And I feel it right now. I’m on the 4 train, coming home to Brooklyn from the Bronx after our Second Annual Opening Act Holiday Party, and I am buzzing with the energy I get every time I teach. It’s as strong (or stronger) as the rush of being onstage. And at the end of the day, it is what I am proud to say I do. I am a teaching artist. Let me back up. For three years, I have worked for Opening Act, an innovative nonprofit that provides free, long-term after-school theater programs to New York City’s most underserved public high schools. Although our medium is theater, our results go beyond the stage. We give students artistic experiences in which to take pride, build self confidence, learn the value of community and commitment and develop leadership skills, as well as strengthen their abilities in writing and self-expression. The schools we serve have over 1000 students, lower than average graduation rates and freshman reading scores, and a severe lack of theater programming. With those criteria, our schools tend to reach to the farthest corners of the boroughs, and sometimes feel rather isolated from the rest of the Opening Act programs. In an effort to connect our students and programs, last year we held our first ever Holiday Party, bringing together students from all four of our partnering schools to celebrate their hard work, share their experiences, and feel a part of a larger acting community. It was a huge success, and so, today, we repeated it. We had 50 students from four NYC public high schools at Ripley-Grier Studios in Manhattan. We did a warm up, played games, did trust exercises, and improvised. The students got to meet other students who love theater and were visibly thrilled by it. I got to see and collaborate with the incredible group of teaching artists who work for Opening Act and who, along with my students, inspire me on a daily basis. Hence my buzz. I must tell you this is my first-ever blogging experience, and I wasn’t sure where to begin. But that’s what is so great about the work we do as teaching artists – the students provide an endless wealth of ideas and creativity and inspiration. And I was reminded of that tonight.