Schooling the stage

Teachers show off hidden, newfound talents, enjoy backstage camaraderie at Teachers & Tiaras pageant

Molly Gardner

By Laszlo King-Hovis, McCallum High School

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McCallum’s second fifth annual teacher’s pageant was on Friday, Feb. 15.

“I actually screwed up with the Teachers and Tiaras poster,” film teacher Ken Rogers said before the show hit the stage. “This is actually the sixth annual. I guess I used the background for the old one but forgot to change it. Oh well, we’re calling it the fifth annual again!”

The money raised from Teachers and Tiaras goes to fund the AV program.

Elisha Scott
Northcutt raises her arms as she is introduced as a contestant after the opening dance number. She would strike a similar pose at the end of the pageant after being named the winner. Photo by Elisha Scott.

“I feel like the AV Club is really important to the school,” said math teacher Daniel Vega, who played the drums for the teacher pageant competition. “When Mr. Rogers said their funding was cut and this was a way for them to get funding, I wanted to make sure to do that and help.”

While Vega had experience playing the drums through high school and college, he moved onto the bass eventually.

We were like ‘Humiliation for the kids!’ That was our rallying cry.”

— Social studies teacher Katie Carrasco

“Drums are very loud, so I can’t really play them anymore,” Vega said. “I transitioned to bass guitar. But it’s definitely a passion and I miss it very much. Luckily, Mr. Rogers has a drum kit in his back room, so I was able to practice. I thought I’d do something flashy and loud. Really, I just wanted to play, I didn’t care what other people thought.”

History teacher Katie Carrasco, the third-place winner, performed for similar reasons.

“Mr. Rogers has been so good about the technology that he gets in his programs and making sure that each teacher gets access to it,” Carrasco said. “I’ve used the virtual reality headsets that he’s gotten several times this year. I felt like if I’m going to benefit from [the technology]; I need to do my part to get funding.”

“All of the teachers before it started, got together and did a little ‘Put your hands in the middle,’” Carrasco said. “We were like ‘Humiliation for the kids!’ That was our rallying cry.”

Being in a pageant is a lifelong dream that I never thought I’d be able to achieve until Mr. Rogers created this event.”

— 2019 Teachers and Tiaras winners Nikki Northcutt

First-place winner, English teacher Nikki Northcutt, along with her surprise duet partner and emcee, English teacher Diana Adamson, did karaoke to “Dancing Queen” by ABBA.

“Being in a pageant is a lifelong dream that I never thought I’d be able to achieve until Mr. Rogers created this event,” Northcutt said. “I’ve been in it every time they would let me, which is every other year because if you win, you can’t compete the next year.”

For first-year teacher and second-place winner SCORES teacher Steven Strong, this wasn’t his first time up on that stage either.

“It was the first time I’d done anything onstage pretty much since high school,” Strong said. “I went here for four years, and I think the last thing I did here as a senior was Mr. McCallum. It was fun though; I was fairly confident in my stage presence. I’d been on that exact stage before, so it wasn’t anything new to me. It was just fun to be on stage again.”

Strong performed a personal twist of “You Should’ve Known” by Hopsin at the pageant.

“For weeks leading up to this, as soon as I knew I was doing it, I was doing a remix of Ariana Grande’s ‘Thank U, Next,’” Strong said. “I still have that, but I ended up not performing it. The Monday before the show, this rapper named Hopsin released a song called ‘You Should’ve Known,’ and it got fairly popular really quickly on YouTube. I sat down Wednesday night, and I was like, ‘I’m going to write for this just to see what happens,’ and I liked what I wrote a lot more than what I wrote to ‘Thank U, Next.’”

I wrote about understanding that if a kid is rebelling, pointing at them and getting mad at them for acting in a normal way is something that you could actually look at and be like, ‘Oh, I have been there. I could guide them. I could assist them. I could show them that I did that and how it turned out for me.’”

— First-year SCORES teacher Steven Strong

For Strong, the lyrics he wrote were connected to his teaching philosophy.

“In the third verse,” Strong said. “I wrote about understanding that if a kid is rebelling, pointing at them and getting mad at them for acting in a normal way is something that you could actually look at and be like, ‘Oh, I have been there. I could guide them. I could assist them. I could show them that I did that and how it turned out for me.’ I think that is important to understand as a teacher and I think a lot of people undervalue that.”

While votes were being counted and the unknown teacher comic was entertaining the crowd, the teachers were backstage singing along to the Beatles.

“Mr. Pew [math teacher Paul Pew] started playing Beatles songs on the piano, and Mr. Vega was playing little jazzy backtunes,” said social studies teacher Lucy Griswold, who did a monkey impression, a baby impression, a Zumba routine and the worm for her act. “We were all just singing, and it was this really magical moment of collaboration and spontaneity. It was just worth it to be with colleagues in a playful environment and to look silly for a good cause.”

The magical moment was even more noteworthy because it was the first time the two musicians had teamed up to play.

“I had never played with Mr. Vega before or he with me,” Pew said. “When we just had the chance to jam we had a really good time. That was about my favorite part of the night.”
Meanwhile, counselor Mickey Folger used the opportunity to skateboard around backstage.

We were all just singing [backstage], and it was this really magical moment of collaboration and spontaneity. It was just worth it to be with colleagues in a playful environment and to look silly for a good cause.”

— Math teacher Daniel Vega

While she was skateboarding backstage, she heard the singing come from the teachers gathered around McCallum’s own Lennon and McCartney duo.

“Mr. Strong was laying prone on the ground with his arms out just flat on his back singing.”

For Ms. Folger, the event was an opportunity to make new connections with teachers.

“Because I’m new here at McCallum, and I just recently transitioned into counseling, [and] I was in this purgatory about my people, so it was really nice to be able to spend time with teachers because I’m not that far removed from what it is to be a teacher,” said Folger, who was a classroom teacher for 15 years. “It was really cool to hang out with Ms. Griswold, get to know Mr. Barber a little better, and Mr. Pew is hilarious. It was just a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it.”

This was history teacher Oakley Barber’s first time performing, but i probably won’t be his last.

“It was fun,” Barber said. “I’d never been on a stage before in that situation. When I was younger, I used to be a clothing model. Believe it or not, I’d been a hair model as well, but I’d never performed on stage. So obviously I was very nervous, but I can see why people like it. There’s a certain rewarding thing to it that I enjoy.”

The AV program raised just under $1,600 from the pageant.”

Barber sung the Tom Waits song, “The One That Got Away.”

“There was no background music at first,” Barber said. “So three weeks before the contest a friend of Mr. Rogers came down and recorded the bass and sax lines so the music that was played was recorded in Mr. Rogers’ studio by a parent and me. He played the bass and I sung, and then he played the saxophone over it.”

Along with the talent portion, there was also an evening-wear portion.

“For me, the evening-wear portion is kind of fun because I was in the Peace Corps in Chad for three years,” math teacher Richard Cowles said, “so I go and pull out my Chaddean outfits.”

Overall, the AV program raised just under $1,600 from the pageant.

“I think it went great,” Rogers said. “It ran smoothly, the talent was really good, except for that unknown teacher comic, he was pretty bad.”

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This story was originally published on The Shield Online on March 18, 2019.