Unfortunately, Deb (as I called her) didn't win this time, but I wanted to share my entry publicly in honor of her dedicated work. This is only a itsy-bitsy part of what I loved about her. I owe my sanity and much of my confidence to my many teachers (K- college) who gave me opportunities to learn theories, workshop new ideas, and meet people I would have never known had I not gotten an education in the arts.
Nominee: Deborah Currier
Nominated by: Lindsay Weldon
Many new mothers hope their children will be healthy and happy. Sure, I wanted those, but I also wanted my babies to do theater exercises and improv for fun! So, the moment I gave birth to my first son, was the day I founded the “Weldon Youth Theater Troupe”. The troupe’s motto came from my college Theater Professor and Advisor, Dr. Deb Currier, who while never having birthed any children of her own, knew a lot about them. I’m not even sure this particular instruction was part of her lesson plan for the day, but her words, which seemed to be written in the air with a glue stick, quickly stuck to my ears and worked their way inside my brain, to the treasure chest I keep of real pearls--and open only for special conversations: “Children can do anything. Never tell a child they can’t do something that they can.” She expanded, “When telling a child they need to have their lines memorized by tomorrow, don’t apologize or say it’s hard. Say it nonchalantly; believe in them…and they will learn their lines, they will read a play, analyze a script, they will do it because they don’t know they can’t.” Deb’s insight has informed my role as a supportive mother and as a teacher working with children in the community today.
Despite not being able to read music myself, for over a year, I have volunteered in my tiny town in Eastern Washington as a singing teacher to about 50 children once a week, serving girls and boys ages 3-11, including my own 4 year old. While this isn’t exactly where I thought my BA in Theater would be useful, I have been proven wrong. My unofficial Weldon Youth Troupe has expanded 50 members, encompassing these singing children, who grant me their attention and let me shape their minds with musical- theater exercises and improv! I can still hear Deb’s voice every time I ask the kids to “mill and seed” around the room. Since Deb’s pearl of wisdom took up residence in my head, the way I view my students’ capacity to learn, including my biological children’s, has been with great expectation. Deb was the whisper that caught my attention, reminding me that I never want to be the person who tells a child you can’t; I will always be the one who says you can. My singing “troupe” doesn’t have to be a gang of perfect vocalists-out for the kill, but they know they can sing, learn the words, and melt hearts.
I want my former teacher, and mentor, to be able to continue inspiring future theater educators who challenge their students to be do-ers of things, people who can. Please consider her in your search for The Kennedy Center Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award, because she’s not only inspired me, but certainly will influence many of your future Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher nominees.