Principals and teachers at Sydney Catholic schools who have taken part in CaSPA in-school mentoring are singing its praises – saying it provides outstanding professional development for teachers, as well as talent, learning and skills development for students.
Music teacher Ravilya Sulas said the CaSPA in-school mentoring she was involved in to stage musicals at two primary schools was exceptional professional development, like nothing she had ever experienced.
“Our understanding of performance through drama, music and dance was challenged through the authentic experience CaSPA provided to our staff and students,” Ms Sulas said.
“Personally, it has changed the way I teach drama, dance and music for all school productions. I highly recommend it to other schools as the expertise which CaSPA mentors are able to provide to teachers and students at Sydney Catholic Schools is something every teacher must experience.”
In her role as music teacher at St Francis Xavier Catholic Primary Ashbury, Ms Sulas and other teachers worked with CaSPA mentors on the school’s production of The Wizard of Oz.
The cast participated in weekly workshops with CaSPA drama adviser Roger Wise, which had a focus on teaching the children about characterisation and enhancing their understanding of the art form of story-telling through drama, dance and music.
As the production involved each class presenting an item from The Wizard of Oz such as singing The Tin Man or Scarecrow song, Roger Wise gave all the classes staging and performance ideas – after each item had been choreographed and rehearsed.
CaSPA music mentor John Panuccio also worked with the students to record a vocal backing track to their class item, and during the process he discovered singers who had ‘the voice’. These students recorded and performed solos for the school production and at least six went on to audition for the CaSPA ensemble program.
At Our Lady of the Annunciation Catholic Primary North Strathfield, where Ms Sulas also teaches music, the students performed a production of The Christmas Story, which had been written and adapted by the staff. To prepare the cast for opening night, CaSPA drama adviser Roger Wise coached the students on characterisation and how to use their faces and bodies to reflect each character’s personality.
With the playground the stage for production, Roger Wise gave teachers staging advice to make the most of the performance space and to create a sense of journey. Both John Panuccio and Roger Wise also attended the school’s rehearsals and gave teachers extra direction to ensure transitions between class items, characters and the narration was seamless.
Ms Sulas said the in-school mentoring had a major impact on both final performances.
“Parents and friends, teachers and students all remarked on the professionalism of the students in the performance. I believe this comes down to the expertise and experience of our CaSPA mentors in their fields and the way in which they guided students during the process of putting together the productions.”