Center Theatre Group is profiling the work of Los Angeles educators in a new Teacher Feature series. These features — which highlight both theatre and non-theatre teachers — provide a glimpse into the daily challenges and successes in the classroom (and sometimes on the stage) and offer a space for fellow educators to learn from each other and dialogue about the real beauty and struggles occurring every day in this work.
Fabiola Lopez has been teaching at Jefferson High School in South Central L.A. since 2003. She teaches Theatre, English, Honors English, ASB/Leadership, and is the Associated Student Body Advisor. Fabi’s favorite aspect of her profession is that she gets to experience the full power of teenage energy on a daily basis. Besides teaching high school and theatre, Fabi also loves to travel and spend time with her daughter.
Center Theatre Group has had the pleasure of working with Fabi Lopez in a multitude of ways so we’re thrilled that she was nominated for this feature. Fabi is one of four partner teachers in our August Wilson In-School Residency Program this year. Visiting her classrooms frequently has given me an inside view of just how much respect her students have for her and what a vital role she plays in their lives. The end of the year brings a particular energy and I asked Fabi for some insight about how she approaches her work during this time:
What is the end of the school year like for you? Paint us a picture of your classroom and rehearsal space.
The end of the school year is a great time to bring together everything that the students have learned throughout the year and give them an opportunity to use their skills and creativity. They break up into production teams and each team is responsible for writing, producing and directing a 15-20 minute one-act play. It’s a very loud and crazy time of the year because we are usually working on three to five “small full” productions but the energy that is flying around the room and on the stage is all really good. At this point, I feel really proud that all the hard work and dedication has paid off. My focus is to support the students in the final leg of their journey and to help them retain the confidence throughout the process. During this time, my mantra is, “You can do it because I’ve witnessed you doing it before. Trust yourself.”
Fabi, you teach a lot of subjects! And I know theatre is important to you; how do you incorporate it into all of your classes?
Even when a class is not considered a “pure” theatre class, I use a lot of elements from theatre to support and further develop other subjects. For example, all my English classes go through a whole unit of introduction to theatre and acting. I find that my English students benefit from this unit because it helps target many different learning modalities and really helps students build confidence. Center Theatre Group is actually a strong contributor because, for many of my students, going to the theatre is not something that is done, so having the opportunity to go watch a live show, be entertained, be mesmerized and realize that all this happens in their own backyard and is simply a metro ride away is truly extraordinary. One of my favorite things to hear is, “Miss, remember when we went to see…”
What is something unique/innovative you’re doing in the classroom and/or rehearsal?
I’m not sure if this is innovative or unique, but one thing that I do during the Children’s Production is that I invite a class or two from our local elementary school (usually one of the schools that we’ll be performing at) to come to our first dress/tech rehearsal. After the performance, the students get to give us feedback. Now, if you’re not aware, seven year-olds are brutally honest! But it’s good because that’s our focus audience and we have time to modify, if necessary.
What, if anything, do you do to acknowledge soon-to-come transitions (end-of-year) with reflection, ritual, etc.? How has this worked in the past and what are you expecting this year? How has theatre/arts supported you in this?
One thing I really enjoy doing is having my theatre students keep an Actor’s Journal with reflection, pictures, entries, post-production reflections, etc. in it. I see it as a workbook where they can keep their best practices, but also as a memory book where they can see the good times, the bad times, the friends and their overall growth throughout the year(s). At the end of the year, we all go on stage and sit in our circle of trust and go back through the Actor’s Journal and share out favorite memories, anecdotes and reflect on the journey that the year has taken us on. I find that it not only gives the students a sense of closure, but it also helps them realize how much they have grown in that one year. It’s a really sweet way of saying goodbye, especially for my seniors. I’ve had students that graduated years ago that tell me that they’ve kept their journal and occasionally re-visit it.
Do you have any questions for fellow educators?
I’m always on the hunt for new activities and theatre games. Educators, what do YOU do in your classroom?
Do you have powerful rituals you do with your students for closure? Interesting activities to share for Fabi and others? Leave them in the comments below or upload activities to the Educator Hub.