New head of PHS theater seeks to take it to the next level

In keeping with newly minted Ector County ISD Superintendent Scott Muri’s theme of upgrade Permian High School Chief Theater Director Micaela Grenier received a scholarship titled Take the Drama to the Next Level.

The $3,500 grant was awarded by the Education Foundation.

“…We are working to raise the bar of everything we do on campus, to improve our productions, to improve our production of competitions; just everything we do. There is a state festival every year called Thespians. I thought it was really important that we take our students there and get that experience…” Grenier said.

At the festival, students can take masterclasses with Broadway professionals, college professors, or other teachers and experts in the field, which Grenier says will help them progress.

The grant was specifically intended to take students to the Thespians Festival, although it does not cover the full cost.

She said she thinks they’ll take about 24 students, or the entire college class.

“There is a tuition fee for each student, a hotel stay and the biggest cost is transportation, as buses are limited and petrol is expensive. The scholarship will cover the registration fees of the students and their hotel expenses. So while we fundraise and work on sponsorships, and students make their payments until we leave in November. … It lowers their overall cost to attend,” Grenier said.

There are two festival locations this year – one in Grapevine and one in San Antonio. PHS goes to the one in San Antonio. The dates are November 12-15, she said.

Grenier noted that it has been many years since PHS has participated in the festival.

“When I called to enroll our troupe, the last time Permian came was when Odessa had an area code of 915. So it’s been a while… The cost can be prohibitive for a lot of students and that’s a lot to organize. It’s a big undertaking to try and bring 24 kids to this contest and compete in their categories and all of those things…” Grenier said.

The festival is very beneficial for students as they can be with 7,000 of their peers, she added.

“… There are 4,000 students in this school and of those 4,000, our program currently has about 250. But not all of those kids have signed up to be here. Some of them are just here to get their fine arts credit, or they got placed in that class. And so for these kids to go out there and be with 7,000 theater students who are there because they love theater, they want to improve their skills, they want to meet other people who are doing what they are doing, this only part is really important for them to experience…” said Grenier.

Students also have the opportunity to participate in college and scholarship auditions, compete, and possibly go to the International Festival if they are eligible.

“All of this is an incredible opportunity for our students,” Grenier said.

Celeste Potter, director of the Odessa Educational Foundation, said that over the past two or three years, the foundation has seen a drop in the number of teachers applying for grants.

“We could actually give a lot more money than we are,” Potter said.

In August, the Education Foundation announced that it had awarded $89,798.66 to ISD teachers in Ector County for the 2022-2023 school year through its innovative grant program.

A press release stated that the Grants Committee had approved funding for:

Eleven elementary class claims totaling $31,022.32; 10 secondary class applications totaling $44,285.74; and six secondary fine arts applications totaling $17,050 in partnership with Odessa Arts who donated $5,000 to the Foundation for this special stipend. Additionally, the Grants Committee has allocated $10,000 to be awarded in the 2022-2023 school year to ECIDD teachers through DonorsChoose, an online platform that allows teachers to seek funds for special projects while throughout the year.

Since its inception in May 2000, the Education Foundation has awarded more than $2.7 million to ECIDD teachers throughout the district through its grants program, according to its website.

Grenier said she would encourage other teachers to apply for grants from the foundation. The funds she received take some of the burden off her students and her booster club.

“I think every teacher who wants to expand opportunities for their students should write a scholarship. It takes a bit of preparation on your part and the only thing anyone can say is no this time, but the answer could be yes. There could be hundreds or thousands of dollars at stake for our students. If they don’t apply, then that money stays there. It has to come back to our kids, and so yes, I think every teacher should write a grant,” Grenier said.

She added that it was not too difficult to complete the request.

“They offer us lessons. They send emails, they’re like coming to that grant writing workshop and we’ll walk you through it. … Some people are faster writers; some are slower writers, but I think the whole process of writing the grant took me less than a day…Signatures and that sort of thing takes a little longer. But none of that as an educator was prohibitive. I think a first grade teacher could write a grant and a 25 year old teacher could write a grant; no problem,” Grenier said.

Originally from Odessan and a graduate of the PHS, Grenier is in her fourth year at the ECISD. She started as an assistant with the program.

Grenier was in the theater program at Odessa College where she earned her associate degree. She then earned her Bachelor of Arts in Theater and Musical Theater Performance from West Texas A&M University in Canyon.

“I’ve always really loved the program and worked here (at PHS) as an assistant for two years and then had the opportunity to get promoted and work as a senior principal at a college and to start a brand new program at Bowie, which was great because we need respite programs — both high schools,” Grenier said.

“Before this year, there were no feeder schools… There was a primary school which had theatre, and then the two high schools. It’s been a lot of years (where) we lose interest in kids, or they get sucked into other things. So the opportunity to start a feeder (program) was really exciting. I went to Bowie and loved it. I loved my students. I loved my team that I worked with. The Beaux-Arts team is a dream come true. I was hoping that one day I might have the chance to return to the Permian, but I thought it would take several years,” she added.

At the end of the school year, the opportunity arose to return to PHS.

The Associate Theater Director is Jeremy Falch.

Grenier said they are currently attending Varsity UIL and plan to attend Junior Varsity UIL this year.

“We are working on increasing our numbers and expanding our offerings, so those students who may not necessarily be ready for a UIL eventing, but they want to do additional things and they want to compete, they have that opportunity as well. This year we are working to establish our varsity and junior varsity production classes,” Grenier said.

Youth theatre, especially for teenagers, is very important to Grenier because it’s what she says saved her life.

Growing up, she said she did quite well in school, but she didn’t make good choices and didn’t have good friends.

“…I was asked to audition for a student-led performance by a senior in one of the classes I was in. It opened up a whole new world to me. I found something that I was good at, that I enjoyed, (where) I was able to make good friends. This put me on the right track to make good choices for the future. I had no intention of going to college. I didn’t really have any plans at all and I found this and fell in love with it and the people in the community who kind of surrounded and guided me, helped me get into school and getting scholarships and doing all the things that I had to do to have a successful life instead of just existing, or following a path that a lot of my friends at the time ended up taking, which wouldn’t have been good,” Grenier said.

Grenier is married to Caleb Williams, a Bowie orchestra teacher.

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