It’s the middle of the summer vacation and Chelsea Giordano is one of the only teachers in Claremont secondary.
Her presence – she was there to help co-ordinate the musical theatre’s 2016-17 program – is made even more impressive by the fact she’s about halfway through maternity leave.
“All teachers put in extra hours, not just me,” she says.
Giordano is in her 12th year at Claremont, a former grad who returned there and now leads the school’s dance and musical theatre programs. She’ll retake the lead for musical theatre, which will present the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical production of Cinderella in the spring, once she returns to work officially in January.
Unofficially, Giordano can’t help but contribute here and there, though the program is in good hands while she’s away with interim teacher Joel Danyluk, she says.
“I do it because I care about the school and I love the program, that’s why I’m still working even while on maternity leave, I’m volunteering to help the program.”
Students who enrol in Claremont’s musical theatre program automatically commit to a longer day as the class time doesn’t start until after school. And so does Giordano, who also runs The Beat dance studio near her West Shore home.
“[Giordano] is really supportive and pushes people in the best way, she knows your potential and is good at helping you reach it,” says Grade 12 student Jessica Corbin, who partakes in both annual dance night shows and performed in Claremont’s 2016 productions of Crazy for You and The Good Person of Szechuan. “She makes it a fun and creative environment but when people aren’t listening, she’ll get you in line.”
Claremont’s dance program is part of its new Focus on Fine Arts (FOFA) diploma, with which the school is drawing students from within and without its catchment area. Students who complete 40 credits in fine arts receive an additional diploma as well as an annual showcase and graduation night. About 12 to 20 students graduate from the program each year.
“It’s interesting because the classes of FOFA were already there, we’ve always had kids in more than one fine arts class, which is why we moved to create FOFA and now it’s a success,” Giordano says. “It really celebrates what we do here, that we are now known as a fine arts school.”
Of course, it’s not always easy being part of the fine arts contingent at Claremont, especially since many of the students share the same classes each day, never mind rehearsal things
“Humour, you have to use humour to keep it light and make it fun,” Giordano says. “And they’re kids, so you also have to constantly remind them we need to put in the work to get the product we want.”
Claremont’s dance program runs two dance night performances, one in December and one in June. The theatre program, headed by Colin Plant, will announce its spring show soon after school starts. In the meantime, Giordano’s students are already preparing themselves for the upcoming Cinderella auditions.