Elementary school continues theatre tradition

By: Tammy Rollie

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 19, 2014 06:00 am

A group of Turner Valley School students surround teachers Pat MacDonald, centre left, and Laurie Muir. MacDonald and Muir have been organizing the school’s spring musical the last several years and are both retiring this year. Muir announced she will continue organizing the musical on a volunteer basis.
A group of Turner Valley School students surround teachers Pat MacDonald, centre left, and Laurie Muir. MacDonald and Muir have been organizing the school’s spring musical the last several years and are both retiring this year. Muir announced she will continue organizing the musical on a volunteer basis.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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A retiring elementary school teacher refuses to hang up her props for good.

Turner Valley School Grade 3 teacher Laurie Muir announced her retirement after 10 years teaching at the Kindergarten to Grade 6 school, but she isn’t quite ready to retire as co-director in the school’s spring theatre production.

For Muir, the show must go on.

“I had kids asking what happens to the spring theatre (now that I’m retiring),” she said. “That’s when I decided I needed to come back to help whoever it is coming in and get it off the ground. I don’t want to see this program die.”

This decision was met with appreciation from staff, students and parents at Turner Valley School.

When Muir announced her retirement during the school’s final performance in this month’s musical production of Cinderella’s Glass Slipper on March 6, Muir said there was an audible gasp.

When she promised those in attendance she would be back to help with next year’s performance, there was obvious relief among the parents, said Muir.

“You wouldn’t believe how many parents came up to me and said, ‘We are so thankful,’” she said.

Muir took on the spring theatre in her first year teaching at Turner Valley School. She remembers her own children being involved with the drama production and knew this was something that had to remain active in the school.

“I didn’t want the drama program to die because my kids had been involved in it and loved it and I just felt it was a really great thing for the school to be doing,” she said. “Knowing what it did for my kids and seeing what it’s done for all of the kids over the years that I’ve worked with and the confidence that it’s given them.”

Muir said the theatre program was designed initially for the school’s Grade 6 to 8 students, before it became a kindergarten to Grade 6 school and the junior high students were transferred to Oilfields High School.

After the change, the program kept going full force and invited the school’s Grade 3 to 6 students to perform in the junior-high caliber plays, said Muir.

“What I have actually found is that the younger kids are not as inhibited,” she said. “They’re not as self-conscious. They’re eager to try different things whereas sometimes you had to coax it more out of the junior high kids. These little guys just take your direction and run with it.”

Muir watched as the students evolved with the program during the last decade.

“The thing I noticed the most is the quality of the auditions that we have now,” she said. “When the kids come to audition, they know the expectations and our productions have just gotten better and better and better every year.”

It’s not only the high academic students who take part in the play. Muir said there are students of all abilities who get involved.

“Some of our top actors have been kids who have difficulty reading,” she said. “Their vocabulary really improves. It’s just been really awesome for kids.”

A year after Muir joined the Turner Valley School team, Pat MacDonald was hired and soon became co-director of the musical theatre.

MacDonald, the school’s Grade 4 and music teacher, is also retiring this year.

“It’s time,” she said. “My husband retired a number of years ago and he’s waiting for me to retire.”

Like Muir, MacDonald’s children were a part of the spring musical.

“It’s quite a tradition at our school,” she said.

Before she even began teaching at Turner Valley School, she played the piano for the musical components of the play as a parent.

MacDonald said the program helps student confidence and comfort levels in a variety of avenues including public speaking and reading.

“Some of the kids who have been some of our stars are not necessarily the most academic kids,” she said. “We’ve had kids who struggled with reading be some of the stars of the play so it’s helped them work with fluency and all that kind of stuff.”

MacDonald has also noticed some personal benefits from being involved with the school’s musical theatre.

“This way you know the kids in the whole school,” she said. “You really build a really good bond with them and you really get to know them. This has been wonderful for us to be able to do these things with the kids.”

MacDonald said she is sad to go, but is also looking forward to her retirement, which she will spend traveling and working as a substitute teacher in the Foothills School Division.

In Muir’s retirement, she plans to travel, pursue photography and art and spend time with her seven grandchildren.


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