Sahirah Johnson, Link’s teaching artist in performing arts, traveled to Wroxton College in Oxfordshire, England to study recently. The residence was part of her studies to complete a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, NJ.
Wroxton College is 90 minutes from London, but only 15 minutes from Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Mrs. Johnson had the opportunity to visit the famous playwright’s birthplace and Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London, a replica of the original Globe Theater that Shakespeare and his plays are associated with.
“I was able to take pictures of where he was born and learn new things about Shakespeare that I could bring back and share with my students,” Mrs. Johnson said.
Writing the Visual
At Wroxton, Johnson also studied ekphrastic writing. It is an aspect of writing that delivers a written or verbal description – often dramatic – based on a visual work of art. Johnson said she is able to use ekphrastic writing to strengthen the play-writing unit she does with 7th and 8th grade Link students.
“They end up working through many different senses, visual, auditory and writing,” she said. “The most exciting part of being at the residence was learning something new. As educators we sometimes get stuck teaching the same things the same way. But really we need to be learning, we need to be adjusting and learning new techniques.”
Mrs. Johnson, who is one year away from completing her MFA, said she wants her students to know that it is “never too late to learn something new; never too late to experience something new.” Johnson studied music education at Howard University and earned a theater arts degree from Kean University.
“I’m a life-long learner,” said Johnson, who has been teaching for 16 years, the past 11 here at Link. “When I am not learning something new, I feel stagnant. I feel like my love of learning spills over into the classroom with students.”
Link Students Learning from a Pro
Mrs. Johnson was born and raised in Newark. As a professional actress and singer, she has toured with the National Broadway touring group of the musical Rent and with singers John Legend and Luther Vandross. She is currently directing the school production of The Wiz. Performances of the musical are on March 1 and 2.
She loves sharing her life experiences with her students so they know that it is all possible for them, too. “Where you are from does not define you or where you end up,” Mrs. Johnson said. “Anything is possible.”