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At the end of high school I had big plans. I was going to be famous, of course.

I plotted traveling to New York and working as a nanny for the short period before my Broadway career took off. I dreamt of my recording contract, my voice belting out of car speakers. I kept a notebook full of ideas for the novels I would publish. I planned to transform lives as a youth minister. I would be charming and hilarious, yet totally relatable, during my late night talk show interviews. Limitations grounded my dreams a bit, and I ended up combining my desire to work with young people with my love for theatre and writing. I became a high school English and Theatre teacher. Prior to my teaching engagement, I spent two years working as a counselor at Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch, a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed youth. The accomplishments of which I could boast for my work those two years belong more to the girls with whom I worked than to me. I was merely an anchor and a stepping-stone as they fought their way through a myriad of issues toward safer and healthier lives. My reward for those years was seeing some of those kids come out victorious. I learned much more from those young people than they learned from me. They showed me strength in adversity, beauty in dark places, and forgiveness for the unforgivable. I learned to accept people where they are and how they are. I learned how to point people in the right direction. I discovered more than I wanted about the depravity of the world. I learned how to recognize and address mental and emotional disorders. I also learned how to dodge a vacuum being swung at my head, but that’s another story.

I am wrapping up my tenth year teaching English Language Arts at Billings Skyview High School. As an English teacher, I work to meet and exceed state and national curriculum standards. I collaborate with other teachers through Smaller Learning Communities and Professional Learning Communities. I teach students in my classes how to read and comprehend and how to write and communicate. More importantly, I teach empathy for the characters in the novels we read, and I work to extend that empathy and human understanding to the real people in the world around my students. I teach the importance of respect and responsibility. I show my students that thinking for one’s self is more important than having the right answers. I give them experiences that make them create and extend themselves past their previous limits. I work to give them something permanent to carry beyond their required coursework. My theatre program is my professional baby. It is the most cherished, and the most exhausting, aspect of my job. When the class was handed to me, I expanded the program by starting a Drama club and a Thespian Troupe. Previously, there was one play per year directed by a person hired from outside of the school. I have been directing three to four productions per year adding up to twenty-five shows produced with high school students. Most recently we put on Shakespeare’s As You Like It. My Theatre students develop skills in movement, voice, characterization, stagecraft, design, dance, and improvisation. Beyond that, taciturn kids find their voices. Lonely kids find friends. People who are different discover belonging. They

find their outlet. In the most successful scenarios, my students develop open minds; they gain new perspectives and find their social conscience. Beyond the school, I am working to extend my leadership and the impact of the theatre arts community and state-wide. I work with the other theatre directors in my community to coordinate joint events like youth improv in the park. I am an Arts Facilitator, a representative for my school in a colaboration between the Billings Public Schools and the Alberta Bair Theatre. I serve as co-chair and secretary for the Montana Theatre Educator’s Association. I am the board secretary for the Montana State Thespians. I am working to help school and community members notice the undeniable positive presence and effect of theatre arts. Bringing my student’s work and compassion out into the community and the world is an important aspect of my work. They have run food drives for the local food bank. We have donated show proceeds to the school’s Angel Fund, which provides help for homeless and disadvantaged students. My students have taken on the roles of teachers by bringing theatre workshops to elementary schools. Last year, and continuing this year, my students and I worked to bring down bullying and promote understanding through a local and viral theatre for social change project called The ACCEPT Project. An idea conceived in the fertile realm of the Creative Pulse graduate program of which I have been a student for the past two years, the ACCEPT Project is a multitiered entity. We began with a visual art component designed to promote the rest of the project while at the same time displaying the beauty in our differences and our humanity: portraits of people accompanied by poignant “I am” statements. Next my

students and I embarked on a journey of discovery of self, culture, and community culminating in production consisting of personal monologues, documentary interview monologues, and a framework of transitional scenes and songs. We performed the show for community audiences over two evenings, shortened and revised the show for performances for the student body during the school day, and reworked the show adding new elements and taking away others for a performance at the Montana Thespian Festival. Hundreds of students signed anti-bullying pledges following the show; we plan to create a visual art display using the signed forms. I created a YouTube channel and a Facebook page for the project. We are using it as a means of continuing the project, urging others to create art to promote understanding. In addition to my day job, I work with international students. Learning about foreign cultures and perspectives is crucial; bringing students to our local communities and helping them to have a great experience is one way to do that. I sponsor the school’s Intercultural Exchange Club and I work as a Local Coordinator for the Council on International Educational Exchange. The club participates in fun, local activities so that the foreign students can experience Montanan and American culture. We also create awareness and spread knowledge of their cultures through events at the school and in the community. As a local coordinator I find and approve good host families, work with schools to accommodate foreign students, and mentor students throughout their American school year. I have learned so much about the world in the two years that I have been working with these students.

