Editor's Note: This article was written by Maggie Allred, a senior at Mansfield Senior High School. This school year, look for her monthly articles in thrive that showcase "thriving" people and movements in the city school district.
I tried to put myself in a different mindset when going to interview my Performing Arts teacher, Dirk Eachus. I kept telling myself to pretend I wasn’t one of his students and to approach this interview with an almost blank mindset. However, reality set in that I was, in fact, eating lunch in his classroom and hiding from the Mansfield Senior High School cafeteria right before the interview started.
The fact that he let me in says a lot about the 1986 Bluffton College graduate. Besides being one of the most caring people I know, he is also extremely ambitious. He has his masters degree in Music Education, and you can usually find him talking about his current Bowling Green classes. (Rigorous training for the Career Technical Education program.) Despite all of his classes, he has taught for over 30 years.
“I started teaching at Mansfield in 2003, and I’ve been here ever since. I’ve taught here longer than any other place,” said Eachus.
Students, teachers, and administrators first knew him as Mansfield Senior’s choir director. In fact, people still reflect on seeing the stellar performances from the various choirs, and students recall the enjoyment of being on his stage.
2019 graduate, Brandon Dixon, remembers his choir days.
“The concerts weren’t the only things to look forward too. Rehearsing in the classroom, everyday, was always so much fun.” said Dixon. “Everyone’s individual personalities were welcomed. Mr. Eachus’s humor is always sure to win someone over.”
Because of his new adventures, Eachus’s time in that position has now passed. He shared with me that he had began pushing the idea of the Performing Arts class over 10 years ago.
The administration’s response? “Apathy. Nothing. They didn’t need it. Career Tech (CTE) wasn’t as vibrant then as it is now.”
In 2017, after many years of encouraging it to be added, the Performing Arts Career Tech Education began. He was refreshed, and excited for change. There are many important things one can take away from the program.
Classes include musical theatre and acting performance for the first level class, and choreography and stagecraft for the second level.
For the first level class, the focus is being comfortable on stage, and learning the fundamentals and technicalities of performance. The second level class experiences lessons from professional choreographers and focuses more on the “behind the scenes” parts of the theatre.
Both levels choose from seasonal tickets to see shows at Playhouse Square. Each student usually sees up to three or more professional shows.
“The training in personal organization, professional etiquette, poise, communication, creative thinking...all of those things are the future, in any job. If you can’t think outside the box, you’re not going to go very far. To be innovative and truly successful, you must be creative.” Eachus says.
However, he and students are no strangers to the challenges of being in the arts.
“There’s a lack of support. Everyone says they value the performing arts, they love it when we do a musical or a concert, but the full support isn’t there.”
There is no lack of support in the classroom, though. A word someone can often find being thrown around the classroom is “family.” Despite students being from completely different social groups and backgrounds, there is a special bond made through the collective love of the arts.
“One of my favorite parts of teaching this class is getting to know the students and listening to their ideas. It’s a small group, but a very passionate one.” says Eachus.
In regards to the future of the program, he hopes to see more course offerings and a larger faculty involved. He says upgraded technology is also being looked into.
“The program is fresh, and the impact is yet to come.”