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The True Triple Threat


In musical theater, the most highly coveted accomplishment is to be a true triple threat, or a performer that is talented as a singer, dancer, and actor. While I arrived at my first high school theater class with this perception of the term, I found that I left with a radically different understanding of it. My teacher, Mrs. J, led by example and displayed how one can be a triple threat both on the stage and in life. She is abundantly talented theatrically, yet more importantly she is a sincere person, powerful teacher, and one of a kind leader. These are the traits that make her a true superstar in the eyes of both her students and all those who come in contact with her.

As she affectionately prefers to be called, Mrs. J, has the innate ability to break down any barriers between her students and herself. Her welcoming smile and genuine concern about the well being of her pupils have made Mrs. J an important mentor and friend for many of my peers and me. Whenever I felt concerned about a class assignment, or simply wanted to talk, I knew I could always approach her office door with the certainty that it would be wide open. When a student in our class was diagnosed with liver cancer, Mrs. J was the first to offer support and assistance. She was able to share her own tears and concerns comfortably, and even had tracked down a facebook message from the ill student addressing the class. For Mrs. J such dedication is simply part of the job, and the same care she exudes in times of crisis, is present every other day of the school year.

Not only is Mrs. J an unusually kind and open person, she is also one of the most challenging and engaging teachers at the school. When I signed up for theater, I never imagined what a stimulating course it would be. Though the subject matter was in itself interesting, it was truly Mrs. J’s presence in the classroom that made the class one of my favorites. She is determined to challenge her students and push them far beyond the confines of their comfort zones. However, she is able to do this in a gentle way that makes the student feels secure while still encouraging them to take risks. When I was struggling with a specific monologue, her advice was focused not only on my improvement but on her own as well. She gave me copious suggestions, yet also shared stories of her own struggles with similar material. In revealing information about her personal toil in the same arena she encouraged me to continue pushing forward until I too had triumphed. Mrs. J uses her infectiously warm personality to help her students learn more about the subject matter and to grow tremendously as both performers and individuals.

At the end of the day, however, I think it is the way Mrs. J leads by example and applies everything that she teaches to her own life that other students and myself find so inspiring. It was not until I showed up at a school wide assembly on AIDS awareness day and found one of the speakers to be Mrs. J herself, that I was even aware of the challenges the disease presented in her life. The speech that she gave before the school focused on the way she, her husband, and their two children are able to live happily despite his infection with HIV. Her speech was infused with the same optimism and warmth I knew to be characteristic of Mrs. J, though the subject matter was clearly difficult to deal with. More than anyone I have ever met, Mrs. J takes the lessons taught in her classroom and applies them to her life. A willingness to take risks, to challenge yourself, and to remain positive through it all, are all things Mrs. J takes pride in seeing in her students. What I never expected, however, was how inspiring it would be to watch her exhibit these same qualities so gracefully in her personal life.
Great Person? Check. Great Teacher? Check. Great Leader? Double Check. After studying under a true triple threat, I came to accept a whole new understanding of the term itself. And instead of aspiring to be like Barbara Streisand, Patti Lupone, and Kristin Chenoweth, I had a new star in mind. I know that I left that theater classroom a different actress and individual than when I first arrived. As she hugged us all goodbye on the last day, I could only hope that my peers and I had given her half the experience she had created for us.



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This article has 4 comments. Post your own!

MichelleLoFiegoKocan said...
Feb. 25, 2010 at 9:52 pm:
A true example for everyone, always has been and always will be.
 
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noname said...
Feb. 25, 2010 at 12:22 pm:
Amen! She is the real deal: honest, sincere, caring, smart. One of the extraordinary people in life.
 
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Bdjames said...
Feb. 23, 2010 at 9:10 am:
I agree with everything you said Anon, Glencoe. My sister is extraordinary. -Brian d'Arcy James
 
Uncle Lou replied...
Feb. 23, 2010 at 9:18 am :
This brought tears to these old eyes.
 
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