The program gives 30 teachers from regional, rural and remote Australian schools a fully-funded, year-long mentorship with the company.Selected from as far afield as Morawa (WA), Alice Springs (NT) and Longreach (QLD) the teachers received specialist training over four days at Bell Shakespeare HQ in Sydney, in practical and innovative strategies for teaching Shakespeare.
Over the four days, the teachers took part in training sessions with professional actors and arts educators, networked and shared ideas with teachers from other regions, saw Bell Shakespeare’sAntony and Cleopatra performed at Sydney Opera House, and visited the NSW State Library to view Shakespeare’s First Folio.
On their return to school, the teachers receive ongoing support from Bell Shakespeare artists and staff, as well as access to in-school and in-theatre programs to ensure their engagement continues.
Peter Evans, Artistic Director of Bell Shakespeare said, “Teachers are the conduit through which we deliver our programs to students across the country; they are the first and last experience a student will have with Shakespeare in school.
It is critical to our commitment to share Shakespeare’s works with all Australians regardless of age or location, that teachers be the champions through which we spread the relevance and understanding of Shakespeare.
Many of these teachers’ students live in remote areas and don’t always have access to reliable internet, a permanent library, or a local theatre. So teachers become our frontline.”
Participant feedback about the program has been positive.Emma Grant, of Wyalkatchem District High School inWA, said that the experience was invaluable.
“For our students, Shakespeare opens up a whole new world and gives students a chance to explore ideas and concepts that are surprisingly familiar. Through this training, that I have been so privileged to receive, I will be able to help our students unlock Shakespeare and engage with this canonical literature in a way they never thought possible,” she said
Jane Vaughan, from Railway Town Public School in NSW, said “I cannot say enough how valuable this is for teachers, both primary and secondary..…Shakespeare is for the people, it always has been. He mirrors the world around him, challenges the expectation and helps us see ourselves more clearly. Students need this. In a world of gratification, navel-gazing, online absorption and media control, Shakespeare can show our students how to think more clearly and find their voice. Then they can use that voice to contribute to the world around them.”
Anica Koprivec, from Batemans Bay High School in NSW, said “The value of the RTM is limitless, the introduction of teaching strategies, the networking with other like-minded teachers and the ability to take these learned skills and experiences back to a regional area and share knowledge and build and adapt upon them is invaluable.”
Gill Perkins, General Manager of Bell Shakespeare said, “The Regional Teacher Mentorship is a program that we are extremely proud of because of the impact it has in smaller communities.
Without the support of our partners in this program, Teachers Mutual Bank and the Australian Government, we wouldn’t be able to equip teachers with creative and innovative ways to teach Shakespeare, strategies that can also be applied across the curriculum.”
Brad Hedgman, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Teachers Mutual Bank Limited, said, “Teachers Mutual Bank Limited are proud partners of Bell Shakespeare’s Regional Teacher Mentorship Program.
We believe that teachers inspire and cultivate the next generation to accomplish great things. Those selected for the 2018 intake represent that ethos. We’re excited to see how they bring their experiences in the program back to their schools in regional and remote Australia.”
Bell Shakespeare tours main-stage productions of Shakespeare’s plays and other classics to state capitals and 27 plus regional and rural centres each year, alongside an extensive education program of performances, workshops and professional development opportunities.
Bell Shakespeare is committed to introducing generations of students to Shakespeare around Australia.
image credit: Clare Hawley