Interview: Meet the Jimmy Awards Inspiring Teacher Award Winner, Kristin Winchester

The 2022 Jimmy Awards ceremony will take place on Monday, June 27, 2022.

By: Jun. 18, 2022

Interview: Meet the Jimmy Awards Inspiring Teacher Award Winner, Kristin Winchester

While all eyes will be on the 92 talented performers on the Minskoff Theatre stage on June 27, two other offstage honorees have already been anounced for the 2022 Jimmy Awards.

Wells Fargo will bestow the Inspiring Teacher Award on Kristin Winchester, Durham School of the Arts (Durham, North Carolina), and Ian Sullivan, Hickory Ridge High School (Harrisburg, North Carolina). These teachers are being recognized for their tireless efforts in guiding their students with the training and support necessary to thrive and ultimately win the coveted Jimmy Awards for Best Performance by an Actress and Best Performance by an Actor during last year's 2021 Jimmy Awards ceremony.

Kristin is a graduate from the University of Northern Colorado with a double major in Theatre Education and English Education. Originally a performer, Kristin began to find a love for directing and teaching theatre. After college, she took over a program in Durango, Colorado, where she worked with the students and her incredible husband on creating award winning productions that pushed boundaries, created state of the art designs, and challenged the student performers. She was able to send three students from this program to the Jimmy Awards. In 2015, Kristin and her husband moved to North Carolina, and Kristin took over as a theatre teacher at Durham School of the Arts. During the last seven years, she has worked with her amazing DSA colleagues to build a focused theatre program. She has created a rigorous curriculum, directed challenging productions, and has sent many students to BFA acting, musical theatre, and design programs across the country. Kristin believes in the power of storytelling, the ability to find oneself through artistic expression, and the importance of communication in everyday experience. She is very grateful to get to work with students everyday while helping them discover who they are in the process of sharing important stories with an audience.

We sat down with Kristin to learn more about her teaching style and find out what makes her an inspiring teacher. Read the full interview below and check back tomorrow as we check in with Ian Sullivan.

How does it feel knowing you have been chosen as the recipient of the Inspiring Teacher Award?

It feels very strange. When Elena mentioned to me that I would be getting recognized, I wasn't entirely sure what she meant. Once the announcement came, I realized. Wow! This is a large award... haha. My introverted self was shocked a little at first, and then I began to see what an amazing opportunity this has been to highlight the work we do in theatre education. What a wonderful experience it has been reflecting on my work with Elena, previous students, and the work I am currently doing this year!

Outside of the classroom, what are your interests? Can you tell us a little more about yourself?

During the stay-at-home phase of the pandemic, I found a love for gardening. I NEVER thought I would be a gardener but watching something grow and tending to my garden has brought me extreme joy. I also love to travel and do anything involving art. I love art museums, history museums, concerts... anything and everything that can help me understand the complex nature of storytelling.

With your guidance, your student Elena was awarded Best Performance by an Actress, what methods did you use to help her train and rehearse?

Elena and I had worked closely for four years in class and on competition material. Elena has such a strong network of people who have helped to guide her on her path, her amazing vocal coach, Catherine Alderman, her Durham School of the Arts (DSA) chorus teachers, and The Other Theatre teachers at DSA. I think what I have done to help Elena is a small snippet in Elena's process.

My goal with every one of my students is to help them find a sense of who they are in this process. Finding what they have that is unique and how they can bring that into every audition room. I instill a sense of leadership and professionalism that help the students to standout when they are auditioning or working with other directors. With Elena, I have always been able to push her and really finetune her craft. She has always been a talented vocalist, but I think I helped her to find specificity in her gestures, journey in her storytelling through song, and an ability to walk into a room (even virtual) with confidence and sense of ownership for what she was about to do.

What methods of training do you use in the classroom to help your students become better performers?

I have had 4 students in the Jimmy Awards now, and I think the main thing I teach my students from day 1 is who they are as individuals and performers. At DSA, I bookend the students' high school acting journey. I teach all acting freshmen and then I get them back again their junior and/or senior year. As freshmen, they learn the basics of a professional audition space. They learn the formal cookie cutter process for how to slate, how to walk into a room, how to find material that is best suited for them.

Once they come back to me their junior and senior year, we focus on their individual strengths and break some of the "rules" I taught them as freshmen. I do a "Who am I as a performer?" unit at the very beginning of the year. This unit focuses on finding the truth in their work. What kind of stories are they invested in? What are their qualities that they have to offer. What makes them unique and individual. How can they use those to better enhance the work they do? Beginning the year with this unit, really helps my students to find themselves before we begin the work and they can approach the future material with all of that in mind. We also do a lot of Meisner work and living in the moment. This is incredibly helpful for auditions and callbacks.

What is your one piece of advice for performers just getting started in their careers?

Doors open and close for a reason. Some productions and some roles are yours; some are not. If you love it, you walk into that audition because you love it, not because you are expecting something from the audition. Coming into the room with that mentality shows such confidence and joy to the people on the other side of the table, and THAT is who they want to work with. Keep pushing yourself and READ PLAYS and listen to musicals! I am always making a note while reading a play or listening to cast recording of songs/monologues that are great for my students.

Why is arts education needed in schools?

It is the complete base for everything else in our life. Arts Education teaches confidence, how to make eye contact, how to stand up in front of others and introduce yourself, how to expertly follow directions, how to listen to an ensemble and match the sound or find your own part within that whole. Arts Education teaches students humility, how to be a leader, how to communicate with others, and how to justify choices. Arts education teaches students how to accept and give praise and criticism. I feel that Theatre education teaches students to find a love for critique and feedback. Theatre teaches students how to be empathetic and think of someone outside of yourself. There is nothing more important than that, in my opinion.

Is there anything you would like our readers of Broadway World to know about you or your teaching career?

I am fortunate to have taught in two different states, Colorado and North Carolina. Both programs I have taught the most amazing, dedicated, talented group of students who push me to be a better educator. I am very fortunate and grateful to the students who have allowed me to be a part of their journey and encouraged me on mine as well.

The Jimmy Awards/The National High School Musical Theatre Awards (NHSMTA) program impacts more than 140,000 students who participate in 46 regional high school musical theatre competitions sponsored by presenters of touring Broadway productions throughout the United States. Named for Broadway impresario James M. Nederlander, the program has been the catalyst for more than $5,000,000 in educational scholarships.

Click here for a ful list of 2022 nominees!


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