All-Star Teacher: Awele Makeba

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Awele (ah WAY lay) - in addition to being one of five finalist for the NBC Universal Sports All-Teacher Award she has mesmerized audiences around the world including at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Musikverein in Vienna, Tsinchu Teacher’s College in Taiwan, Suriname (U. S. Dept. of State Tour), Russia, Australia, France, Canada, Suriname, Austria, NYU, Stanford University and TED-Ed.  She holds a BFA in Theatre Arts from Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts an MA in Education: Language & Literacy and a literacy specialist credential from SFSU, a Careers, Technology & Education credential from University California at Berkeley,  and a supplemental drama credential from CDE.  She wears many hats in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD).  At Skyline, she is the Drama teacher, Chair of the Performing Arts Department, Artistic Director for Skyline Theatre, and she mentors and supports students that she does not teach.  Ms. Awele is the Producer of the annual OUSD Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Oratorical Festival which 800 - 1200 Pre-Kindergarten - 12th graders participate in.  She also has coordinated several district-wide professional developments (PDs) under Kyla Johnson-Trammell for principals, academic coaches, teachers, students and parents such as Race Matters, and literacy PDs with Ruth Culham and with international literacy gurus Ga Su Pinnell & Irene Fountas. 
 
Her Skyline Drama Program is a nationally recognized training program by the American High School Theatre Festival for their outstanding commitment to artistic excellence in Theatre Arts, cross-cultural understanding, and theatre-for-social change.  Her drama students were selected to perform as a part of the 2017 American High School Theatre Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. Ms. Awele led the fundraising efforts to raise $67K even signing a loan so that her students could be cultural ambassadors on the world stage. Why? Seventy-five percent of Skyline High School students receive free or reduced lunch due to high poverty. What was the impact? “ I want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication that you have put towards your students careers. You've helped me immensely build a platform, revive more opportunities, travel around the world, and take my theatre discipline seriously to a whole other level.  I appreciate your sacrifices, contributions, and courage believing in us!!!   Thank you for imagining Skyline drama students participating in this amazing learning experience.  It was the trip of my lifetime!" --Demetri Tubby-Freeman, 11th grade  They also received the Broadway World San Francisco Region Award - Best Performance By Youth in 2017 for Prospect High: Brooklyn.

Her ensemble-based theatre-making curriculum focuses on developing young artists, scholars, and activists. She helps her students find her/his own voice to know the power their voice can have within the community through creative exploration of social-political issues that impact our community through scripted, original plays, and civic engagement that humanizes those issues with intellectual rigor, fervent humanity, and vibrant imagination. She co-designs with her students bold opportunities for participation and unforgettable experiences, with rigor and striking physicality so they can inspire people to envision a more just and humane world. Themes from past performances have explored: bullying; fitting in; the importance of healthy communication and friendships to building trust; peace warriors; youth activism; deep friendship; school climate and culture; repairing harm and making things right; revenge; self harm; standing up against intolerance; displacement and gentrification; LGBTQ identity, safety, and acceptance; implicit bias; the power of good and bad advice; and dating.  The productions offer stories as a window into different worlds that we might learn from or a mirror reflecting and asking--Is this who we are as a community or is this who we want to become?  Each fall, winter, and spring production is a 6-8 week process from page to stage.  During this time Ms. Awele purchases snacks, food, beverages, Uber and BART cards for her students who need assistance.  

Ms. Awele collaborates with industry community partners such as: African American Shakespeare Company, American Conservatory Theatre, Berkeley Rep Theatre, CalShakes, Laney College Theatre Department, Marin Theatre, Marin Shakespeare, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Shotgun Theatre, Theatre First, Dr. Philippa Kelly, The Paul Dresher Ensemble, and L. Peter Callender so that she can: develop industry-standards curriculum and work-based learning experiences with vertical alignment for her students including internships, mentorships, and conservatory training scholarships and build relationships between her students with artistic directors, design and stage management teams, and playwrights.  This has led to guest artist visits, master classes, professional theatre artistic engagement, and the hiring and casting of her students as well as opportunities for them to present their creative work not only at school, but at private and public venues including professional theatres. Her Professional Drama students past performances include: Festival Fringe, Edinburgh, Scotland; Mayor Libby Schaaf’s Inauguration - Paramount Theatre & Oakland City Hall; CA State Legislature, Sacramento State Capital;  UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies Conference; Blk Prime’s Lower Bottoms, web series; African American Shakespeare Company; RJOY Gala w/ Alice Walker; RJOY Gala w/ Danny Glover; Women’s Cancer Resource Center; Youth Speaks Poetry Slam; Oakland Youth Poet Laureate Program; P.R.I.D.E. Conference; MLK Oratorical Festival; Friends of the Oakland; Public Library Fundraiser; Student Voices Summit; Poetry Out Loud; Bay Area Book Festival; Theatre First; CETA Conference; UCSF Teen Patient Training. She prides herself in being a working artist staying on top of the latest happenings in the Arts, Media & Entertainment industry, theatre education, and national theatre scene so she can assist her students in developing a college to career pathway vision;  provide gateway experiences to learning in the arts; refine their  transferable, marketable soft skills; and create a young artist’s portfolio of quality work that exhibits 21st C skills and knowledge. 

Awele is a recording artist featured on 3 award-winning CDs, Tell That Tale Again, This Land Is Your Land, The Undiscovered Explorer: Imagining York, plus Trailblazers: African Americans in the California Gold Rush. She is a voice-over artist/narrator in an episode of the award-winning documentary, Have You Heard From Johannesburg and the voice of Rose on PlayStation2, Legend of the Dragon. Her film credits include: MILK (Gus Van Sant, FOCUS Films and she has been seen on Bay Area stages, most recently as Time Traveler in The People’s History of Next (Jon Tracy, Theatre First) nominated for Best New Play 2018, Spirit in the World Premiere of Xtigone (Rhodessa Jones, African American Shakespeare Company) by Nambi E. Kelley, Antigonus/Shepard in The Winter’s Tale
by William Shakespeare (L. Peter Callender, African American Shakespeare) understudy for Amanda in Glass Menagerie (California Shakespeare), City Council by Aaron Landsman and Erika Chung Shuch, and Waafrica 123 by Nick Mwaluko. She is also the community Producer of Oakland Magic, a free performance series by Magic Theatre (San Francisco) held at Laney College theatre.

Additional information: Awele.com, ousd.org/skyline/drama, or ousd.org/mlkoratorical.

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