Helen Johnson

I’m a teacher from Yeoval Central School, in central-west NSW. I was lucky enough to be chosen for the Regional Teacher Mentorship in 2019. It was just the best week, not only because I got to meet the team at Bell Shakespeare and learn from them, but because I was able to network with other teachers, from across Australia.

Yeoval Central School is a very small rural school, that goes from kindergarten to year 12. Our year 11 and year 12 classes are part of the Western access program, where we teach via video conferencing across five schools. Last year I had three students in my drama class across three different schools, and I was at the fourth.

In recent years our community at Yeoval has really suffered from the effects of drought, Covid, and even mouse plagues. Our community has high levels of unemployment, and many of my students come from lower socio-economic backgrounds. We are also really isolated, making it even more difficult for students to access opportunities.

Last year in 2021, we were really blessed to have two Bell Shakespeare Teaching Artists visit our school for a week with their Artist in Residence program. They spent time with every student from kindergarten to year 12. The Artist in Residence program provided us teachers with strategies for teaching our students, and even more importantly, it opened our students’ eyes to the possibilities of what they could achieve.

One of my favourite memories was hearing the students use Shakespearian insults in the playground. This lasted long after the Residency. It was really funny. They started with the really long insults, but by the end they were using these short ones, calling each other “foot-lickers” and “sheep biters.”

Some of these kids have such limited access to opportunities, they have never been to Sydney before, never seen the surf, or been to the beach. I am so grateful that Bell Shakespeare was able to give them such an amazing experience.

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