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New role for drama teacher

Published 10:29pm Monday, December 10, 2012

A theater and chorus teacher at Nansemond River High School says she will continue promoting the performing arts in schools after being appointed vice-president of the Virginia Theatre Association.

Dr. Joleen Neighbours, who teaches ninth through 12th grades, was named to the position at the association’s recent 2012 annual conference in Reston.

Nansemond River High School drama teacher Joleen Neighbours, pictured with her students Monday, has been appointed vice-president of the Virginia Theatre Association, a position she says will allow her to continue advocating for the performing arts.

The energetic teacher has served on the association’s board of directors for the past three years, a role she will continue in alongside her new executive position.

“It helps more with arts advocacy,” Neighbours said of her appointment, adding that she would like to see awareness of the importance of arts education “grow and prosper across the state of Virginia.”

On the board, Neighbours serves as secondary schools division chair on a three-year term. Her new position also comes with a three-year term.

“I’m kind of continuing what I’ve already been doing,” she said, adding that her goal is to “bring more and more exposure to arts education into Virginia, and what we call ‘theater for education,’ where theater is used to help education in other subjects.”

“I was just appointed to the Fine Arts Committee for the city, so it will help with that, as well,” she added.

Involvement in the performing arts helps students perform better in other areas, she maintains, especially when students participate in competitions.

At the association conference, Nansemond River took all three On-the-Spot Playwriting Awards, with first place going to Conner Brew, second place to McKenna Lavender, Christine Pinell and Amy Rice, and third place to K.C. Couch and Savannah Miller.

The team won various additional awards.

“It’s teaching teamwork and the effectiveness of working together,” Neighbours said. “They get the idea of camaraderie and teamwork. All of it is geared toward, ‘How does this matter in the real world?’

“Through teaching the arts, you are showing students how they are employable in ways that they might not have thought of. It’s out-of-the-box.”

Neighbours’ students are currently preparing for the local district competition. Then, students will perform “The Little Mermaid” in the early spring, followed by “The Outsiders.”

Neighbours is credited with directing or producing more than 250 theatrical productions, musicals and concerts.

Before coming to Suffolk Public Schools 9 1/2 years ago, she worked at the collegiate level in Virginia Beach.

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