South teachers bring own history, teach lessons in arts

Grace Brunzell & Marlye Jerva, Staff Reporters

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When it comes to the arts, South has never been short on talent. Helping to groom that talent, though, across all of those arts have been three teachers that have contributed to them in numerous ways.

Beth Barber
As the drama teacher at South for over 25 years, Beth Barber first fell in love with the arts as a child when high school students performed at her elementary school.

After that, Barber explained, she was inspired to take acting classes, which she did in junior high. Her acting experiences as a child led her through her school years and only got stronger as she also participated in the theater program at her school.

“We had an excellent theater program [at Evanston High School], and I was in the musicals and other productions,” Barber said. “My senior year, I portrayed Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Barber then went on to college with an original major in pre-law but quickly changed it to drama with an English minor because of her love for the arts, she said.

“I began teaching, and the rest is, as they say, history,” Barber said. “I love teaching theater and directing. It is my passion.”

Since starting at South in 1984, Barber has directed a fall play every other year as well as several spring plays, children’s productions and musicals, among many other accomplishments at South.

“I have [also] been the Spur of the Moment sponsor and Drama Club sponsor since then,” Barber said. “I also started Comedy Sportz and have been directing it ever since. I love that part of my job so much.”

Even with all these tasks each year, Barber still enjoys the aspect of working with her students more than anything else.

“I love working with the students on a project that comes together so beautifully,” Barber said. “There is so much more to theater than creating actors. It is about working together to create something to be proud of. It is about becoming a family. It is about building self-esteem.”

Marty Sirvatka
Marty Sirvatka, the Instructional Supervisor of the Art Department at South, was involved with music at a very young age.

“I grew up in a family where my dad played piano and my mom sang professionally,” Sirvatka said. “So I thought that was pretty normal for families to sing.”

According to Sirvatka, he took classes involving all types of arts throughout his school years, such as architecture and ceramics. He majored in clarinet and piano and got into vocals when he was a graduate student.

Sirvatka’s love of arts also led to his love of teaching throughout the years, according to him.

“I probably got interested when I was in high school, maybe my junior year, and I found that I had an inclination in arts [and] teaching,” Sirvatka said. “I found myself explaining things to people.”

From then on, Sirvatka knew he wanted to pursue teaching as well as the arts. Sirvatka also knew what kind of teacher he wanted to be from experiences he had with the arts in high school.

“[My band director in high school] wasn’t [really] happy, and eventually he moved on and got another career.” Sirvatka said. “I think he didn’t ever really get to know his kids, and I said to myself, ‘I’m going to be different.’ He was a role model and a great guy, but he wasn’t into what he was doing, and I thought I could change that.”

Sirvatka said he teaches to help students learn new things every day.

“[I teach for] those moments where something crosses your mind, and you explain it in a way where a student goes, ‘Aha! I get it now,’” Sirvatka said. “And I think that’s probably the most rewarding thing.”

Sirvatka particularly enjoys the arts because of how it enables humans to express themselves.

“It’s a way of making us feel like we are human,” Sirvatka said. “Sometimes in a world where technology and the act of doing and always being busy sometimes robs us of our soul […] The arts, it’s like the life of a feeling. You know, you listen to music, and it can change your mood and inspire you; it can express things in a way that you can’t express.”

Stevi Marks
Since singing around her own house in fourth grade, choir teacher Stevi Marks has had a strong interest in music. According to her, Marks’ love of music has even persisted in spite of a lack of familial support at a young age.

“To my parents disdain, I always wanted to sing and dance and do theater, but when I was young my parents didn’t have the funds to buy me an instrument or pay for lessons,” Marks said.

As she got older, her parents got more comfortable with Marks’ interest in music and decided to help her fund her interest. She said that she has been hooked ever since.

“[When] I was in sixth grade, my dad came home, and there was a piano,” Marks said. “I didn’t go out and play with my friends; [I had] to play the piano.”

According to Marks, she was involved with choir and many musicals throughout high school. She went on to major in music education and get a Masters degree in choral music.

Before coming to South, Marks said she taught at three other schools and started her own theater program.

“My career path was defined by my love of music, but then it got expressed a little differently from what I was doing when I was doing theater” Marks said.

It was this passion for music only that led her to teach at GBS, according to Marks.

“I came [and taught at GBS as a sub] and was like, ‘Oh my god I forgot how much I love this,’” Marks said. “So I applied for the job here with like 250 people. It was crazy, and it was really scary, but I got the job.”

In terms of her job, Marks’ passion also exists for those whom she teachers.

“I love the experience doing it, and I also love seeing musicians develop and become very independent and way better at a lot of the stuff than I am,” Marks said. “And that’s the point; you want your students to always surpass you.”

According to Marks, she feels that the arts and music affect everyone everywhere.

“They make us human, the fact that we can express ourselves musically the way we do, we can pour out our souls and get in touch with our human as well,” Marks said. “[…] Music [also] broadens your horizons, broadens your world, I can’t imagine my life without it.”

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