Meet the Jimmy Awards INSPIRING TEACHER AWARD Winner, Ian Sullivan

While all eyes will be on the 92 talented performers on the Minskoff Theatre stage on June 27, two other offstage honorees have already been anounced for the 2022 Jimmy Awards.

Wells Fargo will bestow the Inspiring Teacher Award on Kristin Winchester, Durham School of the Arts (Durham, North Carolina), and Ian Sullivan, Hickory Ridge High School (Harrisburg, North Carolina). These teachers are being recognized for their tireless efforts in guiding their students with the training and support necessary to thrive and ultimately win the coveted Jimmy Awards for Best Performance by an Actress and Best Performance by an Actor during last year’s 2021 Jimmy Awards ceremony.

Ian resides in North Carolina with his wife and three children. He has worked in the field of theatre education since 2003, in a variety of different roles and atmospheres. At Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and Ballantyne Arts Center, he has worked as a teaching artist and director, teaching theatre intensive courses and camps, and directing theatre for youth/by youth productions. In addition, he’s worked as a public school theatre teacher since 2008, having begun his tenure at Hickory Ridge High School in 2016. He is currently enrolled at Gardner-Webb for his master’s degree in Curriculum and Education. A writer, director, mask maker, and (sometimes) actor, Ian considers his primary role to be that of an educator and looks forward to continuing to grow the program at Hickory Ridge.

We sat down with Ian to learn more about his teaching style and find out what makes him an inspiring teacher. Read the full interview below and click here to meet Kristin Winchester!

How does it feel knowing you have been chosen as the recipient of the Inspiring Teacher Award?

It feels absolutely incredible! I’m awestruck and still reeling a little! It’s such an honor to be recognized at the Jimmy’s, this amazing national program that does such phenomenal work for students. I’ve participated in the Blumey’s for years and always been impressed with the support and spotlight they give to students and how accessible they make everything for students and schools of all walks, and the Jimmy’s is the same. My students love participating and watching the awards shows, and the work that these two programs do is so inspiring to them. For them to give me an award for being inspiring has been so uplifting for me.

Outside of the classroom, what are your interests? Can you tell us a little more about yourself?

I’m a father of three beautiful children, all under four. So a lot of my time outside of the classroom is spending time with my wife and kids. I’m also pursuing my Master’s degree at Gardner-Webb, trying to improve myself as an educator. When I do have free time, I enjoy writing scripts, mask making, and tabletop, video, and board gaming. It’s been a little while since I’ve been able to be on stage, but I also enjoy performing in community theatres when there’s an opportunity.

With your guidance, your student Bryson was awarded Best Performance by an Actor, what methods did you use to help him train and rehearse?

Bryson already came into my program with this incredible voice. The first time I heard him sing in an audition, I was just blown away. I don’t know that I treated him any different from the rest of my students, though. I believe in the process, not the product. I believe that as an arts educator in the public-school setting, my job is to help students grow. To give ALL of them opportunities to be successful, but also to challenge themselves.

When Bryson started, he worked his way up from minor roles to strong supporting roles, to leads. I had the opportunity to bring Bryson in to my musical theatre class this year to talk about his awards and his time at Boston Conservatory so far. And one of the things he mentioned was that he knew he still had room to grow. That his peers were amazing individuals with different strengths, and that he felt inspired by them. I’d like to believe that some of that mindset, that belief in growth and support for others, was strengthened by his time in my program. When we acknowledge others and their contributions, the different talents they bring to the table, and strive to build an ensemble and a program that recognizes everyone, I think we build a sense of empathy, humility, and a genuine desire to support others. And from that, I think my students develop confidence. They know that they have all their peers behind them. That everyone genuinely wants them to succeed.

What methods of training do you use in the classroom to help your students become better performers?

I love Uta Hagen and Michael Chekhov! We definitely explore their techniques, as well as Meisner, Stanislavsky, and Strasberg. But I think Hagen and Chekhov probably come out the most in my directing. But I think one of the most effective methods I use is practical application. We have at least one production every month, with multiple opportunities for students to write, direct, and design in addition to perform. This gives them more opportunities to practice their craft in front of a live audience, as well as work for a variety of different directors. I’m a firm believer in learning by doing, so I strive to give my students as many chances as I can to “do”.

What is your one piece of advice for performers just getting started in their careers?

Be the kind of person people want to work with. You’ll be amazed by the number of times you’ll bump into people you’ve worked with before, and a good reputation goes a long way. Kindness, enthusiasm, dedication, and a willingness to improve and grow make people stand out. There’s a ton of talented people out there, but I always think back to the people who I enjoyed working with because of how they interacted with the cast and crew. Those are the people I’d love to work with again.

Why is arts education needed in schools?

The arts don’t just develop skills, they develop people. We work on building empathy. We work on collaboration. We work on seeing how we can impact our communities. These are the kinds of skills that carry on into any profession. Everybody needs to be able to step into the shoes of their employees, employers, and customers. Every job requires some element of teamwork. And that’s what we excel at doing. Building those skills.

Is there anything you would like our readers of Broadway World to know about you or your teaching career?

Just a huge thank you! I’m so grateful to the Blumey’s and the Jimmy’s for the wonderful opportunities they provide and the recognition they give to performing arts in our schools.

The Jimmy Awards/The National High School Musical Theatre Awards (NHSMTA) program impacts more than 140,000 students who participate in 46 regional high school musical theatre competitions sponsored by presenters of touring Broadway productions throughout the United States. Named for Broadway impresario James M. Nederlander, the program has been the catalyst for more than $5,000,000 in educational scholarships.

Click here for a ful llist of 2022 nominees!

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