Theatre Teacher Todd Avery Welcomed into Michigan Thespian Hall of Fame

Todd Avery, William Waalkes, Tom Dracht, Michigan Thespians Hall of Fame

Todd Avery (center) pictured with parent volunteer and stage creator Tom Dracht (L) and JPS Board President William Waalkes (R)

In his wildest dreams, Todd Avery never imagined that his passionate love for theatre or his pursuit of excellence on stage would have led to this: induction into the Michigan Thespian Hall of Fame. But as many will tell you, this driven, creative, imaginative, and inspiring leader deserves nothing less.

This past fall, while his thespian troupe performed at a 2-day festival in Saginaw, Todd was unanimously voted into an exclusive group of the best theatre teachers identified over the past twenty years in the state of Michigan.

Jenison Public Schools, Todd Avery, Erik Hart

Mr. Erik Hart congratulates Mr. Todd Avery

Michigan Educational Theatre Association chapter director Erik Hart made the trip from Sterling Heights to formally honor Todd at the January JPS Board Meeting. During his visit, he also outlined the qualifications that the association looks for when nominating a new inductee:

  • a new nominee must have at least 15 years experience teaching theatre
  • (s)he must demonstrate artistic leadership
  • (s)he must have productions that are exemplary.

As part of Mr. Hart’s position as META chapter director, he has seen over one hundred productions and noted that Todd’s are consistently the best he’s seen.

Jenison High School’s 2012 production of Elephant Man is just one example of Mr. Avery’s spectacular work with our young actors. After being adjudicated by theatre professionals from the Educational Theatre Association, the cast was recommended for a performance at the International Thespian Festival this June in Nebraska! (details on this honor coming in a future blog post)

“I was very excited and surprised by not only my nomination but at the award as well.  Winning accolades for myself is not why I went into this field.  I have looked up to the theatre teachers on the list of former recipients for years and, due to their encouragement and influence, have made myself and my program better.  It’s funny, but I still don’t see myself on “their level”, but I will put my students and the JHS theatre program up against any program in Michigan.  We have something very special going on here in Jenison,” Todd said.

Mr. Hart praised Mr. Avery by saying that good teachers do more than just teach. They inspire.

“I’ve seen students from other districts who see Todd’s productions go home inspired. They leave and want their own school to do as well. You don’t see that very often.”

But Mr. Avery, clearly moved by the accolades, was quick to turn the focus back to his students.

“Our cast of Elephant Man was just awesome. They basically ran the show and I got to sit back and watch a thing of beauty. The kids came together, got things done, and helped each other under a tight, tight deadline. I felt like a proud father seeing it all work seamlessly. It was amazing. It was the proudest moment in my entire life.”

Jenison Public Schools, Todd Avery, Elephant Man, Jenison High School Thespians

Nebraska bound!