Introduction: We are excited to continue our Educator Spotlight series, which brings you inside - and at times outside - the classroom with one of our exceptional educators. In doing so, the series offers you a glimpse of how Gibbons educators care for and engage students, preparing them for college and beyond while forming them as men and women of faith, service, and leadership in church and community. Today, we spotlight Technical Theater Educator Karestin Harrison. Our other spotlights featured Science Educator Sarah Kuszaj '95, Technology Educator Jon Armfield, Drama Educator Kevin Ferguson, Social Studies Educator Jessica Lowe '99, Spanish Educator Miguel Casas, Math Educator Leah Iyer ' 08, Science Educator Joleen Smith, Theology Educator Austin Faur, and English Educator Maria Hill.
It is the start of 8th period on a recent Wednesday and inside the Mainstage Theater Technical Theater Educator Karestin Harrison is doling out tasks to her Tech Theater III-IV students. Armed with their assignments, the students wind their way backstage amid sets, costumes, and props.
This is Harrison’s classroom turned workshop and ultimately turned engine room behind the eight major productions staged annually at Gibbons. Here, and in the control booth, her students learn how to set the tone and provide the backdrop for those productions. They also learn how to be creative problem solvers and to create magic through lighting, sound, sets, and makeup.
Students, she said, are equipped not only with the hands-on knowledge to run a show but also with life lessons, like managing their time and following directions, that they can carry with them for their personal or professional use.
The skills students learn from her classes can become a vocation, a passion, a hobby, lessons for life, or all four, said Technical Theatre Educator Karestin Harrison.
Harrison, a Gibbons educator for five years, has plenty of lessons to share. She co-authored The Fake Food Cookbook, which essentially has become her industry’s DIY manual to creating prop food. It also has helped Harrison guide her students step-by-step through their projects.
The book features “recipes” for everything from ribs and chicken wings to baked potatoes. All look good enough to eat - but AREN’T. Many also find their way into Gibbons productions. Her favorite? Egg and spring rolls. Her most challenging? A big, red lobster.
The book has brought Harrison acknowledgment within her industry. In August, she will share her talent and gift with her peers by conducting a workshop on prop food for The Society of Properties Artisan Managers. Her students are equally impressed. Despite the recognition, she remains humble.
When not preparing for shows, Harrison’s students are helping the school. On this Wednesday, they are building, sanding, or staining nightstands, cornhole boards, and benches for The Cardinal Gibbons Short Journey Retreat Center.
“Students will gain a sense of pride when they visit the center to deliver and install the items they created,” Harrison noted.
The skills students learn from her classes can become a vocation, a passion, a hobby, lessons for life, or all four, she said and added: they also have a great deal of fun along the way.