Teacher Stories: Jaclyn Kerrigan, Jackson Memorial High School, Grades 9-12 English and Theater

I went to college as an English major, and then nearly gave my mom a heart attack when I switched to a Theater major. She just didn’t think it was practical enough, but I also got a concentration in Secondary Education and a minor in English. I wanted to be a teacher and give back to the students what my teachers gave to me. I had really great experiences with my teachers.

When I became a Theater major, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. It gave me such great confidence as a student, and I wanted to share that with kids. Theater and English are so connected to each other. They all have that same passion and creativity that are being brought to life in both classrooms. I want the students to learn more than just English and Theater. I want them to feel like they are prepared to go out into the world and be good people and have strategies to not just survive in the world, but to flourish. Through English and Theater I want them to be well rounded and be who they want to be and cope with whatever hits them. They can put themselves into situations that they wouldn’t be in normally, and work through them through different characters and all of these different elements.

We do meditation, we do yoga, we have essential oils, and have brain dumps and get all of their thoughts and feelings out on paper. We really try to connect the feelings that they have to the stage so they can channel those feelings. We want them to learn how to have all the feelings they feel in our classroom and then be able to go back into the other classrooms and not have their feelings affect the rest of their day.

Last year we started an arts academy, and for the first time in 12 years I am teaching all theater classes.

I love being able to impact my students. I have created amazing relationships with them. I just went to dinner with three girls that graduated a while ago, and they tell me their success stories, whether it is with theater or beyond.

One student: she was in my English class. She was great, well adapted and everything, but she just needed someone to talk to. Not even anything serious, but just that she needed to know she had someone to go to. She was not very outgoing, but she took my drama class the following year, and just to watch that transformation of someone who was pretty reserved and shy, and see that growth in her as a person was so great.

I just let my students know they’re more than my students, but that they are people that matter to me. I am always walking around smiling, and I think that helps the students feel comfortable with me.

Interview by Gregory Andrus

Portraits of the Jersey Shore


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