Teacher is willing to stray from script

April 30, 2000|By JULIE E. GREENE

Editor's Note: For the last eight months, The Herald-Mail has featured one excellent high school educator each month. This concludes the series.

Continuing a chain sentence, walking in on a scene in progress, or being a new character in a familiar story are some of the ways Ruth Ridenour tries to teach her music theater students about improvisation.

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"I love teaching a theater class because it really exposes the kids to know things about themselves they didn't know," said Ridenour, who teaches at Williamsport High School.

They also learn not to rely on scripts or plans.

Ridenour learned this for herself when she went to Frostburg State College to study biology.

Instead she ended up being a music major and eventually teaching.

"I was sure I did not want to teach," said Ridenour, 45.

Everybody else disagreed, telling the young girl who often was a leader at church that she'd make a great teacher, Ridenour recalled recently.


Chalk it up to her rebellious phase.

Ridenour has been teaching in Washington County for 24 years, the last 22 years at Williamsport High. The show choir and music theater teacher was even named Washington County Teacher of the Year in 1992.

"I think very much God sent me in a way I was supposed to go," Ridenour said.

Her students agree with her chosen profession.

Senior Tina McAllister, 17, said Ridenour is like a second mom to many of the show choir members.

"She's always encouraged my talent and at the same time allowed me to be creative," McAllister said. Ridenour is also someone students can talk to about problems in or out of the classroom, she said.

Principal Roger Giles said Ridenour helps students develop their talents fully and motivates them with her excitement.

"I love music and I love theater and I want everyone else to love it too," said Ridenour, who often stays late helping students with show choir or theater productions.

During a spring Broadway show, Ridenour made sure all 34 show choir members had their own solos, said sophomore Alex Sapp, 15.

"She's concerned about every single individual," Sapp said.

When a visitor was observing a music theater class recently, Ridenour guarded class members against embarrassment by letting students volunteer.

When no one else is around, participation is mandatory, said Ridenour, who promised her students she'd never expose them to embarrassment outside their class.

Getting her students to perform in front of each other will help them later in life if they have to give a speech or read scripture at church, Ridenour said.

"Be ready to listen to what's happening in the scene because you may have to adjust," Ridenour told her music theater class.

Just like life.

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