Ray selected for humanities institute in Brooklyn
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizen and Sequoyah High School teacher Amanda Ray has been selected to attend an institute for professional development in Brooklyn, New York, that’s supported by the National Endowment for Humanities.
“It’s a huge organization that offers all kinds of professional development for teachers at the high school level, the college level. They fund all kinds of programs and this is just one of their summer institutes,” Ray said.
Ray said she plans to attend the “Teaching Shakespeare’s Plays Through Scholarship and Performance” institute July 13-27.
With more than 30 workshops and institutes available, Ray said her focus is William Shakespeare.
“The one that I am doing is all about female characters in Shakespearean plays and…studying female agency. What was Shakespeare saying about women of the time, whether it was socioeconomic class or sexuality or a woman’s place in the home or place in royalty or what? It’s supposed to promote a way to discuss these characters with your future students,” she said.
She added that she wants students more interested in studying his literature. Part of her being selected was how she would use what she learns and apply it to the classroom.
“Shakespeare is hard to teach to high school students. There are certain plays that they like and there are certain plays that could care less about. They’re just not interesting to them,” Ray said. “So I think if I have a way to talk about specific characters and to talk more about what women of this time period, when these plays were written, what they’re expectations were in society and how people viewed them and whether or not they had a voice or they’re voice was respected. I think that is at least going to reach my students that are interested in drama and in theater that take the class as more than just an elective, but they go on to study it.”
Ray became interested in drama and classic literature when she was 10 years old, reading her mother’s complete works of Shakespeare.
“I had no one pushing me in the theater direction, but was just born to love it. I got my mom’s book off the shelf of complete Shakespeare and started reading it when I was about 10. I didn’t know what I was reading at all but I liked it. I love looking at her writing in the margins. So I don’t think I’ve ever been interested in anything else, honestly,” she said.
Ray has been at SHS for 10 years teaching acting, theater history, Native storytelling and performance, and speech/debate as well as producing plays and musicals while involving students in one-act and speech/debate competitions.
She said she hopes that by getting students interested and engaged in Shakespeare literature that it will help them as they go on to college and (get jobs) in the theater.
“I have students who are auditioning and they’re in college or going into the work force in theater, and when you go to these big auditions, or especially to a university like NYU (New York University) they want you to have these classical monologues, which would be a Shakespearean monologue or something of that time period,” she said. “That’s one thing I think this institute is going to help a lot with is I have students that want to go on and do this and they can’t just do younger or more high school versions of plays. I always try to introduce them to mature plays and things that they will study at the college level. I want to reach them on a different level.”