The Picayune Item
April 21, 2012
Everyday Heroes: PRC Drama Teacher Deborah CraigBy Jodi Marze, Lifestyles Editor
The Picayune Item
CARRIERE — Deborah Merlin Craig, the award winning theatre and speech teacher at Pearl River Central (PRC) High School is this week’s Everyday Hero.
If you ask her students what makes her a good subject for this column, this is what you will hear:
“I recently came to PRC from a private school where I was bullied. I took Mrs. Craig’s theater class and it has given me my voice. I feel better about myself and feel like so many in this class are like my extended family.” — Rese Johnson
“Mrs. Craig has taught me to open up. I can relax now and be myself. It’s a privilege to be in her class and learn because she knows so much about theatre. Through this class, she is preparing us for more than just the stage.” — Clark LeBeau
“Mrs. Craig helps us bond with each other through ice-breaker games and having a friendly class environment. We all are equal and there are no small parts. Everyone is special.” — Justin Boone
PRC High School Principal Stacy Baudoin says, “She is inspirational to her students. She has high expectations in anything the kids do. She is an asset to the school and through the years has taught most of our own children and even some of the teachers.”
Craig says, “I am originally from Massachusetts, and moved to St Tammany Parish with my husband in 1980 with his new position in the space shuttle program at NASA-Michoud in New Orleans. Even though my degree was in theatre, I began my teaching career in secondary English while sponsoring a drama club after school.
“When we moved to Carriere in 1993, PRC High School gave me the opportunity to teach speech and theatre as courses.”
She explains part of the passion for her craft when she says, “I love teaching theatre because it encompasses so many things: It is a form of literature, a discipline, a craft, a team-building experience and a confidence-builder. It is an opportunity to use our imagination, often with very little money, creating amazing costumes, sets, and props.
“It is a world where anyone's talents are needed and appreciated: The quiet student who is good with tools and electronics, the student who can draw and sew and the student who is great with computers. I have seen, over the years, life-long friendships develop as a result of students bonding in a play production. For me it is an opportunity to reach the highest standards possible in creating an experience for an audience I push the students into giving me the best they can possibly give. A mediocre school play is not an option.
“Every year brings a new play and another opportunity to creatively excel. I look for plays that have no real lead so everyone gets a chance to star in their own role. We start out with a vision and see it through after months of very hard work. I have spent more holidays and spring breaks working on a set than I have on actual vacation time. I am driven, as most theatre people are.
“Our one-act competitions each year, in the two state theatre organizations, are opportunities for recognition, scholarships, awards, and travel. These competitions can be the most exhilarating and also the most frustrating. The students compete with other schools in presenting one acts before a panel of judges. The students learn so much at these competitions: what it takes to win, and how to demonstrate good sportsmanship when another school wins.”
When asked what the high points of her years at PRC have been, she says, “I remember each of my years of teaching through each of the school plays I have directed. Each play takes on a life of its own, its own personality, its own mark on the lives of the cast and crew.
“I have been blessed with a career which is also my passion. After my retirement in June of 2013, I plan to continue my theatre life in arts advocacy. The arts are basic and we need to make certain we keep them in our schools.”