The Magic of Theatre: Ms. Howard

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Samantha Howard

Performing Arts teacher Ms. Samantha Howard (center) eloped with her husband (left) five weeks after meeting him due to his leaving to join the Navy. “We had a choice of either we never see each other again…or I go with you,” she said. (Pictured: Ms. Howard and her family)

Lily Gover, Staff Writer

For Performing Arts teacher Ms. Samantha Howard, the theatre is home. Her first memory of a play involves her being captivated by the magic of the stage from the first ever production she witnessed—Oliver—when she was four years old, and now, as a performing arts teacher at Bishop’s who will be leaving at the end of this school year, her love for theatre hasn’t changed.

Ms. Howard’s two years at Bishop’s have been filled with exciting new plays and new approaches to teaching. Oliver will always hold a special place in her heart, but she introduced the Bishop’s community to some of her other favorite performances, including the Acting Workshop Halloween Showcase and the Acting Workshop Murder Mystery Showcase. 

While over Zoom, she led Acting Workshop in various projects, one of which was a spoken word piece. Ms. Howard recapped, “We wrote a piece together, and it was sort of a spoken word recorded with many different voices from each of the actors.” They also started a performance of The Crucible as a film, which they didn’t get to finish, but Ms. Howard explained, “It was cool because it was more about the process and the exploration.”

Ms. Howard’s approach to teaching also brought a new component to Bishop’s theatre. “My philosophy of teaching theatre is really being engaged in a way that I can let the students guide what we’re doing,” she described. “I really am more interested in what’s exciting to you.” 

Raphael Delgado (‘24), an Acting Workshop student, reinforced this idea. “She put a really big emphasis on students’ making their own acting choices…choices that feel natural to them,” he explained. He complimented Ms. Howard’s approach, detailing, “It gives the actors a closer connection to their character.”

Adelaide Kessler (‘25), a student in her Theatre II class, also values the environment Ms. Howard creates in the classroom. According to Adelaide, something that Ms. Howard often says to her students is that “Failing is a part of the process.” Adelaide continued, “She creates an environment where we can all support each other, where none of us ever have to worry about others judging when we fail, because [failing is] what we’re encouraged to do.”

Being a supportive teacher is one of the reasons she decided to go into teaching. When first asked, Ms. Howard laughed, “Okay, I can tell you my ‘Why am I a teacher’ story.” The answer traces back to her own school days. “When I was in high school, my freshman year, I was like, ‘I’m determined. I’m going to go to an amazing college and things are going to be awesome.’ And so I got a 4.0.” 

Then sophomore year came around and her parents divorced, deeply impacting her emotionally and in school. “I just checked out completely, and half the time I didn’t go to school, and I just couldn’t. I wasn’t okay.” By the end of the year, her GPA had fallen to a 1.6, and the strength she had gained from this hard time was evident in every word as she described how differently she was treated as a 4.0 student to a 1.6 student. Some leftover shock was still present in her voice as she told, “It was eye opening, you know, in terms of people’s presumptions about what someone is capable of… nobody said, wait a minute, that’s not normal.”

This experience is the inspiring motivation to why she consistently is there for her students to teach and support them every single day. “I felt like the calling was really I don’t want any student to feel like I did,” she said.

Raphael has experienced Ms. Howard’s incredible support for her students firsthand. “Ms. Howard is one of the most compassionate and understanding people I’ve ever met. She’s extraordinary. I know that no matter what, she would listen to me if I had a problem or something on my mind, and she cares very, very deeply about her students.”

He gratefully remembered a specific time at the beginning of the year when he was struggling with a heavy school workload, and Ms. Howard took the time to listen to him and support him through a rough time. Adelaide observed the same support, explaining, “If you’re upset, she’ll just step outside…and [take] the time to talk to you about what’s going on.”

These examples demonstrate how genuine Ms. Howard’s motivation to teach is. She is committed to being the person to her students who was lacking for her in high school. “I’m a go-to person for them—a person to be supportive with non-academic stuff as much as anything else. I think that’s really important for students to have,” she said.

Of course, she still could not teach without her love for theatre. At that moment in which young Ms. Howard sat in the audience in awe of Oliver, she remembered, “I just thought it was the most magical thing I’ve seen…There was this big production, and I have no idea how big it actually was, but for me, it was huge.”

Theatre is in Ms. Howard’s blood. Her parents met in London’s West End, her mother working as a costumer and her dad a stagehand, or carpenter. She reminisced with a nostalgic smile, “I remember growing up, my mom would be in a rehearsal and I would be hanging out backstage in the green room and stealing sugar cubes from the coffee.”

With a glimmer in her eyes, she recalled the first role she ever played: a fairy in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream when she was in middle school. When asked what the first play she ever directed was, Ms. Howard immediately pointed to one of the many posters of her previous plays lining the walls of her office for Noises Off before declaring, “It’s my favorite play. It’s the funniest play there ever was.” 

She then explained with extreme passion and excitement the sequence of events that the play presents. “The whole set flips around and you get to see what’s happening,” she said. “But things are unraveling and the characters are fighting…Everything you saw happening in the first half is now exploding but they’re trying to pretend like it’s not…Back on stage, this is really crazy…Then it’s more months down the line and it’s totally falling apart…!” 

This passion stands out to Adelaide as something that makes Ms. Howard really special. Adelaide commented, “She has a lot of passion for the theatre world, and it’s very evident…just talking to her…One time in class we were talking about some Disney movie, and Ms. Howard went into such detail on a lot of behind the scenes that people don’t really pay attention to.”

Adelaide explained that this passion inspires her and her classmates, describing, “She’s really somebody who loves what she does…and that can be an inspiration to like whatever you do in life, just make sure it’s your passion.” 

Her love for theatre has been with her for the entirety of her life. Since her parents were working behind the stages of London’s theatres, Ms. Howard was born in London, England. However, most of her childhood was spent in Sacramento, California. She lived in two small towns near Sacramento: Manteca and Sonora, but spent most of the time in the city. On moving to San Diego, Ms. Howard recounted, “We lived in San Diego when my husband was in the Navy, and then that’s where this felt like a second home.”

She and her husband have a fascinating story behind their marriage. Ms. Howard laughed, “People who know me would say the craziest thing I’ve ever done was elope with my husband after knowing him for five weeks.” After causing quite a surprised reaction with this statement, she told the story in more detail. Ms. Howard met her future husband in May, unaware that he was soon leaving to go to the Navy. He had enlisted in January and was set to leave in July.

Ms. Howard remembered, “He didn’t intend to meet anybody and I wasn’t looking to meet anybody. And it was just sort of like one of those random things when you’re not looking, then you meet them.” 

Her husband didn’t actually tell her he was enlisted until he was about to leave. “We had a choice of either we never see each other again because there’s no way, I mean, he could have been stationed on the other side of the world, or I go with you.” Ms. Howard said yes, and they eloped. After recounting this extraordinary tale, she added with a smile and a giggle, “And we will have been married 23 years in July.”

To their incredibly passionate and kind teacher, her students wish her the best in her future endeavors. Ms. Howard has brought a lot to the Bishop’s theatre department in the classroom, but above all she has been there to support and inspire her students. “I think my goal is, in the end, to empower my students to find their voice…I’m always seeking to watch that light bulb moment where I can just get out of the way, you know, like you got it, now go…and if I have empowered my student in the right way, they’ll have the confidence, they’ll have the ingenuity, they’ll have the creativity to go. And that’s the most magical thing about teaching theatre.”