This is the third in a six-part series profiling arts teachers in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
Chad Edwards loves to challenge his theater students.
By giving his students something complex to tackle, they wind up inspiring him.
In 2015, Edwards was moved by “The Scar Boys,” a novel by Len Vlahos about childhood bullying. He contacted the author with the idea of turning it into a high school musical. Vlahos agreed, and the students, under Edwards guidance, helped adapt it for stage.
That’s just one example of Edwards’ creative approach to teaching theater. An 18-year veteran, he has taught at Mount Tabor for 15 years. This year, he began teaching a few theater classes at West Forsyth.
Edwards was the Teacher of the Year at Mount Tabor in 2010, and in 2013, he was named the N.C. Theatre Conference’s K-12 Theatre Arts Educator of the Year.
The Greensboro native studied theater at Elon University. He regularly acts in local theater productions.
Q: Describe what you do.
Answer: I teach all different levels of theater, beginning and honors classes and a technical theater class. I take part in our productions after school. We usually do two to three a year. We usually do a musical in the spring, and in the fall, a one-act play that we take to a play festival. And sometimes, we do a winter show. I like to do shows that challenge my kids. There are easier shows, and yeah, you can get some laughs. And they need that. But they also need a challenge. If it’s something they want to do as a career, it’s much more interesting to tackle that. It’s also interesting to me as an artist to really tackle that material, too. And to see them succeed is the greatest reward. I also advise for the THETA Awards (The Twin City High school Excellence in Theater Arts Awards), which are like the Tony Awards for Forsyth County. And it’s completely run by students.
Q: What was your introduction to theater?
Answer: I was a late bloomer. I was a sophomore in high school and we were doing some activity with “Antigone” and I had people around me who really loved the theater. That sparked my interest. I auditioned as a junior and senior and I got some roles, and I just progressed from there. I was greatly influenced by my high school teacher and college professors as well. I always knew I wanted to go the educational route. My teachers were very inspiring to me. I did professional theater, touring theater for a couple of years and I came back here and thought, ‘What am I going to do next.?’ So I went back to school and got my educational credits. I’ve taught elementary, middle and now high school.
Q: What do you like about working with high school kids?
Answer: I like that the kids bring a lot more life experience to the table. They have some idea of what they want to do with their lives. So they take the craft more seriously. They tend to be ultra-creative, and I just love that. I love their spirit. I love their energy. Kids, of course, are ever evolving, and that keeps me on my toes. So they change from year to year to year. They never cease to amaze me and surprise me, and that creates so much joy in my life that I just want to give back.
Q: What do you like about teaching in public schools?
Answer: I like the experience that public schools give you. There’s educational diversity in the classes, things you can take, not only theater but also chorus or go to the Career Center and take auto mechanics. There’s more options for students. I also think it’s a strong community. You can reach to the community. Parents are there for you. Teachers are there to support each other. I think that word “community” sticks out for me.
Q: What role can arts play in education?
Answer: It’s huge. It gives kids who may not be the brightest in mathematics or be the best writers, it gives them an outlet, and it gives them confidence they may not see in other classes. There are a lot of studies that tie arts education into success, and I truly believe that. They can make applications from arts education to their regular core classes. If someone learns by moving more, they can take that connection to the dance class or my class because we move a lot. By keeping them in one setting, you don’t explore that. You don’t get to see what they really bring to the table.