A Teacher’s-Eye View: Independence High School

This month we’ll begin our 26th school year of Shakespeare on Tour, packing Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors into a van that will travel about 10,000 miles across California before April. In celebration of our tour program, we’ve asked teachers at a couple of our long-time school partners to explain how watching a Shakespeare on Tour performance can impact their students.

“Will you hear the dialogue that two learned men have compiled in praise of the owl…?”

~ William Shakespeare, Love’s Labors Lost

This week we travelled to Owl country to talk with Linda Ostermeier and Susan Laird, two English teachers at Independence High School in Brentwood, CA. Linda has been teaching her Independence Owls for 18 years, while Susan has been at Independence for over 25 years!

Here’s what these dedicated educators had to say about Shakespeare on Tour.

What impact have you seen SOT performances have on your students?

Most of our students have never seen live theatre.  This experience consistently inspires students to seek out more theatre experiences.  It also demystifies Shakespeare for many reluctant English students.

Can you remember any moments when you saw students become fully immersed in an SOT performance?

It’s a delight to watch the faces of students during these performances.  As high school students, they’re still unguarded enough to truly respond to the performances.  They laugh out loud, gasp in surprise, and look tense during fight scenes.  I remember a student who was on the autism spectrum volunteering to be an assistant actor for a scene.  His experience on stage resonated throughout the year for him.

The students love the opportunity to participate.  Many of our Special Education students have had great success participating in the stage performances. For a few, their participation was a springboard to engage in other interactive opportunities at our school, such as Poetry Outloud National Recitation Contest.

What do you all enjoy about teaching Shakespeare? 

We love teaching such beautiful language and universal themes that transcend time and place!

Our heartfelt thanks to Linda and Susan for your hard work and your dedication to your students. We appreciate your passion for Shakespeare, and we’re honored to support your students’ education with Shakespeare on Tour!  

* The interview responses above have been edited for clarity and length.
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