This year I had the esteemed pleasure of launching a new, year-long program in my 8th grade classroom at Volta Elementary School with APTP’s Associate Director, Maggie Popadiak, as my teaching partner.
The day I met Maggie I knew that she would make magic happen in my classroom.
Volta is a wonderful elementary school in Albany Park. The students of Volta speak 27 languages, many sacrificed to come to this country, and all are second-language learners. Volta believes every child deserves the best education possible. Volta has become my life and my students are my oxygen.
From the first day, Maggie began with activities to get the students loosening up and encourage them out of their comfort zone. A few weeks into the program, Maggie asked students to share where they had come from and how immigration impacted their lives. Little did I know that our group would be staying after school, deep in conversation, telling our stories. The following week Maggie came to school with a handwritten note for each student showing them that their stories were valuable and safe. From that day on my students felt like they were wanted and needed.
By the end of the year, Maggie and my students created a play solely from the students’ personal stories. Benjamin Serrano, another teacher and artist from APTP, created a video about Volta with my students that became part of their performance and that we now feature on Volta’s website to introduce people to our school.
After our final performance, the students shared what APTP meant to them and what transpired over the school year:
“Through APTP we became a family. Regardless of what clique you belong to, we were all a big huge multicultural family built on trust.”
“I honestly didn’t think I would have the confidence to stand up in front of my peers and share my story. I mean, I didn’t think anyone would care, and my class made me realize I mattered.”
“Maggie giving us our APTP hoodies created a sense of belonging. I will continue to be a part of APTP and cherish all the lessons that were taught.”
As an educator of middle-school students, APTP has made me understand how creative a classroom can become. After this year-long collaboration we have realized that we can only make the lives of students better by bringing theater to the classroom.
Written by Kristina Vancil, Partner Teacher
Volta Elementary School