A former teacher uses her education-based skillset to shape Arizona’s students through the arts. “I chose to be a teacher to change the world,” Andrea Lombardi says. With an intention like that, one might wonder why the Minnesota-born educator left the classroom for a position with a Valley theatreApr 06, 2018
A former teacher uses her education-based skillset to shape Arizona’s students through the arts.
“I chose to be a teacher to change the world,” Andrea Lombardi says. With an intention like that, one might wonder why the Minnesota-born educator left the classroom for a position with a Valley theatre company.
With two degrees focused on education, one from Iowa State University and another from Arizona State University, Lombardi has been firmly committed to the profession.
“Mentally, I was at a crossroads with my teaching career,” she says. “I needed to find a job that allowed me to do a lot of what I loved, and very little of what I did not love.”
At the time, Lombardi’s step-daughter was participating in acting camps with a theatre company. Eventually, she landed a job there. “This job allows me to bring the arts to children and teachers across the Valley. I love that so much,” she says.
In a sense, Lombardi didn’t leave the classroom — she struck down the walls and stretched her reach. Rather than working with 20-plus students a year when she first taught in Yuma and then downtown Phoenix, she now reaches hundreds as the Education Outreach Coordinator for the Childsplay Theatre Company.
“We are at the forefront of a dual-language preschool project hoping to inform and change policy surrounding language laws in Arizona schools, and we bring in-school performances to thousands of students each year,” she explains.
Even better, her work not only impacts students, but also their teachers. “We bring professional development to teachers to show them how to use drama facilitation skills to increase engagement and comprehension in their classrooms.”
One program Lombardi is incredibly proud of is Season Preview, which took place in March.
“We invite teachers to a free event at our new home at the Herberger Theater downtown and reveal our upcoming season to them before anyone else. We also give them books, prizes, and treat them like the rock stars that they are,” she explains.
In a technology-driven and fast-past society it’s important to remind educators the arts can heavily impact personal development — no techy gadget required. Firsthand, Lombardi says she’s seen the positive influence of performing arts in education.
“I have seen preschool students with very little language production begin to produce language in classrooms where drama is used. I have seen students whose first language is not English show understanding of words and concepts with their bodies. I have seen students empathize, students make connections with others, and classroom cultures grow stronger because movement is a part of their every day,” she says. Simply put, the new mom says drama works in classrooms.
According to the organization’s website, “performing in schools remains a core Childsplay activity with three annual touring productions that visit hundreds of schools throughout Arizona. It is estimated that one in five Arizona K-6 students will see a Childsplay production at their school. More than half of this audience lives at or below the poverty level.”
Having spent five years teaching a diverse population at ASU Preparatory Academy, the mission of Childsplay aligns closely with Lombardi’s personal calling in education.
“As a teacher, I wanted to increase empathy, achievement, and happiness in my students. I wanted them to know that there was someone who was always on their side who was going to love them no matter what,” she says. “I love my job because the arts work. I am doing something that I know works, and that makes me feel like it's the best use of everyone's time.”