WHS teacher to tackle Shakespeare in NY

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Woodland High School English teacher Heather Gordon will be spending part of her summer steeped in Shakespeare.

Selected as a Summer Scholar through the National Endowment for the Humanities, she is heading to New York to attend a two-week-long institute titled “Scholarship and Performance: a Combined Approach to Teaching Shakespeare’s Plays.” The program, which includes a $2,100 stipend, will be held at Theater for a New Audience’s Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn.

“I’m super excited about it,” Gordon said. “Shakespeare has so much to say still about how we live, the choices we make, how we fall down and how we get back up.”

 Heather Gordon

Gordon never planned on becoming a theater arts educator. She entered this new territory when, after various English teaching positions, she completed her public school teaching credential—and found there were no positions available.

That is when she saw an opening for an English/drama teacher at Woodland and found a new path.

“It’s such a great avenue to get students into English language arts and into the rich language of theater,” she said, adding it gives them opportunities to develop teambuilding and speaking skills, and to dive into history and literature.

Drama can make a big difference, she said, particularly to students with low English skills.

“You put them in drama and give them the opportunity,” she said, “and they’re all of a sudden using this rich language they didn’t even know they could speak.”

But this summer is her turn to learn, alongside 24 other middle and high school teachers from across the country. Together they will explore scholarship, language and performance in Shakespeare’s plays “As You Like It,” “Julius Caesar” and “Macbeth.” Their goals are to become familiar with the plays’ historical context, enriching their understanding of textual analysis and performance, and learning how to teach literary themes across several of Shakespeare’s plays.

Gordon says she’s already looking forward to bringing new ideas back to her classroom and the Woodland stage.

“I love seeing what happens for the students, what they learn from theater,” she said.