In the busyness of my life, with the nature of my profession and commitments to my family, I find myself fostering creativity in others far more often than I am able to pursue my own creative endeavors. I create through crafting lessons and directing, of course, and I write and act and improvise alongside my students whenever possible. Recognizing this, I have to admit that I long to create for myself again. The Creative Pulse graduate program reminded me of those loves in my life, those “flow” activities that are largely squeezed out of my schedule by my everyday life. I love singing. The Creative Pulse gave me the opportunity to put into words the importance of music in my life. Singing brings me joy when I am sad, helps me work through my emotions, calms me when I’m anxious, and transports me out of my ordinary circumstances. I may not be better than every contestant on American Idol and The Voice, as my dad likes to brag, but I do love it. Dance is another area of joy. It has always been one of my favorite activities, but I have had so little opportunity to pursue it that I had almost given up on the notion of dance being a part of my life beyond a means of exercise. Enter the Creative Pulse program once again; the Creative Movement course made my body feel alive. There’s nothing wrong with Zumba at the gym, but my experience got my wheels turning about how I could pursue dance at a greater scope. I have plenty of opportunity to direct. I sometimes feel like I am constantly directing. There are moments, however, when the theatre is empty. They are usually times when I am just locking doors or putting away stray props. I find myself on the stage under the lights. I breathe in that distinct fragrance. My limbs

tingle; I remember the sensation of the audience reaction. For a brief instant, my feet on those boards, I am a performer again. I sometimes have the crazy notion that I can somehow get past my qualms and excuses and find some way to fit performance back in to my life. Those cliquish community theatre groups had best be prepared to welcome a new actress, or else I will just have to form my own company. Photography is the visual arts field wherein I feel most at home. I’ve shot a few weddings, some senior photos, and some head-shots. I delight in capturing that unique shot, that beautiful, little-noticed piece of nature, that telling facial expression. I have feared and balked at the technical aspects of modern photography, however. Courses in the Creative Pulse program helped me become familiar, even comfortable with Photoshop. I also shook my fearful trepidation with technology in general, which has opened a lot of doors for me and helped me to feel more at home in the modern world. The Creative Pulse program has also fueled my desire to write. Since before I was even in school, I would sit at my kitchen table and craft stories. For years of my life I journaled my thoughts and experiences. I have always had a tendency to narrate events in my mind in colorful, descriptive prose. The Creative Pulse has prompted me to resume my writing ways. In addition to fueling my artistic desires, the Creative Pulse has given me new confidence that I am skilled at what I do, that my pursuits are worthwhile. The Creative Pulse cracked the foundation of practicality on which I built my life; those cracks are allowing for creative endeavors and crazy dreams to seep back into the

base of my existence. As cheesy as it sounds, the Creative Pulse has made me feel more like my real self, the self I enjoy. I never knew that school could affect me personally in such a way, and now enrolling in this program is on the list of best choices I have made. It renewed my bravery, energized me, and helped me feel that I have the support of a community of talented artists and skilled professionals. I may not be famous. My life is not exactly what I had envisioned as a high school senior. The Creative Pulse has inspired me to aim for new goals. I want to audition for something big, perhaps even Broadway, just for the experience of the audition. I will take a real dance class. I will have a professional quality recording made of my singing. My writing will be published. I will make strides in the area of arts integration, and I will advocate for the arts, perhaps even internationally. I hope to teach overseas and eventually at the college level, and with the exemplary example of my professors in the Creative Pulse program, I feel that I am now prepared to pursue that. I would also like to ride in a hot air balloon someday; perhaps it is just part of my penchant for defying gravity.