There are times when you don’t want to compromise on quality. When it comes to educating our children this is especially true, which is why the AT&T Performing Arts Center invests in experienced, masterful teaching artists to help children learn through the arts.
Mark Guerra is a teacher for the Center’s innovative Open Stages initiative in the evening. By day, however, he is a Grand Prairie ISD Teacher of the Year and one of the co-founders of The Musical Theater Academy, which is opening in early 2015.
“I sing and I dance and I’m all over the place. I get to be the fun teacher,” Guerra tells me over cocktails. “The main thing with engaging students is matching their energy.” Guerra certainly has energy to spare, and he exudes that unstoppable energy that incredible teachers always possess. In fact, as Guerra explains it, “I make teaching my whole life.”
Guerra’s amiable spirit is matched only by his commitment to quality education for kids – he even helped revise and rewrite the middle school theater curriculum standards for Texas. “I think the main thing I’ve been able to teach my kids is the artistic process,” he says. “They don’t realize that you have to work, work, work. It’s rote. It’s practice.”
When students are in Guerra’s class, he is intentional about teaching them more than just the craft, but how performance is relevant. “Theatre arts isn’t just ‘we’re gonna learn a scene, I’m gonna teach you how to act.’ It’s also ‘take these public speaking skills with you, so later when you walk into an interview you’re set up.’”
For the lucky students in the Open Stages program, part of their education involves seeing a show on the Center campus. Guerra says this allows students to see how the work that they do, whether in theatre or school, are instrumental for something bigger. “We allow them to see the building blocks that lead up to what the performers are doing. It’s about exposure.”
Guerra sums up how experiences in the Open Stages program can change a student’s life: “When students have exposure to something, they can find interests that suit them. And when they’re interested in something, that is the entry point for getting them to learn.”
The Center prizes the education professionals who help students unleash their potential and succeed in school. If you would like to invest in Open Stages so that more students can learn through the arts, please visit our website!
About the Broadway Experience, part of the Center’s Open Stages Program
The Center connects professional Broadway and TITAS performers with students, who learn together under the guidance of trained teaching artists. Students not only learn about many and varied aspects of the professionals’ craft, they also get to ask questions about pursuing creative careers. After these workshops, students attend a performance – for many of them, the first they’ve ever seen – and get to see how the lessons they’ve learned are applied in real life.