Tracey Halter’s journey from being a Broadway understudy with Viola Davis to teaching theater at William Blount High School reminds us that life is full of surprises and the journey is just as important as the destination.
Tracey interviewed and accepted the position as the theater teacher at William Blount after four friends sent her the posting for the opening while she was directing the play Violet at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville last May.
Tracey is the epitome of one who embraces the unpredictability of the future as she has spent her life opening doors to new experiences and possibilities that most never have imagined. Tracey and husband James became birth parents in their 40s to Brooklyn and Alexandria and then adopted siblings Ashley and Jack a few years later.
Part of Tracey’s story started at the University of Michigan where she graduated with a bachelor’s in theatre and continued on to New York University, earning a master’s in fine arts before moving to Georgia where she met James, who also has a degree in theatre. However, when he took a job in 2005 at the UT Clarence Brown Theater, she began teaching theater at the university.
Tracey taught theater at the university for 15 years in what she calls the “UT teaching hospital for actors.” She explained how students were able to hear the professors in class and then see them model what they learned in action after class in actual theater.
As with all of us, Covid provided reasons for changes in her life. She observed how the lockdown exacerbated the socially disconnected personalities of today’s youth, but she knew how the skills she taught through theater would help students overcome the setbacks caused by the pandemic. Tracey felt compelled to take her skills of teaching theater into the youth arena by starting drama clubs at the intermediate and high school level.
She says, “Theatre teaches how to step in the soul of the character, learn to look eye to eye with another person, how to communicate with diverse people, develop self-confidence, disagree without losing the relationship, and build all the skills that we lose when we stay in isolation.”
Tracey had put her career on hold to raise her family, teaching theatre at the university as needed, substituting in schools, and setting up drama clubs to work with students on their communication skills, both pre and post pandemic.
She had returned to the university full-time when fate (or four different friends) sent her the William Blount posting last May, and through her Zoom interview and visit to the school she “fell in love with the job.”
She laughs, “Choosing to spend all day, every day with full classes of high school kids and coming home to a house of high school kids must mean I obviously love it and I do!”
Being a former principal and lifelong educator, it was refreshing to hear the passion and love for teaching from a veteran teacher, especially in December!
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