Robyn Paley is one of the theatre teachers at A. Mario Loiederman Middle School in Silver Spring, MD, and one of OTC’s very dear friends. National Players, our touring theatre company and OTC’s hallmark educational outreach program, has visited her theatre classes for the past 5 years. Robyn has been teaching for over 20 years, and we wanted to feature her incredible work today.
What's been your experience working with National Players?
Without a doubt, working with the National Players is one of the highlights of the school year! Multiple times each fall, ten Players work with every LMS drama class teaching workshops. I always feel pride watching my students laugh and learn with the Players. Then, in December, the students are able to see the Players themselves perform a show. This year, LMS performed Twelfth Night as our fall show inspired by the National Player's season. We were incredibly touched that Rebecca Dzida and the Players came to see our production! We cannot wait to see their performance! It truly is a priceless partnership. At the end of each school year, students always report that their time with the Players is among their favorite experiences.
What makes Loiederman special?
LMS is the only creative and performing arts magnet school in Montgomery County! We offer dance, choreography, digital music, chamber choir, plus traditional music and art classes. My cohort and fellow theatre teacher Marie Ostrega and I offer four different full-year theatre electives. Unlike other magnet schools in the county, every student attending LMS has access to these special classes.
I teach Beginning Theatre for 6th graders and Advanced Theatre for 8th graders. With the 6th graders, I focus on using improvisation to learn the basic tenets of acting. The 8th graders study Shakespeare, musical theatre, and the history of modern American acting. They learn about Stanislavski, Strasberg, Adler, and Meisner. It is amazing what they are capable of!
What do you wish other people knew about your job?
Students who have access to theatre arts programs learn how to connect to each other in authentic ways. It breaks my heart that so many arts programs around the country are being cut. We are lucky that in Montgomery County there is a lot of diversity and students need to have opportunities to come together to create community. My students form lifelong connections with each other in my classroom. Their creativity grows while learning empathy, collaboration, and organization skills. Many students hide behind social media. I want my students to learn how to be present and find confidence using their own voice and identities to become part of something bigger.
I have so many hopes for my students. The majority of them qualify for free or reduced school lunches and have struggles that no young people should have to face. I hope that all my students know their value to the community and they find power in artistic expression.