NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Engaging in students’ learning process and seeing the growth they experience when taught to think critically and creatively ranks high among the rewards of teaching for Jackie Rosenfeld, dramatic writing and theatre appreciation instructor in the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Theatre.
“I see education as a continuous conversation with everyone taking part,” she said. “It is crucial for students to be participants in this conversation and to take an active role in their own learning.”
In order to achieve this, Rosenfeld creates a classroom environment that is respectful and attuned to the needs of each individual class.
“I believe that good theatre and thoughtful learning most often result when participants feel uninhibited and unbound,” she said. “When students are confident and enthusiastic about learning, we are all successful.”
Earning a B.A. in drama from Angelo State University and an M.F.A. in playwriting from Texas Tech University, Rosenfeld’s plays, such as “keepingabreast” and “Queen of the Mist,” have been produced nationwide, including three off-off -Broadway productions. An audiobook of her play “keepingabreast” is available on Audible. She also directed the School of Theatre's pilot radio drama production of O. Henry's “Gift of the Magi,” adapted by SFA Playwright-in-Residence Jack Heifner.
In the fall of 2017, School of Theatre Director Cleo House Jr. accepted Rosenfeld’s proposal to produce a 24-hour Theatre Festival in SFA’s Downstage Theatre.
“Throughout my years at SFA, I became aware of a lack of opportunities not only for our playwriting students to see their work performed, but also for our acting and directing students to work on new plays,” she said. “Having worked as a playwright and advisor of a similar festival while on the faculty at Texas Tech, I knew this to be a unique opportunity for student playwrights, directors and actors to collaborate on a collection of short productions.”
Being forced to work within a set of established limitations of budget (none), time (24 hours) and resources (a short play, a few props and costumes, and actors) allows the students to maximize their imagination, creative abilities and team-working skills, Rosenfeld explained. The result: Two highly successful theatre festivals. Plans are underway for the 2019 event.
This semester, Rosenfeld created a script-reading course offered through independent study for students looking to expand their knowledge of contemporary plays. Students are assigned eight award-winning plays by a diverse group of playwrights written since 2013. The course utilizes quizzes and discussion to assess critical thinking and understanding.
“While our students read a great number of plays, most are classics considered to be in the cannon, and thus very few are contemporary and even fewer are written by women and playwrights of color,” she said. “This course provides them with the ability to leave SFA with the knowledge to discuss contemporary works at interviews, auditions and graduate school.”
This innovative approach to teaching earned Rosenfeld one of SFA’s 2019 Teaching Excellence Awards. The Teaching Excellence Award is based on knowledge of subject matter, quality of lectures and assignments, enthusiasm for teaching, commitment to continuous improvement, contribution to the quality of teaching at SFA by assisting and encouraging other faculty members, and interest in and availability to students.
“I am so honored to receive this kind of recognition from the university,” she said. “Teaching is my greatest love, and this award is a great way to learn it’s reciprocal.”