Introduction Speech by Amy Caston
It is my sincere pleasure to introduce to you Mrs. Lisa Sandoval, CETA’s Outstanding Theatre Educator of 2016.
Mrs. Sandoval is a wife and mother of three, an actor, a singer, and a winner of the Outstanding Educator Award from the Association for Mexican American Educators. She earned her B.A. from the University of the Pacific in English/ Communicative Arts/Theatre in 1982, followed a year later by a teaching credential from UC Davis (an English credential, of course, but with an emphasis in Theatre). A life-long learner, Lisa earned a Master’s in Theatre Studies in Production and Design from Southern Oregon University in 2011. She has helped other teachers grow in the profession as well, having been a Master Teacher at least seven times. She has now been teaching for more than 34 years.
She began her career at St. Patrick’s Parochial School, where she taught for a few years before being hired to teach at her own alma mater: Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento. Her many accolades include being inducted into the Luther Burbank High School Hall of Fame. Ms. Sandoval came to Elk Grove Unified School District in 1988, teaching English and Drama at Valley High School for 13 years. She worked on the Franklin High School planning committee for two years, prior to the school’s opening in 2002. At that time, she became the VAPA Department Chair for the new school, as well as teaching theatre and becoming the Artistic Director of the Franklin Theatre Company, which she has been doing ever since. Her program routinely puts on 9 productions a season. By my calculations, FTC brought more than 90 performances to the stage last year—30 of them in the evenings for public audiences, and an additional 60 or more Children’s Theatre shows for local elementary schools during the school day. What’s more, the Franklin Theatre Company is financially self-sustaining—no small feat!
As impressive as that quantity of work is, however, the quality of Franklin High School’s productions is even more to be admired. Under Lisa Sandoval’s direction, Franklin students have earned many awards at the Lenaea High School Theatre Festival, and been repeatedly recognized by the Sacramento Area Regional Theatre Alliance's Elly Awards. Mrs. Sandoval is an Elly award winner for her direction and overall production values, and has received more than twenty nominations for her work, but if you ask her about such things, she will quickly mention how proud she is of FTC’s many nominations in acting categories showcasing student work, or awards won by her production team. In 2014 and 2015, FTC was nominated for the California High School Musical Theatre Awards (NHSMTA)—known at the “Rita Moreno” Awards—in San Jose. In 2016, her production of Into the Woods won “Best Overall Production,” and I believe it was the first public high school to ever claim that honor.
As much as I loved that production of Into the Woods (and I really did love it!), that wasn’t what made me think to nominate Lisa Sandoval for the Outstanding Theatre Educator Award. Rather, it was when I attended the FAT CATS Awards Night. This is annual FTC tradition, a completely student-driven evening, put on by the seniors acting out skits full of parodied moments, inside jokes, and all manner of good-spirited teasing, interspersed with the presentation of Oscar-style Awards. As I witnessed all this joyful entertainment, I also saw students who had been transformed, and I saw their feelings as they attempted to pay tribute to this person who had such a pivotal influence in their lives: Lisa Sandoval. So as I thought about what you all ought to know about Lisa, what it is that makes her so special, I decided to ask some of the people. I got beautiful responses, but for the sake of time I’ll share just a few.
First, from her son Gabriel, who has himself become a Theatre Educator. He said, “I grew up in a Black Box Theatre, just surrounded by all of it, and that’s what inspired me to want to follow in my mom’s footsteps. As a teacher myself now, I can say I don’t know another teacher who does more for students. I don’t how she does it—how she finds the energy! My mom is totally my inspiration—that is why I do what she does. I’ve seen firsthand the impact she’s had. I see kids coming back after five, ten, twenty years to thank her.”
Noheli Serrano, who is a freshman this year at Southern Oregon University said, “Lisa Sandoval changed my life and made me the person I am today. Without her, I wouldn't be studying theatre arts at a competitive arts college and I wouldn't have the many amazing experiences that she's opened up to me. Mrs. Sandoval is my idol and continues to inspire me to work hard and follow my dreams.”
This last response is brief, but I think very full. When I read his text, I couldn’t help but remember how overcome he was with emotion the night of FAT CATS. He wrote, “Sandoval is like a mom. 2-3 sentences couldn’t explain all that she’s done for me. She taught me how to be a better actor as well as an individual.” –Jesse Williams
More than anything else, Lisa Sandoval has earned the award of Outstanding Theatre Educator for the way she has touched the lives of individual students, because really, there is no other measure that matters more. I admire her work as a Theatre Artist, and look up to her as a professional educator. But my highest praise for her comes from me as a parent. After all, what do you worry about more than who will influence your children? Especially your teenagers? I feel blessed that all those hours my daughter spends away from home are at Franklin Theatre Company, a safe, positive, wonderfully challenging place because of the guidance of Lisa Sandoval.