Curtains close on Teacher Talent Show


Photo Credit: Julia Blando

Classic red velvet curtains covering HS/MS stage.

by Julia Blando, Senior Staff Writer


Since Glen Rock High School was opened in the 1950s, talent shows, presentations, assemblies, and other school events have taken place here for both the middle school and high school: the stage. Hidden behind the deep red curtains are shadows of the memories. Footprints in the history of this small town. Remembered or forgotten, they will be there.

The teacher talent show is no exception to this legacy.

Starting in 2007, faculty members have gathered and prepared their minds, bodies, and reputations for one night, potentially changing the way they are viewed as they walk through the halls, recline in the teachers’ lounge, and teach their classes.

Before that night, to students, he is just a physics teacher. Oren Levi is a nice guy with a beard and a polo shirt who stands in front of teenagers all day, lecturing to them the importance of linear motion, elasticity, electricity, and Lenz’s law. Things that they will remember until the test scheduled for third period on Friday, but, by Friday night, these facts could just as easily disappear from their minds.

The auditorium seats will remain empty until they are filled with countless people cheering on GRHS teachers and staff.
Photo Credit: Julia Blando
The auditorium seats will remain empty until they are filled with countless people cheering on GRHS teachers and staff.

After the teacher talent show, however, he is a real person to his classes. He is, in fact, a new person with a different reputation, breaking the teacher wall he has been behind for months, perhaps years.

He plays bass, makes art. He lives and breathes music. He goes to his apartment to find his wife sitting at the kitchen table, reading People magazine, her eyes glued to the pages, wide with anticipation. They say hello just as they always do, as he makes his way to the TV to play Fallout 4 after a long day at work. He has a life outside of the classroom. He eats, sleeps, goes out with his friends, and shops, just like any other person does. He is human. All of the teachers are. They have special talents, hobbies, favorite foods.

Christopher Pohlman is a social studies teacher who has participated in the Teacher Talent Shows in the past years, in the bands with Levi.

“We are actually humans and not these robots,” Pohlman said.

The teacher talent show is a unique way for faculty to get to know each other on a different level, outside of a school setting. They aren’t talking about lesson plans or the papers they have to grade this weekend. They are making a piece of art together, whatever it may be. They are talking about hobbies and mutual interests, all while organizing a night to remember. They could be working with other teachers whom they have never had a conversation with before, and possibly never would have if it weren’t for this opportunity.

We are actually humans and not these robots,

— Christopher Pohlman

Sita Patel, Spanish teacher, and Jennifer Ammirata, science teacher and class of 2017 adviser, began organizing the 2016 Teacher Talent Show in February; they worked with the junior student officers to find acts to perform that the audience will most likely want to see.

Proceeds were planned to go to the junior class, and they were likely to be split with Relay for Life.

The junior class advisers met weekly to discuss details of the event, but they only had one formal meeting with the junior class officers. Marisa Davitt, administrative assistant, had worked with Patel and Ammirata in the beginning of the school year to reserve the Auditorium for Tuesday, March 29, 2016, as well as put the date on the district calendar.

“Students come out to watch their teachers make fools of themselves,” Patel said.

The more involved the teachers get, the more successful the show’s turnout would be. The students anticipated seeing their teachers outside of their “natural habitat.”

“It’s nice for the kids to see that teachers have different talents, and they do things outside of school, and they don’t live in a cave on weekends,” Heather McDermott, Environmental science teacher, said.

When a student sees a teacher outside of their usual school setting, it is often uncomfortable or awkward for them. Unnatural. Teachers aren’t thought of in students’ minds in ways other than sitting at an old wooden desk in a rolly chair, grading papers, pacing the classroom in dress pants and closed toed shoes with arch supports, teaching 17 year olds calculus while they think about the burger they’re going to eat at lunch.

“It lets me relate to them more and see them as normal teachers, not just our educators,” Selma Sose (‘18) said.

The bulletin board in the junior hallway showcasing a 2016 Teacher Talent Show advertisement.
Photo Credit: Julia Blando
The bulletin board in the junior hallway showcasing a 2016 Teacher Talent Show advertisement.

Pohlman recognizes how students view him as well as his co-workers, and he seizes any opportunity he gets to change how he is seen by his students and take off the “teacher hat.”

“It lets us be who we are, and I think the students enjoy seeing us up there, letting our guard down. You’re up on the stage doing something live, it’s not always going to succeed. If you’re in a band up on stage, something can go wrong. If you’re singing, something can go wrong. You can tell a joke, and it might fall flat. I think the students enjoy that we are fallible, and can screw up from time to time,” Pohlman said.

