Writer, performer, and Storytree Theater founder Teralyn Reiter brings 20 years of teaching experience to the Midcoast.
Reiter, who recently premiered her original play, “The Only Woman in the Room” at the Lincoln Theater in Damariscotta, is looking for schools who want to bring more theater arts education directly to their students while also teaching standards-based curriculum.
“I always tell teachers to give me the lessons they are tired of teaching,” Reiter said. “I’ll take them and put a new spin on them. You and your students will take part in engaging activities while creating an original work based on the content. It’s so much fun!”
Reiter developed her unique method of teaching while traveling and teaching theater throughout the United States and Europe, and living in Daegu, South Korea.
“Every place I went to, I found that students were more captivated and eager to learn when the material was presented in ways that engaged their bodies and their minds,” Reiter said. “Once you start cultivating the art of play in a child, the sky’s the limit.”
Reiter honed her teaching process while working with English learners in South Korea.
“My job was to teach students English while they sat behind a desk and repeated things I said, while also learning proper grammar,” Reiter said. “Needless to say, it could get pretty boring for both the students and me.”
She leaned into her theater experience, and created a program that taught kids English while they wrote a play in English. “I couldn’t believe the instant shift in enthusiasm in the students,” Reiter said. “Suddenly, they were laughing, eager to come to class, and wishing they could stay later to work more, and then, the look on the parents’ faces when they saw their children performing their original play in English was simply magical. And guess what? Their English was so much better!”
After returning to the states, Reiter wondered if she could do the same thing for American students and schools with standards-based curriculum. While living in Charleston, S.C., she founded Storytree Theater with the purpose of making professional theater programming and education accessible to all students regardless of socioeconomic status. She partnered with local theaters, schools, and arts education organizations, and began creating theater curriculum specific to each classroom’s needs.
“It was slow going at first,” Reiter said, “Teachers were hesitant about inviting theater artists into their classrooms to play games, but once they saw their students engaged in learning the vocabulary and understanding the concepts, they were hooked.”
Over the next 10 years, Reiter and her team created arts-integrated lessons in a variety of topics including math, science, social studies, and English language arts for schools throughout Charleston and beyond, reaching hundreds of students.
“I never thought I would create a theater lesson about math, but one day I found myself watching third graders perform original raps about the commutative property,” Reiter said, “I even understood the commutative property better after that week.”
As with many artists, the pandemic forced big changes in Reiter’s work. She closed down in-class theater residencies and created theaterteacher.org, a site dedicated to helping teachers bring arts-integration lessons to their students both in the classroom and online.
“Teachers were struggling to create lessons that worked for both hybrid and in-classroom learning, so I created a simple resource they could use at their convenience, but also made myself available to create lessons for and with them,” Reiter said.
She created original online lessons, plays, and other curriculum for schools throughout the country to use for free.
Now she’s ready to get back into the classroom. “I was invited into the kindergarten classes and second grade classes at Great Salt Bay last year, and those experiences reminded me of the importance of in-class theater residencies,” Reiter said. “Theater is a powerful learning tool that offers learners an in-depth understanding of the curriculum while sparking curiosity, building empathy, and developing communication and teamwork.”
Reiter offers free one-day theater lessons to schools throughout the Midcoast so teachers can see her in action. Each residency is tailored to the needs of the classroom, which allows for flexibility in subject matter and time-frame. She also works with every school budget, believing money should never be an obstacle for professional theater education and experiences.
For more information, contact Reiter at email@example.com.