“A great exercise for my teacher brain” – Interview with Teaching Artist Stephanie N. Walters
Photo courtesy of Stephanie N. Walters.
Last month, the Bartol Foundation awarded scholarships to nine local teaching artists to attend a symposium about teaching in alternative spaces. As part of our ongoing Q&A series, we spoke with one of the scholarship recipients, actress and playwright Stephanie N. Walters, about her work as a teaching artist and experience at the symposium.
Can you tell me a bit about your work as a teaching artist? What kinds of spaces have you taught in?
I started teaching theatre in Philadelphia a few years ago. I was working with local theatres and going to visit public elementary schools to discuss children’s theatre. I loved working with students so much that I explored other avenues of educational theatrical engagement. I worked with a southwest Philly high school ELL class to create a theatrical response to a local professional performance. I also have spent a few years working with young adults with autism on writing their own plays.
My biggest joy is working closely with Philadelphia Young Playwrights. Through their Core Residency program, I am able to frequent local high schools to teach playwriting. I have also served as a mentor for the Resident Playwrights at PYP, an application-based group of high school students. Giving personalized feedback and mentorship impacted me so deeply that I explored more opportunities with PYP. This coming fall, I will begin a two-year fellowship as the Special Programs Fellow.
Over the past year, I also began working with a local synagogue preschool/playschool. Working with tiny humans in the mornings and high school students in the afternoons has been my daily routine during the school year, and it’s a great exercise for my teacher brain! During the summers, I teach dance at a local theatre camp with elementary school students—my own version of “play creation”—and playwriting to high schoolers. This year, I will be developing a theatre/play creation camp for preschool-aged students.
Why were you interested in attending the symposium?
I was interested in the symposium because I did not go to university for teaching or education, so I saw the symposium as a professional development opportunity. Working for PYP has allowed me to participate in trauma-based professional development. Through these opportunities, I am able to give myself a larger knowledge on the ever-changing pedagogy of teaching.
Can you share something you found particularly valuable and/or surprising about the symposium?
One of my favorite aspects of the symposium was the icebreaker/warm up lead by Koresh Dance Company’s teaching artist, Teresa VanDenend Sorge. It was movement-based and completely engaging. I have since adapted the exercise and utilized it with my own students. They have loved it so much and it has proven extremely valuable as their creative autonomy blossoms.
Interview responses have been edited for length and clarity.