I don’t know about you, but I know without a shadow of a doubt if it were not for my high school drama teacher, I would never be teaching drama today.
Years ago, before dinosaurs roamed the earth (the 1980s), I was introduced to my high school drama teacher Daniel (Danny) Price. If my memory serves me correctly, Danny hailed from Detroit, Michigan, and I was in awe of his strong regional accent in drama class. Bizarrely, I think this may have been the beginning of my fascination with accents in adult life. Apart from the odd end-of-year play, I don’t recall any formal drama training at primary school, so Danny’s lessons were my introduction to classroom drama. He taught me drama for four consecutive years from Year 7-10 until I played up at school and had to move elsewhere. Sadly, there were no drama classes in Year 11 or 12 to feed my hunger at the new school.
Danny’s passion for drama education oozed across the classroom and into my veins. He lived and breathed drama and soon I saw no logical reason why I should not follow my teacher’s lead and do the same. Under his guidance I participated in all the school musicals and before long I just couldn’t get enough of drama. I would learn my drama lines dozens of times over for homework, endlessly experimenting with different ways of saying them, leaving my maths homework unfinished nearly every night. As a teenager, nothing mattered to me more than drama at high school. Like many of my own students today, if drama class or musical rehearsal was not part of my school day, it was a depressing one. My mood would instantly change at the mere mention of drama class in the school ground.
Danny’s knowledge of acting was a highlight for me. He taught me how to focus on stage, and how to not just adopt a role but to sustain it during a performance. Being the regular class clown who just loved seeking attention, vocal projection was not really a problem for me at high school. But Danny taught me how to be disciplined on stage. I was never short of energy, but being able to harness all that liveliness of mine was what was needed. All my teachers tried in vain to control my energy as a young teenager, even my parents, but only Danny succeeded.
To be truthful, I was a harmless pain in the butt for most of my teachers at high school. I fooled around too much and struggled to settle down with my studies. Like a lot of students, I found my place in drama class. It was my home. I felt like I belonged on the high school stage thanks to Danny. Some years passed and I returned to the fold to undertake my final pre-service teaching placement with my old drama teacher. All my favourite memories from high school came rushing back to me. Not too many years after this, I heard Danny passed away suddenly in his 40s. My high school drama teacher was my hero. When I heard of his death, I wept.
Feel free to share your own story about your inspirational drama teacher in the comments section below.