Motlow theater instructor named Arts Educator of the Deacde

Motlow State Theatre Instructor Emily Seal was recently named Arts Educator of the Decade. Seal lives in Tullahoma and contributes frequently to South Jackson Civic Center productions. (Photo Courtesy of Motlow College)

LOCAL ARTS EDUCATION NEWS — Motlow State’s very own theater instructor, Emily Seal, was awarded Arts Educator of the Decade recently during the 2020 Broadway World Nashville awards.

“The award came in the middle of the pandemic when I had not stepped foot on a stage in a year. It was a nice light in the dark time,” said Seal, an Associate Professor for Theatre and Communication who has worked at Motlow for 10 years. “People voted online. Many of the community theatre members are the people who voted for me, and that was very kind.”

Seal contributes at the South Jackson Civic Center. She is also renown in middle Tennessee for the plays, musicals, and ensembles she brings to the Motlow stage at EOFF Hall in Moore County. Her productions consistently draw capacity seating night-after-night of each run. One of Seal’s passions is to introduce young learners to their first theatrical experience. She produces annual performances that are a staple field trip experience for area elementary school students.

“I am an entertainer at heart. I love our Children’s Drama program, having thousands of area children on campus to laugh and have a good time. I run the light board and watch their reactions looking down on them from the second-floor light booth,” she explained. “I enjoy making beautiful things and being creative like painting sets, doing make-up designs, or shopping for costumes. I like mentoring actors and watching them show up and show out when the spotlight hits their face.”

Motlow was recently approved to offer a new applied science degree in theater, a program Seal has been cultivating for years. The College plans future renovations and expansion to its facilities in anticipation of the growth this new learning pathway will foster. The anticipated space will give Professor Seal and her colleagues a new, expanded platform for teaching theatrical arts.

Seal teaches far more than theater. She uses her stage to develop students’ ability to perform with confidence in all they do. Her students learn to speak clearly, thoughtfully, and comfortably in front of audiences. They learn to commit to a plan and see it through to completion. They must electively choose to step outside their comfort zone and willingly obligate themselves to consistently arrive on time, well-prepared, and to be able to trust the productivity of their collaborators.

“Some of the benefits for students who take theatre courses but aren’t necessarily majoring in theatre are building community and comradery and increasing employability and literacy,”she explained. “The cross-curricular skills improve reading comprehension and increase confidence for problem-solving. Employers like to see theatre on a resume because what many employers seek is a candidate with communication skills.”

No matter what career ambitions a student might have, a Motlow theater course can help them cultivate academic and career success. Seal uses her craft to develop a performance mindset in her students. While her scholars hone their artistic abilities, she ensures they build critical skills. Her performers learn to work cooperatively and creatively as a team. They must produce a meaningful product. They learn to earn their audience–skills essential to every profession.

The theater is real work. It is work that requires excellent leadership. That is where Seal shines. She is a producer, director, artist, author, choreographer, stage mom, and kind critic. She has a great capacity to inspire students to pursue a shared mission by developing and contributing their talents. She does this under the pressure of significant time and logistical constraints as well as public scrutiny. Students joining Seal’s stage learn life lessons that help them perform in every arena. Theater fuses Seal’s passion for teaching, her love of the arts, and her heart for service. She is the model for Arts Leader of the Decade.

Seal will be acting in a comedy at the South Jackson Civic Center called “Last Round-Up of the Guacamole Queens September 16-19. •

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