Port Allen High teacher Diamond Anderson stepped out of her comfort zone to accept a position teaching dance and theater classes before the 2019-20 school year.
That decision proved to be beneficial not only for Anderson and her career, but for Port Allen High and its goals of building a performing arts program at the school.
Anderson, a 2013 PAHS graduate, joined the staff before the 2018-19 school year as the dance team coach.
That success parlayed Anderson into something she is passionate about despite not having a teaching role before.
Anderson got the kinks out early before helping to build interest in the performing arts and overseeing the first two plays in at least the last eight years at the school. On top of her roles at the school, she owns Diamond Dance Company.
“It was God really,” Anderson said of the teaching opportunity. “It was a job that was set up that I didn’t apply for. I was in performing arts, but I never had the teacher role. I was kind of winging it at first with the lesson plans, but the teaching aspect came natural.”
Anderson said she was able to self-reflect frequently and a strong support system helped tremendously.
“The kids helped me to push through,” Anderson said. “Mr. (James) Jackson was a great supporter. I had a great support system to be successful.”
The school had its first play on Halloween Day with a limited audience, according to Anderson. The positive feedback from the performance provided motivation heading into the next performance, which was the Christmas play.
“For the kids, it boosted their confidence,” Anderson said. “They kept developing in ways that they didn’t realize. It was motivation for all of us.”
Anderson said the Christmas production was a huge success with a full audience and after the two plays, interest in the program went through the roof at the school. During the first week back in the spring, she said new students signed up each day.
The program's last production of the school year came in February with the Black History program, but that provided a fresh wrinkle of adversity for the new teacher.
She had to teach and help a whole new group of students because of the academic program, which is on an organized block schedule and broken up into fall and spring terms.
“I had to teach a whole new set of kids theater and get them comfortable in time for the program,” Anderson said. “To me, the black history program was by far the most important play to present to the audience.”
Port Allen Principal James Jackson said Anderson should be commended for the job she has done.
“She’s done an amazing job,” he said. “We’ve had a bit of a merry-go-round situation trying to build the performing arts program. We built the theater off of faith with no program in place and it worked out. She’s teaching the first dance and theater classes we’ve had at the school. All three performances were amazing. I’m super excited to see where the program heads from here.”
Anderson said theater in the performing arts provides more for the students than performing on stage.
“It allows them to build each other up,” she said. “Everybody is coming together and lifting up one another.”