IT’S THE THEATER

A Hall of Fame Teacher

There are a lot of dedicated teachers.  Many find a good school and stay with it for decades.  Most of us can recall a teacher like this.  The fortunate ones will encounter several as they go through school.  I had such a teacher.

It is rare that over 20 years after a teacher retires, her legacy lives on.  At my parish and high school, current administrators frequently hear from alumni the stories of a teacher they never met.  “Mrs. Kittler was the best teacher I ever had,” many remark.  The praises have not stopped long after the teacher retired and moved away.

Photo Credit: St. Benedict HS archive
Photo Credit: St. Benedict HS archive

Laurette Kittler started out with a brief foray into acting and seemed to have a promising future.  She decided to follow another passion however, and went into teaching.  In the spring of 1959, St. Benedict High School asked her to come direct a show they had already started.  Apparently it needed help, and a lot of it.  At that time she was teaching at another area school.

The production of Tekakwitha was rescued, more or less, and in the fall of 1959 she moved to St. Benedict where she taught and directed shows for the next 37 years.  Most years it was not one play, but many productions.  Summer shows were frequently part of the program too.  It was not just the drama students who participated.  Often other students showed up to participate in the spring musical.  You just were not cool if you did not join the show.

In recent years a facebook group dedicated to Mrs. Kittler has been formed and hundreds of former students have posted thousands of pictures and programs from past shows.  It seems the legacy was not only contained in the dusty store rooms of the former convent at St. Benedict’s, but also in the albums, cabinets and closets of the former students and parents.

Photo: Courtesy of Monica Kaepplinger-Bofani
Photo: Courtesy of Monica Kaepplinger-Bofani

In 2015 Mrs. Kittler decided to answer the call of her former school and students and return to Chicago from southern California.  She was honored as a “Hall of Fame” teacher, and current and former students entertained her with songs from shows she directed.

Alumni wished to thank her for the impression she made on their lives.  Students wished to meet the teacher whose name still echoes through the halls of their school.  After the show, she stayed to meet everyone who wanted to talk to her or have their picture taken with her.  She was a rock star.  Shouldn’t all great teachers be treated this way?

Former students, director and musical director of the tribute, with Mrs. Kittler

*****

It’s The Theater, by Rich Paschall

Project!
She said “Project!”
I thought I was screaming
At the top of my lungs.
Be loud
And also strong.
You have to be heard
Up at the highest rungs.

“Articulate!
And you’ll be great.”
She said that I mumble
And words are not too clear.
Sounds nice
And clear to me.
Why can’t she hear it all,
When she’s standing oh so near?

It’s the theater.
I love the theater,
It has taught me how to act,
And has taught me how to sing,
But more than that.
I learned of life.
Now I hit my mark
When I’m doing anything.

“Hear you!
I can’t hear you,”
Came a voice out of the dark
From the furthest seat away.
I cannot see her,
But I can hear her,
And I’m told I must be louder
In everything I say.

“I’ll go east.
I could go east.
You have to play the show.
And you have to do your best,
But I can walk,
And my hat will float.
I have shown you all the way.
And now you must do the rest.”

So we pray.
It’s time to pray.
We are asking Saint Jude
If he can save the day.
But we’ve been taught.
We learned our lines.
We are ready for our moment
When we can start the play.

It’s the theater.
I love the theater.
It has taught us understanding
Of the world all around.
Not just emotion,
But its compassion
Has us soaring through our lives
With our feet back on the ground.

It’s the theater.
We thank the theater,
The teachers and director
Who helped us find our way.
The lessons learned
Went way beyond
The shows and the songs
To reward us every day.
*****

Note: I had to explain the “walk east” reference to a current student. It was a favorite saying of Mrs. Kittler. She would tell students in her own unique way, that when the curtain opens, they must stay and do the show. Her job is done at that point, and she could always walk east until her hat floats if the show was not ready. Lake Michigan is east of us.

Before shows at the school when we were students, we would always say the same prayer and then ask St. Jude to pray for us. This saint is considered the patron of desperate situations and lost causes. It was just an inside joke for the drama students.

Mrs. Kittler is alive and well and willing to greet former students who vacation in southern California and wish to visit.  I can think of no other teacher who has had an impact on so many generations of students. Did you have a teacher like this?

See highlights of Mrs. Kittler Hall of Fame tribute and some of her speech here.

Author: Rich Paschall

When the Windows Live Spaces were closed and our sites were sent to Word Press, I thought I might actually write a regular column. A couple years ago I finally decided to try out a weekly entry for a year and published something every Sunday as well as a few other dates. I reached that goal and continued on. I hope you find them interesting. They are my Sunday Night Blog. Thanks to the support of Marilyn Armstrong you may find me from time to time on her blog space, SERENDIPITY. Rich Paschall Education: DePaul University, Northeastern Illinois University Employment: Air freight professional

14 thoughts on “IT’S THE THEATER”

  1. I had a couple of really good ones in elementary school, two great ones in high school … and one in college who changed my world. I’m not a great teacher — not of children, anyway. Not bad with adults, but it was never one of my top choices. I think I became what I was supposed to be: a writer.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is wonderful, and I imagine that Mrs. Kittler feels that her efforts as a teacher have been rewarded. Teaching can be a lonely profession, even with all the other teachers and students around! You often wonder if you’re doing the right things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She commented in her Hall of Fame speech that she felt blessed and wouldn’t change a thing. Many years after her retirement, hundreds showed up to salute her and spend a few moments to tell her how she changed their lives for the better.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I was fortunate and enjoyed 11 great teachers out of 12 in school. The first one used to hit us or our desks because we were left-handed (my twin brother and I) and I gave up because well, if you know anything about me you know there was worse at home and I couldn’t handle any more abuse. My bro. stuck it out. He’s still left handed. I became ambidextrous so it wasn’t a total loss. Needless to say, the rest of the teachers and I’m omitting numbers because from grade 8 on we had a teacher for every subject, they were all spectacular and although some were strict, they all had a code, to help the student(s) learn. They were available, caring, helpful and some were downright humourous!

    Liked by 1 person

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