Palo Alto High School junior Nadia Leinhos will speak at the California Senate tomorrow in Sacramento to defend a bill which would require theater and dance teachers to obtain teaching credentials in their respective subject areas.
Senate Bill 916, sponsored by State Sen. Ben Allen, would establish single-subject teaching credentials for dance and theater. Currently, those who major in dance as an undergraduate can only teach dance after obtaining a credential in Physical Education, and a theater undergraduate major can only teach theater after receiving an English credential.
“If this bill passes, the quality of the teaching will go way up,” Leinhos said.Leinhos received the chance to voice her opinion after entering an essay contest for California Youth in Theatre, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting educational theater opportunities for students. After winning the contest, Leinhos received the opportunity to speak at both the annual CYIT Day and in front of the California Senate.
“As the essay winner, I’ve kind of become the student face and spokesperson of this whole endeavor,” Leinhos said.
While Leinhos says the bill will not directly affect Paly students as the current arts teachers have obtained arts teaching credentials, it could have large impacts on schools with less developed arts programs.
“We’re lucky to have two very passionate arts teachers in the theater and dance departments, but in other parts of California, it may be that whichever teacher has a free period is going to teach theater,” Leinhos said. “If the teacher knows exactly what they are doing and is just as passionate as the students want to be, their [students’] experience is going to be better and they’re going be able to do far more with their theater experience.”
Allen says that the bill would help recognize the importance of dance and theater as vital elements of the arts curriculum.
“California is the arts and entertainment capital of the world,” Allen said. “How is it possible that ours is one of only two states in the country that does not have specific credentials for dance or theater?”
Leinhos’ speech will discuss both the bill and how theater affected her personally.
“I was really shy when I was younger and now I’m a lot more confident and have a lot more friends [after joining theater],” Leinhos said.
Leinhos says she is looking forward to the experience.
“I think it hasn’t settled in how huge this is, but I get to be a part of history,” Leinhos said. “It might not seem like that huge of a part of history to some, but this [the bill] will change kids’ lives if it goes through and that is so powerful. I’m so glad I get to be a part of it.”