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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Rick Osann

April 4, 2017

MALI Teacher Leaders Series

This is the sixth blog post of the Phase 6 Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teacher Leader stories. This series includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about the work each Maine visual or performing arts teacher or artist is doing.  CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 81 Teacher Leaders plus 4 Teaching Artist Leaders.  CLICK HERE  for Arts education resources. CLICK HERE  for the MALI Resource Bank. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past teacher leader stories. There have been 76 posted to date. Thank you Rick for sharing your story!

Rick Osann teaches grades 9-12, Theatre, Film & Video at Bonny Eagle High School in Standish. He has been teaching for 13 years, 11 at Bonny Eagle. His courses include Theatre 1 and 2, Stagecraft, Film History, and Video Production. The theatre classes are all experiential learning classes. In Theatre 1 students produce a children’s play that tours the elementary schools. In Theatre 2 students write their own play and perform at an evening at the high school. In Stagecraft students design and build the scenery for the main stage productions. The Stagecraft class has won a “Set Design Commendation” at the One Act Festival for the last several years! Rick has about 80 students per term between four classes.

In addition to classes, Rick serves as Drama Club and Thespian Society Advisor. Thespian Society is a dramatics honor society sponsored by Maine Educational Theatre Association. He directs two main stage productions per year, a full length play in the fall and a one act play in the winter, taking part in the Maine Drama Festival, and Rick serves as Producer for their spring musical. In addition, he  volunteers as State Chapter Director of the Maine Educational Theatre Association.

What do you like best about being a theater educator?

I often tell my friends I get to go to work and play every day. Now, this is not saying I don’t work hard. I spend more hours working and work harder each of those hours than I did before I was teaching. The difference is that I totally believe that what I am doing is important and meaningful. When I was in high school I was totally passionate about theatre and I love having the opportunity to share this passion with students. Theatre is a place to create magic- we bring into existence whole worlds out of our imagination, and then we invite the public to live in our world for a couple of hours. It is a life-changing experience to create a moment of extraordinary beauty on the stage!

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

  • Be passionate- We need to be passionate about our art and believe it is the most important study that our students will experience in school. I often tell my students that our theatre class is the best place to learn the skills they will need to succeed in the modern world. We study and practice collaboration, creativity, communication- all the 21st century skills- and we do them with a strict deadline. Business leaders are recognizing this!
  • Love- We need to love our students and support their own passions. Sometimes this isn’t easy!
  • Learn- Keep learning something new every day.

How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?

It is so important for students to understand what they are doing well and where they can improve. Traditional grading methods average out student strengths and weaknesses. Proficiently Based Education (PBE) identifies for the student each individual strength and weakness and how to improve.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the Maine Arts Leadership initiative?

Getting a handle on PBE is challenging! Working with MALI has forced me and helped me to make my own assessment practices more genuine so they’re meaningful for my students.

What are you most proud of in your career?

We just won the Maine Drama Festival Class A State Championship!! This was pretty darn exciting. I am incredibly proud of how well my students worked together and supported each other to reach this goal. It was an honor to help these students grow and mature through their years in high school. A long time ago it was pretty spectacular working on the film, “The Muppets Take Manhattan”!

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

There is never enough time to do all the things we know we should do to help our students. I struggle to get my priorities straight to balance home, family, classes, theatre, and volunteer work. There are so many important things we can do to help our students and sometimes I worry I’m not doing any of them well enough.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

I still consider my first teaching job to be my greatest moment of “luck”. Sylvia Pease, Superintendent of SAD #55, will always be my angel for hiring an inexperienced teacher and giving me this chance. I would like to think she recognized in all of my “non-teaching experiences” something that might be of value to students.

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

Believe in what you do and the importance of every moment you share with your students. You are making a difference in many lives. Be confident that what you do and say MATTERS, even when it looks otherwise.

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

Create more opportunities that would encourage students to get involved in theatre. Open a theatre somewhere? We went to London over February break and saw that the upcoming London production of “Hamilton” is enabling them to renovate and open a theatre that has been closed for over 50 years. Awesome!

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

When I was fresh out of graduate school, my wife encouraged me to try teaching public school. I thought it was crazy, when my degree qualified me to teach at the college level, that I would need to go back to school to teach at the high school level. What a fool I was! When I finally took the education classes after about 30 years in various careers, I realized how helpful and important they were. I don’t regret my other careers and learned a tremendous amount from the experiences, but I wish I had listened to my wife and started teaching sooner. The past 13 years have been my very best!

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