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Dallas Myers MAT'10

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VIDEO: Dallas Myers MAT'10 discusses his teaching philosophy and the benefits of Willamette's master's degree in teaching. (2:19)

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Myers teaches theatre and language arts at a local high school.

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Willamette education alumnus thrives in first teaching job

Engage students in their learning. Be patient. Give them a chance to voice their opinions and they will flourish.

These lessons from Willamette University's Graduate School of Education swim through Dallas Myers' head as he addresses his class of high school acting students. He's trying to help them bring the right emotions to monologues from Shakespeare plays — poetry written in a language that seems unfamiliar to many of them.

"Many of these characters are teens, just like you," Myers MAT'10 tells them. "They have the same emotions. Think about who it is you're talking to in the scene, and how to let them know what you're feeling."

Some students nail it. Others need to be prodded just to stand in front of the group. Every time, Myers offers encouragement, asking the other students to share their perspectives on what went well and what needed improvement, rather than just giving his own feedback and moving on.

"The thing I love the most about teaching is watching the students grow and giving them opportunities to be creative with their own talents," he says.

The First Job

When Myers earned his master of arts in teaching (MAT) degree at Willamette last spring, he knew finding his first job would be hard. The struggling economy has affected teaching positions as well.

Not only did he get a job, but it is in his primary area of interest: theatre, a position that fewer and fewer schools even have on the roster. This year he teaches both theatre and language arts at McNary High School in Keizer, north of Salem. Next year, he'll become the full-time theatre instructor.

"Willamette requires teaching candidates to get dually endorsed in two subjects because it makes you more marketable," Myers says. "I chose English because that was my undergraduate major, and I added theatre because I had been working with students in an after-school theatre program and I loved it."

Myers found the McNary job after receiving a tip from the person who had led his "How to Teach Theatre" class at Willamette — she was also McNary's theatre teacher. She was planning to move into a different subject, and recommended Myers apply for her position.

"I was ready for all the questions they asked in the job interview," Myers says. "Willamette had prepared me for talking about my philosophy of education, things that I value in the classroom, lessons from my student-teaching. Willamette instills a reflection process into everything."

A Passion for Teaching

Myers didn't always know he was meant to teach. When he finished his bachelor's at Western Oregon University, he considered going on to earn a teaching degree, but he was tired of being a student. Instead, he got a job at Costco and worked his way up into management.

The position was good, but it wasn't his true passion. And his time working in the after-school theatre program showed him he might have a talent for something else.

"I looked at the MAT programs at Western and Willamette, but I chose Willamette because of its strong reputation," he says. "My friends who had graduated from Willamette appreciated the help they received in making connections with local schools for jobs. I had also talked to school administrators who said that Willamette graduates were better prepared."

Part of that comes from the numerous hours MAT candidates spend in local classrooms as student-teachers.

"You watch your supervising teachers in the classroom, learn from them and observe how they control a room full of kids," Myers says. "Getting my own experience in front of the classroom was helpful because it showed me that it wasn't as scary as I thought."

Myers doesn't show an ounce of fear as he steps in front of his theatre students. He seems comfortable, and the students respond with equal comfort — and respect.

"My favorite high school teachers were the ones who valued my opinion," he says. "I want to show my students that, beyond being teenagers, they're people of value who can substantiate their own opinions, be creative and engage in things they might not have tried before."



12-15-2010