THIS MONTH'S WINNER: Richard Fairchild | NOMINATED BY: Savion Ishadee
Richard Fairchild teaches freshmen English and is the Director of the Arcadia High Theater Program. He began teaching at Arcadia High 14 years ago, accepting a part-time position with a struggling theater program when he was fresh out of college.
“One of the best teachers I have had in my life,” heralded sophomore student Savion Ishadee, who nominated Mr. Fairchild. “He treats every student with respect, no matter how they treat him, and he supports all of us in both our curricular and extracurricular activities.”
Fairchild enrolled in education courses on a whim while studying theater and English at Arizona State University. His passion for teaching evolved during a pivotal moment interning as assistant teacher in a classroom of students with special needs.
“It was like a puzzle, having to figure out what works when working with a kid who is struggling with math, or kids struggling with vocabulary who can barely read. I liked the puzzle,” said Fairchild.
Fairchild’s joy of solving puzzles is evident in the daily administration of the theater program, piecing together the components of production: script writing, acting, technical construction, lighting, audio, costumes and more. He maintains a student-driven program where production meetings resemble business meetings.
“We are all colleagues collaborating on the same project. It’s their baby and I am still director, producer, teacher, but trust they will come through,” Fairchild said. “When you see the show, it’s the students’ work you see and that’s what I enjoy and value.”
Attuned to the comprehensive well-being of his students, he is surprised how intensely home life impacts the classroom. Students across the board contend with issues from self-confidence to parents getting a divorce. After school, the theater department transforms into a trusting environment for students to share and explore personal issues.
“I stayed here for so long for the freedom. It’s hard to find at other schools. The [former] principal let us take a risk and backed us and Mr. Slater is no different. They say, ‘Go for it. Have fun!’”
Enthusiasm translates into a spring trip to New York where students will attend a Broadway show. Fairchild and the students will be familiar with a variety of stage performances by that point, with a 2016-17 school production line-up that includes Maul of the Dead, Improv, A Christmas Carol, and a stage reading exploring school shootings.
“It will be an adventure. It will be a lot of fun. I will have to teach airport etiquette,” joked Fairchild. The students fundraise by reaching out to corporations and coordinating events such as car washes. “I don’t want to leave anyone behind because of money. That’s our challenge with a tight time frame,” noted Fairchild.
Commitment and devotion is clear for Fairchild, as he fondly reflected upon his internship many years ago. “I remember those kids and wonder, where did they end up?” Fairchild’s emotional investment in his students is for a lifetime.
Winning teachers receive Arcadia News gift items, a gift certificate for The Spa at The Phoenician and a gift certificate for Postino. All winners are invited to an end of school year celebratory luncheon. Nominate a teacher you love at arcadianews.com.