Spotlight on theater expands at every level; classes help students gain self confidence, practical skills

Videos, photos, and story by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News

Ann Arbor Public Schools has long been known for its dedication to the arts.  Now theater classes are expanding at every level, right down to two elementary schools.

Beginning this school year,  AAPS staff includes a theater teacher teaching K-5 theater at Burns Park and Lawton schools. The hope is to expand into more elementary schools in the future.

Elementary theater teacher Jayme Kelmigian (see video above) came to AAPS  last year from New York, where she had worked on “Hamilton” but missed working with and building student voice through theater.

Jayme Kelmigian (far right) says her elementary students at Burns Park (shown here) and Lawton love the chance to express themselves.

Over the summer she wrote the district’s K-5 theater curriculum and procured the materials she needed to launch this program.

Fine Arts Coordinator Robin Bailey is excited about the new opportunities now available to an increasing number of children from K-12.

“In an effort to encourage our students to have a voice and to build skills that will enable them with confidence to express themselves, we have been building our theatre programs district-wide,” says Bailey, noting the support of Superintendent Jeanice Swift,  LeeAnn Dickinson Kelly and the Board of Education. “We’ve always had robust Theatre Guild after-school programs at each of our high schools, including Community and the former Roberto Clemente. However, we wanted to build that capacity with robust in the school day programming that would facilitate the growth of our theatre programs district-wide.”

She said that’s why the district hired Kelmigian, and over the past three years implemented the following:

  • Each high school now has an AAPS theater teacher teaching acting, theater production, and screenwriting classes during the school day, enabling students to take classes and explore “front of the stage” and “back of the stage” opportunities. These initial experiences build confidence in students to pursue participation in Theatre Guild after-school programs, creating a more diverse student body participation district-wide.
Quinn Strassel teaches theater at Huron High School.
  • AAPS now has a theater teacher teaching theater classes at Tappan, Slauson, Scarlett, and Forsythe Middle Schools and would like to expand to Clague in the future.

  • Hear how theater classes have benefitted a Huron High School student:


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