Broward Arts Teacher of the Year 2013 - Theater

Jason Zembuch – South Plantation High School

Personal Statement

What would you say is/are the most important thing(s) you believe in as an art teacher?

If there is one belief that I am able to instill in my kids before they leave me, it is that “no” and “can’t” don’t exist.  When faced with obstacles, we must figure out how to overcome them, not if we can overcome them.  And if it is important enough to us, when we hit that wall, we are willing to walk 500 miles along the side of that wall just to turn the corner and walk 500 miles back to the exact same spot in order to continue our journey.  “No” does not mean “no,” it simply means “not that way.” 

If we are able to start from here, I think the rest falls in place.  An environment in which “failure” is safe is able to be created and we, both my students and I, can then take risks and make new discoveries about not only our craft, but about who we are as people. 

What is your greatest contribution to your students, your profession, and to the Arts?

Ten years ago, I began teaching at South Plantation High School and met my first deaf student.  His name was Helder and he loved acting.  And then came Jesse, Giovanna, Suany, Sean, Isaiah, Genes, and the list goes on.  As my program grew, so did the number of deaf and hard of hearing students within that program. 

South Plantation High School is now known as being one of the only venues in South Florida which regularly produces theatre that is accessible to our deaf and hard of hearing audiences.  We specialize in Theatre for The Deaf and have developed a reputation for excellence in the deaf community.  It is no rare occasion to have members of the deaf community sitting in our theatre who have travelled from Palm Beach or Miami in order to see one of our shows.  When we produced Peter Pan, we even had a family come down from Georgia just to see the show.  While our success has been recognized on ABC World News Tonight when we produced West Side Story, what my students, for generations to come, will take away is much greater. 

Ten years ago, I would walk through the halls on a typical school day and see deaf students with deaf students and hearing with hearing.  However, after school, the rehearsal hall was different.  Hearing students were exposed to and embraced deaf culture and deaf students found themselves embraced and valued by their hearing colleagues.  An ensemble was born with a new and unique dynamic.  But this new dynamic did not simply stay within the walls of the theatre.  Today, one needs only to walk the halls at South Plantation High School to see how theatre can make a difference.  The change is astonishing.

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