Acceptance Speech by Rani Goyal
Thank you, I am so incredibly humbled to be here today but incredibly excited to be with you to celebrate you, our wonderful theater educators and all that you do for students and the arts. I am so having an Oscar moment in that there are some people that need to be thanked because I truly wouldn’t be here without them. Thank you Michael for taking the time to nominate me. I am still in a state of shock that just doing what I know to be right, supporting arts education, could bring me here today and garner this award which is very dear to me. When you have an arts educator like Michael, it is not only easy to support the arts but is so much fun. It is Michael who gave me my moment on stage two years ago and let’s just say, a star has been born and I look forward to more opportunities for my star to shine (yes, this is a hint). And thank you CETA, your advocacy, support of student and the countless hours you all put in to promote theater and the arts is something I am forever grateful for because it is together that we will continue to build the arts as a curriculum that is the very core of student learning.
I also want to thank my parents who are here today. They are big supporters of the arts and were very happy to hear about the bills signed last week which underscore that our own state politicians understand the place of the arts in education and that these bills will have such a positive impact on our schools. It was my mom who took me to my first musical, ballet and museums. I will never forget The Nutcracker at Christmas, or the first real musical which I was and still am not a fan of but it didn’t matter that I didn’t like the musical, what mattered was that I came away with a love of the theatre. She also took me to some of the very best museums and what she introduced to me has never left me. It was my dad who introduced me to Bollywood, epic poetry and architecture. I was a sophomore in high school when we traveled two hours to see Gandhi. It was this trip and this movie that I saw firsthand the power of the arts. When we went to India, it was there that I understood how art can transform lives and that art is in every aspect of all that we do. My parents introduced me to the most beautiful things the world has to offer and while I may not have taken a career in the arts, I have never been far from the arts no matter where I have lived or traveled. I still remember seeing Phantom of the Opera in London and getting all misty, not because it is the most tremendous of all productions (I give that praise to Les Miserables, 2005 production) but because it was art and I was in London seeing an Andrew Lloyd Weber production. To me, that is why theatre is so important, it makes us feel something and provides us the chance to talk about what we saw, what the meaning is and to reflect on what this brings to our lives personally and for those of us in the room, professionally as well. It is as a professional supporting the arts that I have so loved.
As a teacher, I was involved in a variety of ways outside of the classroom as a coach, advisor and teacher leader. I didn’t go to school plays or concerts; I just stayed in my own box of a world. When I went into administration, I saw the bigger scope of education and one of the things my eyes were opened to was the incredible importance of the arts in the lives of students. Until then, I enjoyed the arts but it was more a personal enjoyment. As an administrator, I have been so fortunate to have theatre teachers who talk about the arts, what they are doing in the classroom and beyond, what their students are doing and why they take chances, such as Pippin on a rotating stage, being one of the first high schools to produce Equus or why producing Sweeney Todd is the direction the program needs to take. These teachers have taken the time to develop a deep understanding within me that theatre is a bridge between cultures, between races, between social classes, and that the arts are an outlet for our students. I have become immersed in the arts professionally which has only grown my love in the arts for I see the wider picture of what the arts can do. However, for any of us to be immersed in the arts and provide the bridge for our students as well as be their outlet, there needs to be an arts program.
When I moved to CA, I had the chance to be the administrator at a school who could let the drama program continue to dwindle or be the administrator who supported the program; I chose the latter. I was adamant that the only way for the program to grow was to find a teacher who had a theatre credential. This is not to say an English teacher couldn’t teach drama, but I knew it wouldn’t be their passion; we needed someone who was a drama person first. The program is now thriving. While English is a nice starting point to the role of theatre educator, there is so much more to educate students properly, which is why I stand here and applaud you, all of you, for staying with the legislation for dance and theatre credentials for teachers. You know far better than I all that students must be introduced to, the technical aspects, how to make a character come alive, how to change up production, the lighting, and so much more that students must understand to bring the words to life.
Now here we are, 16 years after I became an administrator and my interest in promoting arts education has only grown stronger. I am so fortunate and so grateful for Michael Despars and the other arts educators at Fullerton who never tire of finding connections for students (and who never tire of my suggestions for future productions). If there has ever been a time that students need the arts, it is now. There is so much going on in the lives of students and the arts gives them another network to create family, a creative avenue and a rigorous curriculum that prepares students to be college and career ready. It is exciting that those outside of education are also coming to understand the need for the arts in education and have adopted new standards and the Arts Ed Data Project which can help families and educators determine where the greatest access to the arts exists. This access is vital to supporting student readiness because as a Director of Boeing told a group of arts educators, “it is the resume that gets someone through the door, but it is their social and creative skills to think outside the box that is most often learned through the arts that lands them a job”. Those who understand the arts, who know that students’ learning is based in standards know that the arts followed AP, IB and common core standards long before anyone said these were best practices. Theatre educators, you know better than anyone the rigorous yet accessible curriculum you deliver and you know better than anyone as to the place you provide all students. I am thinking of a young man right now who found a place in our theatre program and am so thankful he did after his tragic story was aired on national television.
The saying is that all the world’s a stage and you, the California Educational Theatre Association, have ensured that this is not some pithy saying but truly captures the very heart of theatre education—that everywhere we look, we learn, we internalize and we have an opportunity to interpret words and thoughts into action..
Thank you very much again for the honor of being with you today.