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Spirit of Acadiana: Teaching the arts at J. Wallace James

Posted at 8:18 PM, Apr 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-27 23:05:23-04

You know, I think we can all agree that being a teacher is testing enough. But being an art teacher, someone who deals with expression and thoughts and creativity... during a pandemic? That's testing to the Nth degree. Here at J. Wallace James in Lafayette, we talked to the arts teaching group. They have thoughts on this school year.

Take drama teacher Hannah Briggs, for example. "It's been exciting, grueling, exciting, fun, we've had to think out of the box in ways we've never done--and we're used to doing that. But this was like way out of left field for us."

Any successful organization --- a club, a company, a SCHOOL, yeah --- requires a solid team to make things happen, to keep things happening. So when the school year began in the heart of a pandemic, the arts teachers at J. Wallace James turned to those they knew and trusted the most -- each other.

“But this year was especially weird because we could not meet as much as we usually do,” explains Briggs. “We did a lot more through email, so it was actually a challenge. I’m so glad that we had that foundation of being a team before.”

Teachers tell us the students were the secret weapons in keeping things together. Want neat ideas? Invite input from some neat kids. “They’ve been very flexible and understanding and working with us, offering creative solutions that have worked, that I wouldn't have thought of,” smiles voice and chorus instructor Kathy Kennedy Smith.

Now, each year, J.Wallace James puts on a couple musicals, bringing in actors and band and strings and singers. This spring, it's Alice in Wonderland, but wait: How do you rehearse, how do you get all of these moving parts together when they can't be together?

“So, we're each providing our own individual parts,” says band teacher Wendy Shelton. “I’m recording in my room, strings is recording in their room, drama is recording on the stage, so we're putting it together as this movie, essentially.”

For our final act, let's revisit the basic theme of this Spirit of Acadiana segment. The question: “So, teaching in the arts, during a pandemic, piece of cake, right?" "No problem at all,” laughs Shelton and Smith.

In closing, and being the son of a teacher, to all of you teachers out there, all of you educators everywhere, for all you do and especially this year, for all you've done.

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