Teachers and administrators in the Three Village Central School District recently combined their talents to lend a helping hand to students.
“It’s a great bonding experience between the administrators and staff, and when the community gets to come see you, they get to see you in a whole different light as a performer on stage.”
On Nov. 21-23 nearly 100 members of the Three Village Teachers Association and Three Village School Administrators Association put on a production of “Peter Pan” at R.C. Murphy Jr. High School. Directed by Anthony Pollera, TVCSD director of music, the musical featured elementary school teacher Meryl Nani in the lead role. Students, parents and community members paid $20 a ticket to attend, which in turn raised $25,000 for scholarships that will be distributed to eligible students from elementary to high school.
Pollera said children like seeing their teachers playing characters such as the ones in Peter Pan, adding that there was such a huge interest they could have put on a fourth show.
“Some of these adults are very talented, and some are very brave regardless,” Pollera said. “You want to pick a show the audience is going to like, most importantly the students.”
Paul Wilgenkamp, math center teacher at Minnesauke Elementary School, played Captain Hook. Performing in previous faculty productions, he said it’s just as exciting for the students as for the teachers and administrators.
“It’s a great bonding experience between the administrators and staff, and when the community gets to come see you, they get to see you in a whole different light as a performer on stage,” Wilgenkamp said. “It’s kind of like when kids see you in the supermarket. They can’t believe that a teacher is out shopping for food.”
“Peter Pan” brought back a tradition that started in 2002 when teachers came together to put on a production of “Guys and Dolls” to raise money. In the following years, the educators presented “That’s Entertainment!” “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Grease.” After a break for a few years, in 2011, they acted in “The Wizard of Oz,” which was followed by another years-long sabbatical.
“Everybody is busy with what they do in their dedication to students,” Pollera said. “It just kind of rolled around and we said let’s do it this year. If you ask them right now, they’re ready to go again next year.”
“I think what has made this last one really special was the administrative unit working with the teachers.”
— Anthony Pollera
Pollera added this was the first time administrators took part in the group effort.
“I think what has made this last one really special was the administrative unit working with the teachers,” he said.
He said it was fun seeing administrators like Kevin Scanlon, deputy superintendent for business services, building sets with them and seeing principals performing as the Lost Boys.
Wilgenkamp, who used to perform occasionally with his father Jan at the former Island Squire restaurant in Middle Island, said Pollera brings out everyone’s hidden talents.
“I probably never would have gone and done any more singing or acting or performing if [Anthony] hadn’t shown up in our district a few years ago,” Wilgenkamp said. “He’s an amazing guy. He touches so many lives.”
Pollera, who also played piano for the production, added there was a nine-piece musical pit filled with all music teachers. The production also included a flying apparatus for Peter Pan and the Darling children.
Rehearsals began in September, Pollera said, for four days a week. During Saturday rehearsals, high school students helped babysit teachers’ children.
“It was one big family,” the director said. “I can’t really describe it any better than that.”
Wilgenkamp said Pollera always puts together a professional production that brings out confidence and the best in everybody involved.
“It’s really mind-blowing how he can take people who are teachers or working in the school buildings and turn them into stars on the stage and change the stage into this elaborate Broadway production,” Wilgenkamp said.
He said it felt good to know the show will positively impact students with the availability of scholarships for years to come, in addition to the bonds that were created.
“The camaraderie and the relationships that the shows create really lasts a lifetime,” Wilgenkamp said.