Theater programs expand at Lawton & Burns Park; 3 questions for Julie Strassel, Lawton’s new theater teacher

Julie Strassel prepares her “classroom”—the stage at Lawton Elementary—for her students’ first day on Tuesday.
Photos and videos by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Julie Strassel spent the last five years watching her drama students at Chicago’s Goudy Technology Academy come out of their shells, become more comfortable speaking in front of others, and collaborate with their peers—all while having lots of fun.
And now she can’t wait to help her Lawton students do the same.
“Drama’s amazing!” says the University of Michigan theater performance graduate who also has a master’s degree in elementary education from DePaul University. “It’s a joyful kind of classroom experience and I’m excited to bring that to the Lawton students.”
For the first time this year, AAPS will employ two full time theater teachers at the elementary level.
Due to wide interest in the Burns Park/Lawton communities for theater classes, AAPS last year brought on board theater teacher Jayme Kelmigian, who split  her time between the schools.
This year, Kelmigian will be at Burns Park full-time, while AAPS has hired Strassel as a full-time drama teacher at Lawton.
Theater classes at each school will be offered to students in grades K-4.
“We have such strong vibrant art and music programs throughout the district and it’s important to offer a wide array of arts experiences for all AAPS students,” said Robin Bailey, the district’s fine arts coordinator.  “Exposing elementary students to theater experiences aligned with ELA standards allows students to experience various ways of expressing themselves and finding their voice.  It also provides opportunities for students to build confidence speaking and performing for others and sets them up to choose theatre experiences at our middle and high schools.”
Listen to Julie Strassel speak of the perks of theater class for kids, and what it’s like working in the same district as her brother, high school theater teacher/director Quinn Strassel:

Burns Park Principal Chuck Hatt is thrilled to have theater as a full time special area class at Burns Park Elementary School.
“The dramatic arts have been an important part of the culture of our school for many years through participation in the Burns Park Players and other groups,” he said. “Being a part of a dramatic production can be a daunting commitment for busy families. Now that theater is a part of each child’s learning experience we can assure that everyone in our school enjoys the academic and social benefits that come from participation in this ancient and engaging art form which is highly valued by our learning family.”
The following video featuring theater teacher Jayme Kelmigian was created last year at Burns Park:

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