SUNY Potsdam has become the first college in the State University of New York to offer a theatre education program. Since the College unveiled the new Bachelor of Arts degree late last semester, 10 students have already applied to join. The theatre education major represents a unique partnership between the College’s School of Arts and Sciences and its School of Education and Professional Studies.
“We are the only undergraduate public institution in New York State that offers theater education leading to a certification in pre-K to 12,” said Dr. Jay Pecora, assistant professor of theatre and dance. “We offer a real liberal arts education, along with the teacher training that students will need. It’s a strong selling point for SUNY Potsdam, to show that our schools really work together here.”
Graduates of the program will be experienced in all facets of theatre— from the technical elements, such as lighting and stagecraft, to
performance and directing, as well as design. The program also requires students to take courses in pedagogy, and engage in observing theatre courses and student teaching in area schools.
“Education and theatre are two of my biggest passions in life, and to be a part of a program that brings theatre and teaching to life for others is really fantastic,” said David B. Zwierankin, a senior theatre and theatre education double-major from Poughkeepsie, N.Y. “Most teachers spend their days writing on chalkboards and overhead projectors. For me and my fellow theatre educators, the day is filled with students working together on creating something unique.”
Kristie L. Fuller, a SUNY Potsdam alumna and theatre director at Indian River Central School, acts as a mentor for students in the program, many of whom will complete their field experience under her tutelage.
“The great thing about SUNY Potsdam is that you get to work in every aspect of theatre, and as a theatre teacher you’re going to be responsible for knowing about everything,” Ms. Fuller said. “Potsdam provides that variety, and it provides it with student-run initiatives. This program really has the potential to be top-notch.”
Opportunities for students who obtain their bachelor’s degrees in theatre education include teaching elementary or secondary drama, becoming teaching artists, instructors at institutes and summer camps and becoming educational directors for theatre companies.
Mr. Zwierankin, who has student taught at Indian River High School and Calcium Elementary School under Ms. Fuller’s guidance, hopes to obtain his New York State certification for theatre education after graduating.
“The faculty in the Department of Theatre and Dance at SUNY Potsdam was the biggest attraction for me to the program. Having such amazing faculty, watching the joy in their every move as they teach, and seeing every positive relationship they share with their students is an amazing thing,” Mr. Zwierankin said. “I would love to find a theatre classroom of my own somewhere in New York, so I can give students a chance to regain the creativity that is lost in many school systems nationwide.”