Favorite Teachers: Mountain View students celebrate theater teacher for inclusive, transformative teaching

Student: Ethan Hodson

Teacher: Camilla Boylan, Mountain View High School

Career: Boylan has taught at Mountain View High School for 15 years. She began her career as an English teacher and speech and debate coach, and transitioned to teach her true passion — theater — five years ago. Her motto, “dream sideways,” encourages her students to embrace differences, pursue their passions and navigate life with compassion.

Inspiration: Last year (her 15th year of teaching), Boylan was nominated by students for the prestigious Velma V. Morrison Performing Arts Educator of the Year Award for her impactful and inclusive teaching. She was awarded the accolade in June, alongside two other awards: her building’s Teacher of the Year Award and the West Ada School District’s Teacher of the Year Award.

From the moment recent graduate Ethan Hodson stepped foot in his first theater class at Mountain View High School, he knew educator Camilla Boylan was more than a run-of-the-mill teacher — she was in the business of transforming lives.

Hodson landed in the theater department halfway through his junior year. At that time, he was a shy, nervous teenager, and he was apprehensive about taking to the stage.

But by the end of his senior year, after a year-and-a-half as Boylan’s student, Hodson had blossomed into a confident young adult — one who could sing and sustain a 14-second note on stage as a supporting character in the school musical. And Hodson credits Boylan with his newfound assurance and preparation for life’s challenges.

“The impact she’s had on my life is immense,” Hodson said. “She exemplifies that idea of becoming more than just a teacher and going beyond just doing the curriculum in the classroom. She’s one of those teachers that you have in these formative years of life that helps you realize the person that you can become.”

Boylan built her program on the belief that “theater is for everyone.” She uses the stage to show all students that they are loved and accepted, while also pushing them to new horizons and lifting them into the limelight. She prepares students for life on — and off — the stage by teaching compassion, discipline and empathy.

And in 2020, Boylan took her teaching philosophy to the next level.

She created a unified theater class for students with special needs — a community that is typically underrepresented in high school theater productions and classrooms. In the class, students with disabilities can work with mentors to develop their skills and stage presence, and build their own dreams.

The unified theater class, photo courtesy of Camilla Boylan.

“That class has been the most rewarding class of my entire career,” Boylan said. “I have kids who would never be on the stage at any other time, who played little small roles and feel like they are the stars. They will do little shows for their parents and it’s the most fulfilling, incredible experience to be able to give them that.”

After three years, the significance of the class has only grown more apparent.

“It’s important as a teacher to make sure that we’re reaching everybody, not just the ones who fit the mold of what we think it should be, what society says it should be,” Boylan said. “That’s my legacy.”

And the impact of Boylan’s teaching has paid off.

This year, Boylan was awarded her building’s Teacher of the Year Award and the West Ada School District’s Teacher of the Year Award.

But the highest honor came as a result of her students, who nominated her for Idaho’s top award for theater educators: the Velma V. Morrison Performing Arts Educator of the Year Award. In their nomination, the students highlighted her “commitment and deep passion for her craft.”

Camilla Boylan at the June awards ceremony, photo courtesy of the Morrison Center.

Boylan won the award and was celebrated at the Morrison Center in June.

“Ms. Boylan has created transformative opportunities for her students through her innovative teaching methods and dedication to inclusivity,” reads a Morrison Center press release on the award. “Believing in the power of the performing arts to develop essential life skills, Ms. Boylan instills in her students the values of openness, support, and kindness toward one another…Through her holistic approach to teaching, Ms. Boylan prepares her students not only for their work on stage but also for the journey that lies ahead.”

“It’s very humbling,” Boylan said of earning the accolade. “It’s one thing for your peers to recognize you, but when your students go out of their way to recognize you, and then make sure others know of the impact you have made, it makes you want to be a better teacher.”

If you went to school in Idaho and have a teacher you’d like us to recognize, whether still in the classroom or retired, contact editor Jennifer Swindell, [email protected]. We’re looking forward to sharing your stories.

Sadie Dittenber

Sadie Dittenber

Reporter Sadie Dittenber focuses on K-12 policy and politics. She is a College of Idaho graduate, born and raised in the Treasure Valley. You can follow Sadie on Twitter @sadiedittenber and send her news tips at [email protected].

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday