Dive Into Drama With This Guide to Becoming a Performing Arts Teacher

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Photo Source: “Barry” Courtesy HBO

From the “grandaddy of acting teachers” Konstantin Stanislavsky all the way to your local high school’s wrangler of theater kids, drama teachers play a crucial role in the artistic and emotional development of their students. This career can be incredibly fulfilling because it affords the opportunity to inspire a love of the arts and shape students’ self-awareness and interpersonal skills. If you aspire to bring drama to the classroom, this guide is for you.

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What does a drama teacher do?

Instructors in this field illuminate the intricacies of human expression for their students. Their role goes beyond teaching lines and blocking scenes; they also create an environment where students can explore emotions, build self-confidence, and master the art of storytelling through acting. 

In a typical day, they engage in various duties, including:

  • Lead acting exercises by guiding students through a variety of exercises aimed at honing acting skills and developing stage presence
  • Direct rehearsals for school productions, ensuring that actors are prepared and scenes are well-coordinated
  • Provide feedback to help students improve their acting techniques and stagecraft
  • Organize field trips to plays and other live productions, exposing students to professional work and broadening their experiences
  • Develop lesson plans that cover acting techniques, history, and theory, tailoring the curriculum to meet the needs of their students
  • Manage production budgets for school productions, making sure resources are allocated effectively and creatively
  • Collaborate with other educators to integrate the performing arts into the broader curriculum, fostering interdisciplinary connections and enhancing student learning

Can you become a teacher while being a working actor?

Drama teacher

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Yes! In fact, being a working actor can improve one’s abilities as an educator by providing firsthand insights into the craft.

Acting and teaching share overlapping skills such as communication, empathy, adaptability, and creativity. As a working actor, you can bring authenticity to your pedagogical practice; as a teacher, you can dive deeper into the fundamentals and techniques of your craft. Moreover, teaching can provide stability and a steady income between acting gigs, allowing you to pursue your passion while making a meaningful impact in the lives of others.

Education requirements and career path

Drama teacher

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Education: Specific requirements vary depending on the institution and location, but most instructors hold a bachelor's degree in theater, drama, or education, with coursework in acting, directing, stagecraft, and script analysis. Some educators even choose to pursue a master's degree or teaching certification to deepen their knowledge and expand their career opportunities. 

Career path: Many teachers find fulfillment working in K–12 schools, where they inspire youths and stage memorable productions year after year. Others may pursue teaching positions at colleges, universities, or acting schools, where they can mentor aspiring actors and contribute to the broader community. Upon gaining experience and establishing themselves in the field, they may take on leadership roles as department heads, directors, or arts administrators. 

While the path depends on the individual and their unique journey, one thing is for sure: Teaching drama offers endless opportunities for personal growth, artistic expression, and meaningful impact on students’ lives. Begin by asking yourself, “How can I make a difference through education?” and let your answer guide you toward a fulfilling career.

How to become a theater teacher: A step-by-step guide

Drama teacher
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From meeting the fundamental education prerequisites to gaining the practical experience needed to thrive in this dynamic field, the following steps can help you get your start:

1. Get involved in the theater. Participate in school plays, community productions, and professional organizations to develop your acting skills and expertise. 

2. Earn a bachelor's degree. Pursue a degree in theater, drama, education, or a related field from an accredited institution, and take relevant coursework to build a strong foundation.

3. Complete teacher training. Consider earning a teaching certification or master’s degree in education to acquire the necessary skills and credentials to teach in K–12 schools.

4. Gain practical experience. Seek internships, teaching assistantships, and volunteer opportunities to gain hands-on familiarity with mentoring students, developing lesson plans, and putting on productions.

5. Build a portfolio. Compile a portfolio showcasing your work history, qualifications, and teaching philosophy. Include samples of lesson plans, production photos, student shows, and professional references.

6. Network. Attend events like the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, and National Theatre conferences to connect with educators, administrators, and industry professionals. 

7. Apply to jobs. Explore opportunities at schools, playhouses, community centers, and performing arts organizations that align with your career goals and values. You can also search on teacher-specific sites like EdJoin, HigherEdJobs, and SchoolSpring, and on broader job boards such as Google Jobs, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter

8. Continue learning. Stay informed about current trends, methodologies, and resources in theater education through professional development opportunities like those offered by the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, and the Educational Theatre Association. Continuously seek feedback and reflect on your teaching practice to enhance student learning and engagement.

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