Elizabethtown College has just added a new Theatre Endorsement program for all education majors.
With only four extra classes, students will be able to teach theatre in their future schools and gain a better knowledge of the world of theatre.
According to Director of Theatre and Dance Michael Swanson, the Pennsylvania Department of Education introduced the endorsement in 2015, and Etown is the first college in Pennsylvania to implement it.
Swanson said the College made this decision in order to combine the large education program with the successful theatre program and give students more opportunities to expand their resumes.
Other states have begun to implement programs like this. According to their website, Simpson College in Iowa has added a teaching endorsement for theatre for grades five through 12.
The University of Nebraska- Lincoln also has a similar program for English Education majors grades seven through 12.
The University of Iowa offers a speech communications/theatre endorsement for kindergarten to grade eight.
Iowa State University also has a speech/ theatre endorsement for grades five through 12 with the speech communications department. Unlike these other schools, Etown offers the endorsement for all grades and all content areas.
Swanson said that this change has attracted media attention and has been covered in the local newspaper, which has drawn more attention to the College and its program.
This will draw more students who have an interest in teaching theatre and will benefit the theatre program by bringing more students to the program itself.
Swanson believes this program will be a “beacon on a student’s resume.” The endorsement will show school administrators, principals and superintendents that the students not only have knowledge of the theatre, but they also have had experience directing productions as well.
According to the College’s website, students will be required to take Introduction to Theatre, Stagecraft, Theatre Methods and Directing for Theatre classes.
Besides allowing students to teach and direct theatre in their future schools, theatre also helps teachers develop skills for their own classroom.
Junior Julie Weeks, an early childhood education major, took a basic acting class and said this experience with theatre has helped her with teaching.
Weeks said this class gave her techniques to use when she is teaching. It helped her with public speaking as well as thinking creatively.
Most of all, it helped push her beyond the reach of her comfort zone, which prepared her for her future career because Weeks believes “teachers always have to go out of their comfort zone.”
Junior education major Renee Ciardullo participated in theatre throughout her high school career.
“I really valued the relationships I made and the skills I acquired from my experiences in theatre, so when I heard about the theatre endorsement, I wanted to give my students those positive experiences I had,” Ciardullo said.
Ciardullo believes theatre teaches dedication, commitment and collaboration, all of which are necessary for teachers. Like in teaching, theatre involves quick thinking when things change unexpectedly. Theatre also helps those participating to be creative and experience the viewpoints of other people.
Junior Kayla Hall is an education major with a theatre minor. She believes being in a classroom and being in the theatre share a lot of similarities.
Hall said the classroom is like a stage and the same skills are used in both settings.
“In a classroom setting, you have to be a performer for students,” Hall said. “This way, a teacher is able to engage the students in the class.”
Since Hall has almost completed her theatre minor, she will not be completing the endorsement, but she said she would recommend the program to students who are interested and wishes the program had been around two years ago.
Swanson recommends students who are interested in the program talk to the professors involved with theatre and education, as well as their advisors.
Most of the classes are already offered, so students can start at any time. The methods class and the stagecraft classes are not yet offered, but they will be by the Spring semester this year or the Fall semester next year.
For more information regarding the theatre endorsement or the College’s theatre program, please visit www.etown.edu/depts/theatre.