Erin Schacter & Rachel Beales: Making a Full House at Canadian Stage
By Kait Rainey-Strathy, Faculty of Education ACE alumna ‘11
Faculty of Education alumna Erin Schachter is the driving force behind Canadian Stage’s successful education outreach programs, and she credits the Faculty’s ACE program with helping her get there.
By age 17, Schachter knew she wanted to be a teacher. By the fourth year of her Concurrent Education Degree at Queen’s, she knew she wanted to combine her background in dance and theatre with education. This realization led her to the unique ACE program for the final year of her degree.
“One of the strengths of the ACE program is the group that they curate. Having a diverse ‘bag’ of artists from multiple disciplines and backgrounds and at different points in their careers who all work together and learn from each other got my brain working in another way and showed me the possibilities for more creativity in education” says Schachter.
“ACE was also the beginning of my understanding and appreciating the importance of networking, which has been dramatic in my career. It’s the first thing I like to tell everybody … about job success.”
Schachter’s job success includes overseeing the education portfolio at Toronto’s Canadian Stage. “Specifically,” says Schachter, “that means writing study guides, coordinating and facilitating programs in schools, overseeing a program that uses performance arts to teach positive life skills to underserved youth from Toronto housing communities, professional development for teachers, and liaising between Canadian Stage and the education community.”
“I’ve been lucky professionally, and I recognize that a lot of it has to do with my year in ACE,” says Schachter, which is why she welcomed the opportunity to host 2012 ACE teacher candidate Rachel Beales for her alternative practicum. “I knew where she was coming from, because I’ve been there. I knew I wouldn’t have to hold her hand and show her what to do and I felt comfortable surrendering projects to her” says Schachter.
Educated in theatre, dance, and visual arts, Rachel Beales was working in costume design when she decided that she wanted to go into teaching. While researching faculties of education, says Beales, “I saw the profile of ACE on the Faculty of Education website. I liked the idea that I would be with a group of like-minded people as I developed into an artist-educator.
When it came time to select an alternative practicum, Beales says she thought, “What do I want most? ... I want to work in a theatre department.” Schachter agreed to mentor Beales, and Beales appreciates the opportunity. She says, “On my first day, Erin had prepared a list of everything that she’s responsible for and a time line and overview and let me pick out what I wanted to do to make it my ideal experience.” Beales worked on a study guide and on educator previews which help classroom teachers understand how a theatre production can be useful to their students; sat in on hiring processes for summer camp; attended educator advisory meetings; helped with The Theatre Ball, an annual fundraising gala; and met other artist-educators from the Toronto arts community.
“My alternative practicum was a great learning experience” says Beales. “I really have a sense of what kind of role someone with an education background can have in an arts organization.”
Schachter recalls that when she entered ACE in 2007 her concerned parents wondered how she could use her Bachelor of Education outside a traditional classroom setting. “I told them I could run education programs in a theatre company” she says. Now, Schachter has not only accomplished her goal, but also helped Rachel Beales begin her journey as an artist-educator.