Over his 31-year teaching career when he directed and oversaw countless theatre productions, Glen Perazzo collected his fair share of neckties.
Varying in uniqueness and color, Perazzo decided this year to give them away to his students.
“Students would claim the tie I was wearing and at the end of the day, I’d take my tie off and staple it to the classroom wall with a little note tag with their name,” Perazzo said.
The line of ties grew along the first wall, wrapping around the corner and heading south on the east wall. Then the line stopped. Not because Perazzo ran out of his ties, which totaled more than 100. The line stopped because of COVID-19.
In March, the state of Nevada closed school campuses, leaving the districts to come up with a remote learning plan in a short time. Two weeks ago, the campus closure order was extended through the rest of the school year, which meant no more ties to be claimed by Perazzo’s students.
Perazzo didn’t imagine this is how his farewell tour would go.
Perazzo, who has taught theater at Churchill County High School for more than three decades, will see his curtain close for the final time when the school year ends despite the pandemic forcing him and his students to finish learning away from campus.
There won’t be any in-person goodbyes or final productions this month. Instead, Perazzo, who had a middle-school play contest canceled on March 14, has been left to his home to finish out instruction for the last two months of his teaching career, including substituting his spring play, “Leave it in Writing,” with once weekly GoToMeetings with his Theatre 234 class.
“We planned to perform it mid-April. We canceled our performance and focused next on exploring the massive theatre resources available on the internet,” he said.
Perazzo said the high school was set up with Google Classroom and Chromebooks before the pandemic closed school doors in March, but there have been challenges with teaching theatre without the in-person interaction.
“One of the challenges that I've had in the process of teaching from home is balancing rigor with compassion,” Perazzo said. “As an educator, I still have my curriculum that I wanted to get through. The students were still receiving credit for schooling.”
Like his peers, Perazzo needed to improvise and adapt with distance learning. What worked in the classroom was not going to be the same remotely. Perazzo said he tried to “maintain that rigor with short daily lessons” but he reached out to administration, which gave him direction to understand about his students.
“(They) must take responsibility for their own learning and if they don't do the lessons that the teacher presents, it's the student that is missing out on the learning opportunity and they will lack in the knowledge of that subject and material,” Perazzo said.
Instead of working on production sets or memorizing lines to be read in front of a packed auditorium, students have been diving into the classics. Beginning and Advanced Theatre classes have been reading abridged versions of classic plays, which Perazzo said didn’t happen during normal circumstances.
“We would be in rehearsals for our own production and that's where all of our focus would be,” he said. “This weekly play reading activity will expose the students to a wider range of plays and playwrights than they would have been otherwise.”
Among other surprises and positives, Perazzo, who’s normally cooped up in his classroom or on the stage with his students, has been able to take in the weather during breaks, working on his yard.
“During this time for the past 31 years, I’d be in rehearsal with my own plays, working in the auditorium for some other event or building sets late into the night and many Saturdays for musicals,” Perazzo said. “It's been nice to work from home where I conduct my classes from my office and venture outside for a bit to work in the yard as well.”
Through the years, he’s instructed thousands of students and has the neckties to show for it. He’s advised the International Thespian Society and National Honor Society, and he’s taught his children. Although he will never be able to see whether his line of ties would be able to wrap another corner, Perazzo felt it was his time to step aside.
“I've had so much fun in the past 31 years. I thought it would only be right to let someone else come along and have some fun,” Perazzo said. “What a way to retire.”