The Educational Theatre Association recognizes individuals who have inspired their students and dedicated themselves to providing quality theatre education with the Inspirational Theatre Educator Award. Veteran theatre educators and EdTA members Victoria Kesling, Sarah Lindvall, and John Tourtellotte will each receive this award at EdTA’s National Conference.
Victoria Kesling of New Kent High School in New Kent, Virginia, home to Thespian Troupe 7644, was recognized for empowering her students to be proud of the art they create. Kesling’s process-based instruction shows students how to make creative production decisions for themselves. She encourages students to take interest in all branches of theatre, which enables students to be designers as well as actors in the program. Because the theatre director believes a show can never be perfect, students are encouraged to continuously adapt to each production and make artistic changes. Thespian troupe member Morgan Setzer says, “Mrs. Kesling understands that each student has a unique way of learning thus never discouraging unorthodox approaches to new skills. She is an inspiring educator for all branches of theatre and continues to provide each student with a safe space for growth and learning every day.”
Sarah Lindvall of West Forsyth High School in Cumming, Georgia, home to Thespian Troupe 7193, was recognized for her dedication to student growth through performance. During the fall production of Into the Woods, Lindvall developed her student’s characters by providing them with a set design unique to them. The original set design is a shadow box with each character as the pop of color against an all-white set and black backdrop. The production’s set gave each character a distinct color and look so the attention was on the characters rather than the surroundings. The slight change inspired students to create audition books and set a standard for each performer to develop their character to evoke emotions that would have been otherwise unreachable. Lindvall works to give her students the best theatre education and brings out the best in her students throughout the process.
John Tourtellotte of Hollywood High School in Los Angeles, California, home to Thespian Troupe 2487, was recognized for his ability to connect with students. Tourtellotte pushes his students beyond their comfort zone because he sees their potential for growth, and this does not go unnoticed by Thespians. The theatre director has inspired students to learn production advertisements, write directorial analysis, and lead cast warm-ups because his “our production” attitude empowers students to focus on their strengths to improve their theatre experience. Recently, Tourtellotte who is also a professionally licensed stage combat instructor, made Shakespeare interesting, fun, and accessible to his students after training the cast for four months in a stage combat production. Students now look forward to Shakespearean productions and any production that Tourtellotte brings their way because his faith in students makes them feel capable.