Story by Carrie Beth Wallace
Photos courtesy of Springer Opera House and Springer Theatre Academy
Springer Academy has been teaching "life skills through stage skills" to local children since 1996, as a part of Springer Opera House's arts education programming. Former Academy students are now performing all over the world, thriving as arts educators, and stay heavily involved in the future and success of "The Academy" back home.
Every year, the teachers of Springer Theatre Academy at the Springer Opera House perform for their students to help raise money for scholarships for the next year. The annual performance - affectionately called "TEACHaret" - will have celebrate its fifth anniversary this week.
To better understand the origin and purpose of TEACHaret, we sat down with Sally Baker, Springer Academy's Director. Continue reading for a behind-the-scenes look into why Baker and her staff are so passionate about what TEACHaret makes possible every year.
Q: What is Teacharet?
A: Teacharet is a teacher cabaret where our Academy teachers perform for our students and the community to raise money for the Wise Investment Scholarship.
The Wise Investment Scholarship was started five years ago when we realized that the success of the Academy was limited to those who had access to the Springer. I wanted to increase access as much as possible. I never wanted money to be a roadblock for anyone who wanted to be here.
We knew that Academy was successful in creating more engaged and active citizens in Columbus who were willing to advocate for things that they thought were important. They were equipped to do this through the Academy because of the “life skills through stage skills” that we teach.
As an education staff and as a Springer staff, we decided that one of our primary goals was to increase the reach of the Springer Academy. With the addition of the Pair Program and deepening our relationship with Muscogee Country Schools, we knew it was time to make it happen.
Q: Was it difficult to get the Wise Investment Scholarship off the ground?
A: It was actually really easy to start this Wise Investment scholarship program with our local businesses and individuals because the proof was already there. People believed in the Academy, and they were willing to make donations toward Academy scholarships because they knew that their contributions would help us improve the lives of students in our community.
The title of the Wise Investment Scholarship is twofold. First, it reflects the wise investment made in each individual who participates. But also, it eludes to the wise investment each student represents as a functioning part of our greater community as a whole.
Q: Yes, agreed. How have you and your staff seen the program grow?
A: Well, 100% of the money donated to the Wise Investment Scholarship goes toward providing tuition and lunch costs to students who would otherwise not be able to attend the Springer Academy.
This past year, we have spent over $14,000 and provided scholarships for more than 70 students into the Springer Academy. It has been amazing. It has grown exponentially. The first Teacharet five years ago, we raised $2,300 and thought we’d never be able to raise more money than that.
Last year, we raised $9,300 and our goal this year is $10,000.
Q: What promoted this growth?
A: It has certainly been individuals. Many of our Springer Academy parents whose children have gone on to graduate continue to provide tuition for other students to attend. We also have lots of Academy alumni who are grown and have careers who are able to pay for a student to come. We also have some Academy family businesses who have seen the impact our Academy makes. Many of them continue to donate funds to provide tuition because they know the powerful difference it makes in the lives of our students. They’ve seen it firsthand.
Q: When making a donation to the Springer, can you earmark the funds specifically for the Wise Investment Scholarship?
A: Yes. Absolutely. They can call and make a donation over the phone, online, or in person at Teacharet. We will be accepting all forms of payment at the performance, but if people donate online or by phone we ask that they specify they’d like for their donation to go toward the Wise Investment Scholarship Fund.
Q: What can you tell me about Teacharet?
A: We do lots of wonderful work at the Springer every year, but Teacharet is the single event that raises the largest amount of money for our Wise Investment Fund. It is, by far, my favorite event each year. It is such an incredibly inspiring night. It’s because of the audience.
Q: Oh, really? In what way?
A: I mean, don’t get me wrong, the performances are great. They are wonderful. But it is the shared experience with our audience that makes it so special each year.
Last year, we had a student who had been on scholarship with us and she decided that she wanted to save her money throughout the entire year and donate it to the Wise Investment Fund. She saved her babysitting money, allowance, and any money she received for the entire year. She was 14 years old at the time and donated over $300. It was amazing.
We had another student who put a change jar on her dresser and saved every penny she could find for an entire year. She came to Teacharet with a backpack full of change. We asked for donations and she unzipped her backpack and poured it all out. It was over $100 in change collected by a middle schooler, and donated to provide another student with the opportunity she had been given.
It’s not just about funding Wise Investment. It’s about giving students the opportunity to intentionally reach out to their peers, and intentionally wanting to benefit our community. They’re sacrificing and saving for an entire year because they can’t wait for Teacharet to come so they can be a part of something bigger than themselves.
Q: That’s incredible. I'd imagine the students' personal involvement encourages local businesses and other individuals to participate.
A: It really does. Our local audience is really generous. Businesses are great about helping us send many students to the Academy each summer. People are very kind. We couldn’t do it without local businesses and individuals helping us to meet our goals.
To me, there isn’t a better example of the Academy’s impact on our students than middle schoolers saving their money all year to be able to do their part to contribute to the Wise Investment Fund so that another child can have the experience they have been fortunate to have. It’s a really, really beautiful thing to witness, and something we at the Academy are very proud is at the heart of our program.
Q: What does Teacharet consist of? What can we expect?
A: Teachers perform numbers for the students in a family-friendly program that showcases their talent. It is so fun. There are always nods to our Academy experience each year that make every Teacharet different. Forever, Academy teachers have been superstars in their students’ eyes, and this is a way for us to elevate that idea even further.
Our educators are extremely talented, and without Teacharet, our Academy students wouldn’t get the chance to see their teachers in action. It’s a really fun night with a lasting impact on so many levels. We hope everyone joins us and chooses to support such a worthy cause. Our local children matter, and the Wise Investment Scholarship impacts individuals and our community in unique ways I believe we will still be discovering locally a generation or more from now. ◼︎
If You Go:
What: Teacharet When: Thursday, June 18, 7 p.m. Where: Springer Opera House Cost: Free to enter, but a $10 donation is suggested. Call: www.springeroperahouse.org