Alan Penty is a firm believer that drama class is not just about acting.
While it is one component of the Victoria High School drama teacher’s class, Penty knows his class isn’t solely about inspiring hoards of new actors to jump into the industry. Instead, drama class offers a space for the roughly 150 to 200 grade 9 to 12 students Penty teaches to learn how to deal and interact with the world around them.
“I really love that drama demands that you learn how to not only be honest with yourself, but how to deal with the world,” said the 58-year-old teacher, who has taught at Vic High for the past 15 years.
“Drama forces you to learn how to deal with the world and how to present yourself and how to have confidence.
“I’ve watched students grow up and become self-sufficient, reliant leaders in their community and I’m very proud of those kids.”
Penty’s love of drama began in his early 20s, when he worked as an aspiring actor, auditioning for anything and everything he could get his hands on. Soon after, he found a job with a touring company, where he learned how to set up and design lights, and build sets.
Coming from a family of teachers, Penty eventually decided to try his hand at teaching, getting his teaching certificate and finding a job teaching drama at what was formerly Landsdowne Junior High.
Shortly after, he moved to Vic High. Over the years, he has kept busy, running the school’s improv class, which travelled to Berlin last year for an international festival, and co-directing and choosing which plays the school puts on every year.
Now, after more than two decades of teaching, Penty is being honoured for his work with students. He recently won the drama teacher of the year award from the Association of B.C. Drama Educators — an award he was touched and honoured to receive.
Lori Mazey, a drama teacher at Vanier Secondary School in Courtenay, nominated Penty for the award.
“Alan is a wonderful and inspiring teacher who has done amazing work with his students over the years,” she said in an email to the Victoria News. “It has been an honour to be his colleague and to see his passion for theatre and helping his students be the best they can be — whether in improv, theatre, writing (or) field trips to Europe.”
This is a particularly special year for Penty who is starting a new chapter in his life — he’ll be retiring at the end of the school year. In one of his final acts, he’ll be doing something he’s never done before — instead of directing the school play, Penty will get the chance to act alongside his students in the musical Footloose.
“It’s humbling, I get to act with the kids,” he said. “I’m hoping they’ll (students) take away the confidence and possibility to be leaders if they choose to be and the ability to present themselves in a very up front and honest way.”