Taking the stage: Teacher duo share their passion for theater arts – School News Network


From the classroom to the spotlight, teachers Amanda and Jay Fischer know a thing or two about making the most of a summer. Both passionate about the theatrical arts, the husband and wife team spend their break being heavily involved with the Shadblow Theater in Jenison.

This summer, Amanda and Jay have had roles in all of Shadblow’s productions. While Amanda directed and assisted, Jay played Fagin in “Oliver! In Concert”, Dr. Edward Armstrong in “And Then There Were None” and narrator in “Into the Woods”.

Amanda, a creative writing teacher and music director at Grandville High School, first found her love for the performing arts through song.

“I started singing in elementary school and middle school, (and) eventually got into the acting part,” she said. “My best friend took me to auditions and finally convinced me to get involved.”

Early in her career at Grandville, Amanda served on the college’s fine arts committee, although she taught English and history.

“I had students doing drama, but I wasn’t teaching them that skill,” she says.

When she moved to high school, the stars aligned and it turned out that a musical director was needed.

“I went to the principal’s office and told him I wanted the job and told him about my experience, and the rest was history,” Amanda said.

Eleven high school shows later, Amanda is still amazed by the talent she sees in her students.

“These students are better than I will ever be,” she says. “It’s an honor to work with them every day.”

Amanda Fischer directs on stage at the Shadblow Theater

A star is born, reluctantly

Jay, supervisor of the learning support center at Grandville High School, had a much more reluctant start to his acting career.

“When I was 10, I was dragged to a high school play because my sister had to apply for extra credit for a class she was in,” Jay said. “I went there kicking and screaming. They sang the first song from the musical and it was amazing, I was hooked right away.

After that musical, Jay started looking for other shows to go to and decided theater was for him. Acting in several plays and musicals in high school, he took a brief break from college.

When Amanda and Jay met and got married, one of the things they had in common was their interest in the performing arts. When Amanda was directing high school musicals, she would bring Jay in and help him with weird things here and there.

“We’re a good team,” Amanda said. “He’s very good at small details and I’m more focused on the big picture. It works well.

Working with Amanda in high school was one of the main reasons Jay returned to the stage.

“The students I worked with would look at me and ask me why I wasn’t playing,” he said. “I thought I was past my prime and found other excuses. I didn’t think I was good enough. One year I tried and since then I’ve been lucky enough to be cast in programs for the community.

Work alongside students

This summer, Amanda and Jay took part in all four productions of Shadblow, both onstage and backstage. Often, summer productions mean working with students in a different way than in the classroom.

“There are a lot of students from Grandville that we recruited for ‘Oliver!’ and ‘Music Man,'” Amanda said. “The theater draws primarily from Grandville, but we also welcome students from outside the immediate community.”

Students are very excited about working with their teachers because it’s a different way to interact, teachers said.

“At school you’re in a position of authority, but when I’m on the show, me and the kids are on the same level,” Jay said. “They consider us experts in the performing arts, but some of these kids are much better than I will ever be.

“You have to humble yourself and know that you can only teach them to work hard, that’s the most important thing they can learn. The natural ability is there; we simply push them on their way and show them how to work efficiently.

learning tools for school

Each piece provides a different learning experience that can be brought back to the classroom, Jay said.

“I’ve read so many books on acting and picked up so much information,” he said. “Part of it is developing myself as an actor, but another part is learning how to communicate information to my students. A lot of things that I do, I have the mindset that’s going to make me a better director, or what can I take from this experience back in Grandville to teach them.

With Amanda in the principal’s seat, she uses many of the same skills and techniques that she uses with her students.

“It’s so many of the same skills that you use as a teacher,” she said. “It’s organizing, it’s bringing out the best in people and seeing the good in them that they might not even see, and helping them grow and grow. Every actor, everything like every student, is unique and must be motivated in his own way.

The final summer show, “Into the Woods,” which the Fischers will perform for the season, opens Sept. 14, after Grandville’s college year begins.

“It’s going to be hectic for sure,” Amanda said. “Even though we are busy for most of the summer and during the school year, we wouldn’t want it any other way. The theater’s community orientation is amazing, and it’s a great place for students and adults to perform.


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