Colonial Life grant affords development opportunity for arts teachers

Leading the Way

Colonial Life grant affords development opportunity for arts teachers

Middle and high school drama and English Language Arts teachers from across South Carolina experienced the classroom as a student again as they took part in a two-day professional development opportunity.

The teachers participated in the 2018 Arts Teacher Retreat at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. The annual retreat allows arts teachers networking opportunities, time to practice the craft and time to practice new teaching skills.

After interviewing and surveying numerous teachers over the past few years, SCGSAH determined three things:
• Teachers in the arts need opportunities to network within their field;
• Teachers in the arts are not provided the appropriate funding to attend the opportunities that do exist;
• And teachers in the arts are artists and need opportunities to perfect their craft to maintain a level of high competency in the classroom.

That’s why Colonial Life provided the opportunity for Lexington and Richland county teachers to attend the retreat.

“Colonial Life’s grant investment afforded 15 teachers the opportunity to hone their skills by learning new techniques to enrich the classroom experience and elevate student achievement,” said Marie McGehee, community relations manager at Colonial Life.

This year’s retreat focused on two of the state’s most underserved artistic content areas – drama and creative writing. Drama teachers took monologue and song development workshops, while ELA teachers explored the use of poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction in the classroom.

“Having the opportunity to take a professional development class that’s specifically geared towards theatre was a rare gift that I knew I had to take,” said Jennifer Simmons, a drama teacher at Carolina Springs Middle School in Lexington School District One.

“Being a theatre student again allowed me to put myself in their shoes and gain perspective about what it’s like to work with something new in front of your peers,” said Simmons. “We are constantly asking our students to do things outside of their comfort zones, and it’s easy to lose track of what it’s like being a student in a class setting.”

Simmons plans to incorporate what she learned at the retreat into rehearsals and classwork for a new musical theatre class starting at Carolina Springs this year.

In total, 30 teachers from across the state attended the retreat – 16 teachers participated in the drama workshops and 14 participated in the creative writing workshops.

Pamela Haloulos, Fine Arts Department chair at Dorman High School in Spartanburg School District 6, will use the tactics she gained from the drama workshops to better help her students perform monologues and songs in competitions.

“I also learned some great new warm-up games,” said Haloulos. “What I learned will get them on their feet and thinking instead of just memorizing and performing.”

The goal of the retreat was for teachers to leave feeling refreshed, energized, and valued as members of the professional education community.

“It was wonderful to be able to network and connect with other theatre teachers, to build a bigger resource for us and for our students,” said Simmons.

Colonial Life is committed to supporting organizations that grow strong individuals and school leaders, more successful communities and a prepared future workforce. Nearly half of the company’s corporate social responsibility efforts focus on student achievement and preparation of a future workforce.