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HIGH LIFE : All Out for Insight : Popular Teacher Believes 'Discovery' Is the Crux of Education

October 27, 1989|GREG AMROFELL | Greg Amrofell is a junior at Foothill High School, where he is the production assignment editor for the student newspaper, Knightlife, and student body vice president

Lisa Roseman, the theater arts and film teacher at Tustin High School, believes education is not about results but about "discovery."

In fact, her teaching philosophy revolves around the concept of discovery.

"I was explaining to a kid how to give jokes the proper timing and how to play off an audience's reaction," Roseman said. "Then I saw him do it and there was this 'aha' and an intake of breath. I knew that he had achieved insight, and insight is the springboard for discovery."

Roseman is one of two Orange County high school teachers who, along with one elementary and one intermediate teacher from the county, have been chosen to compete for the statewide title of Teacher of the Year. Her fellow nominees are Wilhelmina Van Hunnick, who teaches business classes at Kennedy High School in La Palma; Carolyn Alex, a first-grade teacher at Hoover Elementary School in Santa Ana, and Michele Rosenblum, who teaches social studies, English and drama at Rancho San Joaquin Intermediate School in Irvine.

The four were chosen from 28 teachers nominated by the county's school districts. They will compete against 60 other nominees for the state title.

Roseman has taught for 20 years--16 of them at Tustin High. She thinks her selection was based on her ideas about the state of education and the way she believes her individual teaching style, curriculum and philosophy can improve it.

Within Roseman's concept of discovery lies a spirit that can be seen in the eyes of her students when they talk of their teacher.

"You can tell her anything, and you know it's in the strictest confidence," senior Inge Burns said.

Being "weird," as she calls herself, has been an advantage for Roseman, who strives to make students feel good about themselves. She isn't afraid to go out on a limb to make everyone else feel comfortable about doing the same.

"I'm not afraid to make a fool of myself in order to create a safe environment to experiment with ideas without a loss of self-esteem," she said.

It's working.

Last year, Tustin's advanced drama class researched, wrote, produced, copyrighted, published and performed a full-length play entitled "Somebody to Love," which explores teen-agers' problems such as drugs, suicide, divorce, pregnancy and dating. Their script was based on the experiences of people they interviewed.

Its performance led to an awakening in the community. "The parents were amazed; the kids were amazed," said Roseman, who noted that the source of the bewilderment was the play's message: "You're not alone . . . and talking helps."

The students thought that taking the play to as many students as possible might help others. Their first step was to perform at the local junior high schools where, they believed, many of these problems first take root.

Their work didn't go unnoticed. "Somebody to Love" won honors last year as the Orange County Department of Education's best drama and was called the best play at the Cal State Long Beach Theatre Festival.

In 1988, Roseman and the Tustin High theater arts program also received the California School Board Assn.'s Golden Bell Award for excellence in theater arts/film curriculum.

How big a role does Roseman take in all this? She describes herself as a facilitator.

"Kids are so creative," she said. "In drama, I teach them the tools to use creativity. From there, it's up to them."

She has employed unusual assignments such as student-directed films and the mentoring of lower-level drama students by advanced ones--things that challenge teen-agers to do more than just recall information.

Roseman sees acting as "relevant" for any student of any ability. "It teaches poise, group leadership and practical skills," she said. The development of "contributing and worthwhile human beings," not necessarily good actors, is Roseman's goal.

"I want to cultivate in my students a strong sense of self--of who they are, what their creative abilities are and how they can use them. I want them to know that they have the power to affect change, to grasp their dreams and to make them a reality."

What may distinguish Roseman from others in her profession is that she openly and actively engages herself in personal discovery with her students. She says her students--in gifted, disabled and English-as-a-second-language classes as well as theater arts--have responded to her latest honor with pride. "They feel it's partly theirs," she said.

"Every kid is creative, but by me being enthusiastic, they become enthusiastic," said Roseman, adding that the only true end result is discovery. "It's the most exciting thing in the world--to be changing the future."

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