Acceptance Speech by Lisa Sandoval
A Brand New Day: A Brave New World
In the words of Eliza from the hit musical, Hamilton: “Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now.”-Lin Manuel Miranda
Thank you, Amy Caston for that wonderful introduction. Your kind words encourage me to continue the intentional and mindful hard work necessary for theatre excellence. I am immeasurably grateful to you for both nominating me for this prestigious award, and also for agreeing to allow your daughter Annika to function as Franklin Theatre Company’s stage manager for our 2016-17 season of plays. At this pivotal time in our history, I feel inspired to continue teaching and directing in our brave new world, post SB 916! TADA! We have waited a long time for this moment haven’t we? It is truly a brand new day, and I never thought I would live to see it, yet here I am, here we are together. Doesn’t it further inspire you to teach like your hair is on fire?
Receiving this Outstanding Educator Award from the California Educational Theatre Association means more to me than I could fathom, and I treasure it because, my friends, (may I call you friends?), we all know the sacrifices we make to grow our theatre programs: the long hours away from our families and the support from our site personnel. We could not do it without their help. Franklin Theatre Company began as an empty space but is now a thriving theatre company with 9 shows a year. I wish to thank my Principal Chantelle Albiani, my VAPA Vice-Principal, Carlos Castillo, our FTA, my school community, my husband Tommy, and my three children for being in my corner. To the CETA, California Educational Theatre Association committee/panel for recognizing me today for this honor, thank you for giving me an apex for a 34-year odyssey of educating so many amazing young people.
I have learned a great many things throughout my tenure, first as a middle school teacher for two years and then as a high school teacher for 32 years. Some days are exceptionally difficult while other days are exciting, fun and hilarious. My students have been my greatest teachers and a blessing to me. If anyone were to ask me when I was 22 and just beginning my teaching career where I hoped to be in 30 years, I would have said, directing plays and teaching theatre and hopefully still impacting lives. I have always dreamed big, but to say that someone from my neighborhood could even dream of being here tonight, would be next to impossible, yet here I am!
I grew up on the Southside of Chicago in an area called Bush where we played together by day until the street lights came on, but by night we stayed locked up in our houses to avoid the drug dealers and local bar flies that fell asleep on the sidewalks when the “taverns” closed. SB 916 has ended the Ryan Act of 1970 that eliminated dance and theatre credentials and in 1970 my parents chose to take courage and move from Chicago to Sacramento, California to provide their 9 children with a better life. My parents knew that the only way to improve our lives was through education: as my father only went to the second grade and my mother left after 8th grade. My father was responsible for my optimism as he always told me, “Meja, you’re just as good as anybody else. You know what, when someone calls you a name, or says, ‘why are you bringing that burrito for lunch?’, laugh and walk away; they don’t pay your bills.” I still don’t understand what he meant, but he had a saying for everything.
Just like award-winning actress Gina Rodriguez, I believe one change can make a difference. I agree with her that it is not enough to break out of the cycle of poverty unless you help others do the same. I saw my father work 16 hour days as a steel worker and then as a business owner and I blame him for my hard working nature. My dad made me want to walk in Gandhi’s shoes and be the change I hope to see in the world because he was always telling me I am a part of the Torrez legacy so do not let anyone drag you down and bully you. I tell my students, that theatre is the best anti-bullying campaign in the world. Join theatre and you will build relationships and make connections, have friends and feel a part of something greater than yourselves.
Yes, I grew up in a neighborhood where I could have easily become a statistic, but instead, I found my tribe and my life’s purpose in the theatre. No wonder I can still see glimmers of sunshine when I open my eyes to greet the day and I can thank my theatre teachers, my family and friends for that. Thank you!