West Ada teacher takes on New York and Shakespeare

Skyscrapers. City lights. Broadway shows.

Sally Mitchell’s dream came true this summer when she spent two weeks in New York City to study Shakespeare.

The Renaissance High School English teacher became hooked on Shakespeare in the ninth grade. She’s been going to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival in Boise since she turned 14.

“I love Shakespeare because it’s colorful,” Mitchell said. “It’s full of wonderful language and explores in a meaningful way what it means to be human.”

Mitchell participated in a two-week program held at the Palonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn and learned from scholars and performers from Columbia University, City University of New York and the Theatre for a New Audience. Mitchell is a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Scholar.

NEH Summer Scholars at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center where the Theatre for a New Audience is housed.

“I’ve been re-energized,” Mitchell said. “Teachers need regular inspiration.”

Each year she teaches Shakespeare to seniors and the topic gets mixed reactions in her classroom. Mitchell tries to keep students engaged through class readings and performances. Her experience in New York included daily academic discussions and stage performances which she plans to use in her lesson plans.

“I like to think we are still offering students the opportunity to learn Shakespeare language,” Mitchell said. “It’s important for students to understand the jokes, illusions and words.”

Sally Mitchell playing “Hamlet” during a stage performance.

While learning the ins and outs of Shakespeare poetry and playwriting, Mitchell attended Broadway shows including, “School of Rock”, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”, “Oslo” and “The Terms of My Surrender”.

Mitchell was one of 25 teachers nationwide selected as a NEH summer scholar. The Endowment is a federal agency that, each summer, supports opportunities at colleges, universities and cultural institutions so teachers can study with experts in humanities disciplines. Mitchell applied for the program on a West Ada snow day and submitted a four-page essay, resume and application. She received $2,100 for travel, study supplies and living expenses.

“It’s so important for teachers to be students and be on the other side to be engaging in the classroom,” Mitchell said.

If you’re an educator and would like to learn more about Mitchell’s experience and the program, contact her at [email protected]ada.org.

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