The Denver teachers' strike has been settled, but the fight is far from over.
“Teachers are pushing back against merit-based pay and this creeping privatization of our public schools," says James Walsh, founder of the Romero Theater Troupe. "This is a defense of public schools, and I think that’s so vital and that it’s not just about pay.”
The troupe is inviting teachers to share their stories and turn them into a theatrical performance that will take place Friday, February 22.
Since 2005, the Romero Theater Troupe has performed dozens of community-led, socially conscious plays retelling narratives from Occupy Wall Street activists, immigrants, workers and even the custodians who care for the Auraria Campus. Now the group is collecting and performing stories from members of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, which just negotiated to end a three-day strike against Denver Public Schools over its compensation system.
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“These teachers have been so busy in their work that they’ve never stepped out of their work to tell that story and reflect on it," Walsh says. "These are powerful stories, and they are told in such an authentic way. These are not polished. They are not rehearsed.
“Beyond a doubt, the greatest thrill is watching people who are very humble and deferential become empowered with their own story," Walsh adds. "There’s nothing more beautiful than that, than someone who can find a tool that they’ve never thought of using: their own story.”
The all-volunteer troupe has no hierarchy or titles; there's no official, tax-paying organization. Aside from the T-shirts that members sometimes print for events, the group exists without expenses. Its name honors the Salvadoran saint and martyr Oscar Romero, a pacifist and libertarian who was assassinated during Mass in 1980.
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The Romero Theater Troupe is populated by many current and former educators. Walsh, himself a professor of political science at the University of Colorado Denver, still remembers the teachers who inspired him to do more and be more.
“Mr. Reddinger was the art teacher I remember, and Mrs. McCabe was an English teacher," reflects Walsh. "They were both very eccentric and different, and they taught me to celebrate difference. In the spirit of those teachers, I’ve broken all the rules in my career, and that’s been the secret of some of the success that I’ve enjoyed and the good fortune that I’ve had to be an educator."
Educators are encouraged to attend rehearsals and share their stories from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, February 16, or Sunday, February 17, at the Auraria Campus North Classroom Building, 1200 Larimer Street, room 1130.
Why Teachers Strike will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday, February 22, in the same location. Admission to that show is free, but attendees are encouraged to make donations to the performing teachers. Find out more on the Romero Theatre Troupe Facebook page.