Dawn Burns’ first love was theater. Although she never made the leap of faith to pursue acting full time, she has never strayed too far from the stage. After studying theater in and after college, she did hair and makeup for productions before becoming a teacher. Now, as the drama teacher at Gocio Elementary, she is able to share her passion with her students.
“To be able to do what I love all day long and share it with kids who might not ever get something like this is amazing,” says Burns. “While I’m teaching drama, I’m also teaching a lot of tricks about life. I’m teaching self-esteem, how to stand up for yourself, how to say what you mean and how to carry yourself to be successful in this world.”
She says she enjoys exposing the students to the fine arts, which studies have proven help them develop and become successful. Each year, the drama program culminates in a full-scale musical production, which is completely run by the students. Burns takes pride in the quality of the productions, which she says are essentially at a high school level.
This year, the students are preparing for a junior version of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” complete with all the costumes and special effects. Wanting the students to enjoy their moment in the spotlight, Burns wants to offer the students a proper stage, and she is currently trying to raise about $500 to purchase new lights for the cafeteria stage.
“The kids work so hard, and I don’t want them to have to perform in the dark,” she says. “A lot of them, this is their only opportunity to do something like this, and it stays with them. I like seeing the smiles from kids who just have found a new love. Once theater gets into your blood, like any art, that’s going to be with them for life. Kids greet me years later with a hug and tell me they remember the musical. That was their moment in the spotlight, and they never forget.“
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