By HADLEY HUDSON
Before, she drove to McNeil Drive worried about tests, memorizing her lines for the theatre, studying for her AP classes, and boy drama. Now, she drives to McNeil worried about the tests she is giving, whether or not her students memorized their lines for the theatre, and directing the next Four Points show.
Maria Taylor graduated in the first class to go through all four years at Vandegrift. She was involved in theatre, FCCLA, student council, ASL, dance and QUEST. She also took Ready, Set, Teach and went to nationals twice, placing second in the nation. After graduation, she went to Texas State University and accomplished her lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. Taylor recently began her first year of teaching at FPMS as the theater director.
“My (Vandegrift) class was the first to do ‘I Believe That We Will Win’ and everyone has done it since. We also set the standard for academic excellence as well, and that is still present today,” Taylor said.
Taylor participated in the first year that Vandegrift offered Ready, Set, Teach. She was heavily involved in the program and acknowledges what she learned in the class helped her in college.
“It definitely prepared me to go into college in that I was ready to walk into my classes and I knew what a lesson plan was, what objectives were, what the TEKS were and how to use them, how to build a lesson plan,” Taylor said. “And I had ideas on classroom management that made it easier to go into classes.”
Taylor went to nationals in Ready, Set, Teach her junior year with only two other people from Vandegrift. They joined a 400-person chapter from Texas, then went to Florida for the competition.
“It was great! A great opportunity,” she said.
Ready, Set, Teacher Deanna Bentley taught Taylor during the first year of the program at Vandegrift.
“She was such a joy to have in class. The perfect student,” Bentley said. “She was a true leader, you could see that she wasn’t afraid of new things. She had a passion early on for theatre, and she had a passion for teaching. She knew what she wanted to do in high school, which is unusual, and she worked hard toward that goal.”
Taylor wanted to be a teacher ever since she can remember, and when she moved to Texas and entered Leander ISD, her dream solidified.
“As soon as I checked the box to do theatre on my course selection, I turned to my parents and said ‘Okay I’m going to be a theatre teacher.’ And they were like ‘you haven’t even been in class’ and I was like ‘I know. I’m going to be a theatre teacher,’” Taylor said.
When she went to college, the level of her education hit her, and she saw how much preparation Vandegrift had given her.
“I went to Texas State and was able to talk to other people from other school districts and realized that they did not at all get the opportunities I had. Coming out of Vandegrift I had 40 credit hours, so I skipped two years of college. And a lot of people did not have that opportunity,” Taylor said. “I realized that the preparation that Vandegrift had given me, along with the one year at Canyon Ridge, was amazing.”
That realization is what made Taylor want to come back to LISD. She decided to teach middle schoolers because she thinks that middle school is a great time to explore.
“Even if it comes up a little later in the back of their mind, the idea that everyone around you is a person too is such a valuable thing for middle schoolers to go into high school with,” Taylor said. “They’re not a character on a page, they’re a person. And they have experiences like you do.”
Despite a few fears, Taylor has high hopes for the theatre program, and wants to accomplish many things this year.
“We are doing a one act comedy this year, it’s really hilarious. I hope for getting the community involved and getting Four Points Theatre out there on the map,” Taylor said.
Currently in the Four Points theatre class, Taylor’s students are writing journals and preparing for the show. They are looking forward to the year.
“I think it’s pretty cool [that Ms. Taylor went to Vandegrift],” eighth grade FPMS student Madison Fuller said. “It means that she knows how it works around here. I might be going there next year so it’s nice that she could give me information about her experience.”
Taylor’s class is not structured around tests, because it is an elective. She wants to focus more on showing the kids that they are loved and they can do anything.
“I think the most important facet of teaching is to care about your students as people and not just numbers on a page or grades in a book,” Taylor said. “The most important part about teaching is that they walk out of my classroom going ‘I’m a person, and so are you, and let’s be friends.’ That’s what I want.”