Heidi Marcinkiewicz Bradley
K-5 Theatre Arts teacher
Toledo Blade Elementary
North Port, Florida
What advice would you give your younger self?
The advice I would give to my younger self would be, not to worry so much. It always turns out fine. There is no one right way to do something.
What grades and subjects have you taught over the years?
I taught second grade for 6 years at Ashford Elementary, in Ashford Ct. I took 10 years off to stay home with my children. I started substitute teaching in North Port Fl, for two years, and have been teaching at Toledo Blade Elementary for 14 years. At Toledo Blade I have taught, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, third grade gifted, second-grade special ed and now drama.
Now you’re a theater teacher. Tell us about that!
I am a theatre teacher and it is the most fun I have had teaching. My administration approached me with the idea and told me to think about it. I did some research and applied for the position and got it! I am now on the specials wheel, so I see one class, from each of the 6 grades (k-5) for a week at a time. We are on a six-week rotation, so I teach all 800 students at Toledo Blade! We do reader’s theaters, pantomime, improv, fractured fairy tales, poetry, puppetry and also produce 2 weekly news programs, Thankful Thursday and Famous Friday! We have done flashmobs for spirit nights, and 2-grade level performances a year. We also have a partnership with Florida Studio Theatre and Venice Theatre.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is watching children gain confidence in themselves and their abilities. I also enjoy seeing them laugh and have fun and work together.
Can you share a story about being pleasantly surprised in your classroom?
In theatre, I am always surprised daily! Earlier in the year, a fourth grader wrote an amazing script for our Thankful Thursday program and I was so excited to put him on our news program. But when I asked him, he said he would rather not. (He is pretty shy). Fast forward a few months later, he wrote another amazing script and at the end, he wrote: ”I would do this on the news if you pick me”...I snatched him up and he did awesomely!! I was so proud of his new confidence in himself! He even chose to do a speaking part in his fifth grade Veteran’s Day play this past November.
How do you incorporate play into your teaching?
This is my favorite job because we can play in Theatre! The kids do a LOT of role-playing, and retelling and acting out favorite stories and fairy tales. We also start each session with a drama game, which some have said is the best part of drama! These games involve just us - no props, no technology - just each other. I always remind them that these games teach cooperation and focus, but they just see it as having fun! When I hear them laughing, and joking with each other, I think I am doing something right. They get to have a little fun in their busy school day! And another surprising thing...from the youngest kindergartener to the oldest fifth grader, they always enjoy the games more if I play with them. Who would think?
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
My favorite toys were the Fisher Price “Little People”- the house, the village, the farm, the garage. I also loved Barbie everything, coloring, (who couldn’t resist that new Crayola smell?) Playdoh and Silly Putty, and the game Clue!
How much does creativity factor into your teaching?
Creativity is always important in any teaching job. I am constantly assessing each lesson, game, and activity to see how to spice it up or tame it down. Many times I learn from the students themselves, what they are interested in. I keep them moving. We start with a drama game, and do a drama activity and a quick movement activity (freeze dance or dance) and end with some yoga to calm them back down. I am constantly updating and reinventing and making sure they do something different every time I see them, yet keeping the same routines and repetition they need.
Can you provide some examples of this creativity?
I had the first-grade classes coming in, and in groups, doing Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Believe it or not, this involves a lot of skills: taking turns reading their parts, figuring out who is what part, reading the script, cooperation etc., all in a small group and performing for the rest of the class. In comes my gifted first-grade class, and they completed the task in two days. 3 more days to go. So I read them the book Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, and asked them to get in groups and come up with their own variation to perform for each other. It was so much fun. They created new characters and drew them, and they performed their new versions by Friday. We had Goldilocks and the three aliens, three penguins and three cats! Drama has taught me to think on my feet more!
Is there anything you’d like to share, that I didn’t ask you?
Teaching theatre is not just about putting on plays and taking theatre in middle school or hopefully becoming a star on Broadway. It's about gaining confidence, and thinking on your feet and expressing a part of you that others might not see during the school day. It's about communication with your voice and your expressions and bodies. It shows students talents and interests they may not have known they had. And these comments are all from students, themselves, who told me why they liked theatre.
Thanks, Ms. Marcinkiewicz Bradley!