Levi an experienced performer, having played bass for about 10 years, at coffee houses and other talent shows at the school. His preparations began for this specific occasion in the end of February, practising once or twice a week. Depending on the song, Levi can take up to two hours learning the piece, then briefly reviewing individually leading up to the show, so he doesn’t “lose the chops.”

Levi’s band also included Scott Kupka, art teacher, and students. The other teacher band was going to be Troy Kroft, art teacher, Amanda Sproviero, math teacher,  Christopher Pohlman, social studies teacher, Justin Ecochard, social studies teacher, and possibly Laura Allen, english teacher. One of the two bands were planning to be playing multiple David Bowie (1947-2016) songs as a tribute to show their appreciation for his music that lives on, even when he no longer does.

Being on stage is a unique experience that not everyone gets to experience in their lifetime, but Levi is used to this feeling.

“You can’t really see one person. It’s just like a sea of people, and all the lights and stuff… I don’t get stage fright, that’s probably why I’m a teacher, because I don’t mind being in front of people… it’s sort of a rush to hear the crowd, especially when people are dancing or singing along… I’m usually just looking around at the crowd, and enjoying the sights,” he said.

The bands were planning to learn their individual parts and practicing on their own time, then coming together two or three times to fit all the pieces into one big puzzle, starting mid-March.

“We were supergroups: just for one night only,” Pohlman said.

 Lesley Breuer, Rochelle Forstot, Kirsys Guevarez, and Marisa Davitt practice a zumba number, choreographed by Breuer, to perform in the 2014 Teacher Talent Show.
Photo Credit: Courtney Schmitt
Lesley Breuer, Rochelle Forstot, Kirsys Guevarez, and Marisa Davitt practice a zumba number, choreographed by Breuer, to perform in the 2014 Teacher Talent Show.

Jerry Rella, substitute teacher, was planning to make an appearance on stage, as well as a returning zumba act from two years prior. When the teacher talent show made a comeback, Lesley Breuer, Spanish teacher and zumba teacher outside of Glen Rock, choreographed a zumba dance.  She taught it to some of her coworkers during lunch periods and after school. Troy Kroft, art teacher, and Patel participated in the zumba act along with several other teachers.

Patel and Ammirata, had been working with Davitt on ticket prices and production, meeting weekly. A large meeting was planned with the advisors, class officers, and all other members interested in participating to put everything together and smooth out the rough edges.

Unfortunately, the 2016 Glen Rock High School teacher talent show was cancelled due to lack of participation from the faculty.

“I don’t have any talents,” Alyssa Perry, math teacher, said.

There is only one way to have a successful talent show. “Having a lot of  acts, and acts that people want to see,” and that was not the case.

It’s not that the Glen Rock teachers and staff don’t have talent; they do. Everyone has something cool that they can do, whether it be whistling, or contorting your body into unnatural positions.

“I have no talent. I could do stupid pet tricks,” Margaret Todd, English teacher, said.

If I’m not making chocolate chip cookies, I don’t know what to do,

— Stacie Gallo

“Teachers obviously do things outside of school, so it could be hard to make time for something like this,” Lee Hasselmann (‘17), junior class officer, said.

Teachers do have lives outside of the classroom. They workout, watch Netflix, listen to music, dance, shop, cook family dinners, read, have barbeques, sleep, get their nails done. They have priorities other than school, and things they would rather do with their time. What others do with their time is completely up to them. It is a personal choice that sculpt their lives.

“If I’m not making chocolate chip cookies, I don’t know what to do,” Stacie Gallo, special education teacher, said.

The announcement was made through a mass email sent out by Patel.  The teachers who were planning on performing were disappointed, but Ammirata is hopeful that their time spent preparing was not a waste, and that they will use the acts they had prepared for upcoming school performances like Glenstock, or take other opportunities outside of school to show their talents.

There were only about five or six acts, which, “even with everyone’s help was just not enough to have the show.”

Levi believed part of the reason the show would not go on was because the junior student officers were too busy with school, sports, and other extracurricular activities to give the time needed to put on a production of this size. This is not the first time that this particular fundraiser has been cancelled.

By the beginning of March, the junior class advisors and student officers had only had one meeting together to plan for the talent show, and it lasted about 20 minutes.

It is possible that part of the reason there was a lack of planning was because the teachers have seen what happens to the teacher talent shows such as how often they are cancelled.  They ultimately expected the same to happen this year.

