Theater is another classroom for Windsor High teacherPublished 12:29pm Saturday, April 20, 2013
BY STEPHEN H. COWLES/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
WINDSOR—Virginia Beatty-Riffle knows what’s the matter with kids today, and she endeavors to offer a solution every school day. Perhaps that’s one reason why the Suffolk native was recently chosen as the Teacher of the Year at Windsor High School.
“One of the biggest problems for children is they don’t dream any more. They’ve lost a sense of play,” said Beatty-Riffle. She not only teaches English at Windsor High School, but also handles the theater arts program.
It is on the stage or even behind the scenes where she believes students can regain those abilities and learn academic subjects at the same time.
“There are a lot of skills that can be learned in theater,” said Beatty-Riffle. One example is her students are using around 30 Scholastic Aptitude Test vocabulary words in “Armor.” This is the upcoming play they’re presenting.
With little to no money for costumes, music, published plays, props and sets, the ensemble has to be resourceful.
The creative writing class was commissioned to help write an original story, which Beatty-Riffle hopes to publish some day and offer to other schools.
In particular she credits seniors Leslie Requena, Parker Little and Brandon Bliefernich for their contributions.
“We had a ball of fun,” Beatty-Riffle said about the times they got together to imagine and write the play.
Lessons in music and art are also woven into the production.
“Theater is a way of balancing that,” she said.
Her stepson, Zach Riffle, plays guitar and has written music for the play. She also sings, and her husband, Brian, plays drums at their home studio in Ivor.
Beatty-Riffle points out nearby racks of clothes, such as old prom dresses, which have been repurposed for the characters.
“I’m very excited because I’ve worked hard for years to give students an opportunity to dream,” Beatty-Riffle said concerning the recent honor. “They come to believe in themselves, and mold themselves into their dreams.”
Related to that, she thanked her own parents, Virginia and Marvin Beatty of Suffolk, for their encouragement and influence.
Beatty-Riffle didn’t dwell on her own recognition, though. Instead, she praised her peers, who nominated her, particularly those with whom she works.
“We have an excellent English department,” she said.
What keeps her going in teaching is to serve as an example to the students.
“I get to model hard work every single day,” she said.
“Armor” will be performed at 6:30 p.m. May 17-18 in the school. Cost is $5 per person.