UCS teacher earns Michigan’s top theatre honor
UCS teacher earns Michigan’s top theatre honor
Posted on 07/01/2019
Kirstin with award

Ford II theatre students with Kirstin Carolinh As a student, Utica Community Schools teacher Kirstin Carolin found a home in the theatre program at Henry Ford II High School and that has made a difference in her life.

Now, her work to create the same environment for Henry Ford II High School students has earned her the title as Michigan’s top theatre teacher.

“The truth is what we do here is just magic,” she said. “You get this end product that goes up in front of 3,000 people.”

Carolin was awarded Theatre Coach of the Year by Michigan Speech Coaches, Inc. at the Mackinac Conference and Tournament in May.

“We are proud that Mrs. Carolin has been recognized by her peers for her work and commitment to inspire students,” Superintendent Dr. Christine Johns said. “Our theatre programs allow our community to enjoy professional productions right in their own backyards.” 

Carolin, who has taught in UCS for the past 20 years, said theatre programs are critical for students by providing essential life and workforce skills, particularly teamwork and collaboration.

“It’s not until you have 100 kids where everyone has to do their jobs at the exact same time that makes the magic happen,” she said. “To take something from a piece of paper to a real live thing is the absolute nature of what collaborative learning is. It’s all student-led and student-driven.”

Carolin was nominated for the award by a former student, 2013 UCS graduate Paige Caldwell. Her current students more than support the nomination, saying that it is her commitment to creating student leaders that has made a difference in their lives.

“She believes strongly in educational theatre,” said junior Tony Gjerkaj, a student director. “She taught me how to lead a group of 100 kids.” Gjerkaj said that the skills he has learned in theatre support his other classes, particularly communication, public speaking and language arts.

Henry Ford II students stage three productions each year and a show for junior high school students – with this year’s program promoting an anti-bullying message.

Junior Jacob Yasso said Carolin creates an inclusive program for all students.

“She wants everybody involved,” he said. “She wants every production to be filled with kids who like to build, or kids who want to do the lights, or the ones who are interested in singing and dancing. She doesn’t want theatre to be a place for just theatre kids.”