“We had seen that there was a low turnout in registration, so we were just sort of waiting until  the last registration before we decided to do anything,” Patel said. The advisors had a feeling about the event being cancelled from the beginning, and that feeling was in fact validated after all registrations were over. However, the officers had no idea.

“We definitely had  planned for a bigger turnout,” Hasselmann said.

 Flyer for the Student- Teacher Handball Tournament; one of the junior class fundraisers to replace the Teacher Talent Show.
Photo Credit: Julia Blando
Flyer for the Student- Teacher Handball Tournament; one of the junior class fundraisers to replace the Teacher Talent Show.

Teachers have quizzes to grade, detentions to give, lesson plans to write. A lot of them are comfortable with this aspect of their lives. Breaking the teacher shell they fit into so well is difficult, as it is for anyone. There is something about breaking that shell in front of hundreds of their own students, who look up to them as authority, that makes it that much more intimidating.

“I can sit up there and mix chemicals,” Irene Bickert, science teacher, said.

People often change who they are and how they act depending on who they are interacting with. Kids don’t talk to their friends’ parents like they do their friends.  Aunts don’t talk to nieces the way they do their sister.  Teachers don’t communicate with their students the way they do their coworkers. Everyone filters their actions to others, depending on who that person may be. When a teacher is on stage, it is living without a filter. The teacher wall put up in the classroom is knocked down. It is teaching in a completely different light.

“I never liked being on stage. I was never into theater, or that kind of thing. I’d do hair, and makeup, and costumes, and all that good stuff, but I don’t like to perform or be on stage,” Monica Weisberg, science teacher, said.

The Teacher Talent show run by the junior class for the junior class was expected to bring in a massive amount of money.  Due to the cancellation, the profits will come to a total of zero dollars. It is fair to say that the funds that were, or were not, going to be made were far below the goal and even the lowest expectations.

Junior class officers, (top to bottom) Elizabeth Alba, Kevin Sheahen, Anne Nebbia, David Belkin, and Megan Tatigian.
Photo Credit: Deborah Cella
Junior class officers, (top to bottom) Elizabeth Alba, Kevin Sheahen, Anne Nebbia, David Belkin, and Megan Tatigian

When an event is being planned, specifically one that was planned with the likely profit in mind, progress is made to reach a goal. Without a goal, there is no progress because there is no rubric to judge by. If something is started that was not meant to be finished, was it ever really started? A balloon that has been partially blown up and never tied will go back to empty, just as a fundraiser that was partially planned with acts who spent hours rehearsing their pieces, a reserved space, and a date on the Glen Rock High School Calendar, will go unperformed.

Since the 2016 Teacher Talent Show has been cancelled by the junior class advisors due to lack of participation, the funds that were expected to be made now have to be made in some other way.

Two after-school bake sales and a Student- Teacher Handball Tournament on Apr. 5 2016 will act as the understudy for the talent show, and hopefully bring in the same amount, if not more profit, for the Class of 2017.

The teachers involved are not the only ones who were looking forward to the big day. Students are also disappointed, as they were excited to see their teachers do something other than give them long lectures about the history of slavery in America, give them a B+  on a quiz, or give away free detentions for using profanity in the classroom.

It is especially disappointing for students who will be graduating in June of 2016, and will not be granted another chance to see their (soon to be not) teachers up on the auditorium stage of Glen Rock High School. Some have seen the show before and were excited to see the show one last time while they are still students at GRHS, and some were hopeful that it they would be able to see it at least once in their high school career.

“I’m kind of sad that it was cancelled. I saw it once or twice before and it was really funny, especially when Mr. Arlotta was in it. It’s weird to see him up on the stage not acting like our principal. I don’t know why it got cancelled but it shouldn’t. It’s weird to see teachers acting all weird like us, but it’s cool too. It’s better than watching Antiques Roadshow or something,” Vanessa Hettesheimer (‘16) said.

Although the teacher talent show will not be taking place in this year, the teachers and staff as well as students, hope that this event will successfully take place sometime in the near future.

“I wanted to see it again. I’m sad that next year I’ll be in college and I won’t be able to see the teacher talent show in the future as a student. I could still go, but it wouldn’t be the same,” Hettesheimer said.  “You’re watching your old teachers, that are just normal people to you. You won’t see them in math tomorrow and laugh about when they tripped on stage last night or talk about the way they sang. It’s different. It’s like you’re an outsider, looking in from a higher perspective.”

I don’t have any talents,

— Alyssa Perry