MALI Teacher Leader Series
This is the first 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 72 posted to date. Thank you Jason for sharing your story!
Jason Bannister presently teaches Theater to grade 7 and 8 students at the Troy Howard Middle School, RSU 71, Belfast. He has taught for 14 years, all in Belfast – 5 years at 4th grade, 3 years middle school ELA, 6 years middle school theater. Jason teaches 250 kids each year, one trimester of performing arts (theater primarily) each year for two years. He also directs the drama club productions and created the Maine Student Acting Competition.
What do you like best about being a theater educator?
I have the opportunity to teach something I love to kids, to expose them to theater. The best thing is seeing a student develop an interest in theater from taking the class, and maybe joining the next production onstage.
What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?
There needs to be support from your staff and administration. You shouldn’t have to sell the importance of theater arts education to them. There needs to be a proper space to rehearse, perform and store costumes, sets and props. And the class needs to be required, but with the understanding that not everyone is ‘into it’ – so you need to find interesting ways to teach kids about theater where they aren’t worried they’ll have to get up in front of the class.
How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?
I have used many different forms of formative and summative assessment in my performing arts classes. Some are helpful, but sometimes the process is more valuable than the product.
What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative?
I was given a chance to focus on a particular unit of study I was creating for my classes. I bounced ideas off other theater teachers. I don’t get this chance very often as the only theater teacher in RSU 71.
What are you most proud of in your career?
When I see a former student go on to college and major in theater. Especially when I remember them being shy or not into theater before taking my class or being in a play/musical I directed.
What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?
I see some teachers using old units over and over. I am always re-inventing units or coming up with new projects. I try to keep what works well and get rid of what doesn’t. When I started my performing arts class years ago lots of kids didn’t like it. This year most kids love it. If I didn’t make changes to what and how I teach I wouldn’t be effective.
What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?
I guess being a performing arts teacher in a middle school where the class is mandatory for kids to take. I worked hard to get this class created. There just aren’t lots of programs in Maine like what I’ve created. I am honored to have my job, but it’s been (and continues to be) a long road.
Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?
Fight the mindset some people have about theater arts education – it IS NOT an extra fluff type of subject. You can’t just say ‘oh, well the kids have drama club after school’ – that isn’t the same. Theater arts education is so important in so many ways to so many different kids. Don’t settle – work your hardest to get an equal footing with the ‘core subjects’.
If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?
That’s simple – I would put it towards building a proper theater to perform in. Enough of these cafetoriums. It’s ridiculous that there isn’t a dedicated performance space in my school district.
Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?
I have regrets everyday – how I could have taught that better, worked harder to connect with a student, not said something that hurt someone’s feelings. I guess I hope when I’m that old I won’t regret the time I’ve spent teaching theater and the time I’ve missed with my own children.
THE MAINE ARTS LEADERSHIP INITIATIVE
Committed to the development of Teacher Leaders to ensure deep understanding and meaningful implementation of high quality teaching, learning and assessment in the Arts for all students.
If you are interested in becoming a teacher leader please email Argy Nestor at firstname.lastname@example.org.