When Jacob Waid began his career as an opera singer, he had no idea teaching was in his future. But when the pieces for career change began to fall into place, he seized the opportunity.
“I had a chunk of time between jobs. I had about 10 months with nothing planned,” Waid said. “So I moved back to my hometown in Kentucky where one of the local theatre teachers was taking a sabbatical and they asked me to fill in. I taught there for a year and fell in love with it.”
After he’d returned to the performance world briefly, the COVID pandemic arrived and his primary career goals were put on hold. He headed to Nashville and found a job teaching theatre at Valor College Prep, a charter school. The school was thrilled to have him but required that he further his education.
“My school said ‘We’d love to hire you but you need to do a job-embedded master’s program,’ Waid said. “I went online and researched the best programs in Nashville and Trevecca came up. Through a lot of research and talking to people, it became clear that the Master of Arts in teaching at Trevecca should be my choice.”
Entering the degree with some experience was helpful, and the community that he found surrounded him with encouragement and camaraderie.
“It was beneficial that I had taught a little beforehand. A lot of things that we went over I was familiar with so it wasn't completely new information,” Waid said. “I was in a cohort with some amazing folks who are still my friends. They’re people I continue to talk to today.”
The program stretched and challenged him to grow as a teacher, and his advice to those considering the MAT is to be realistic about the time commitment and the seriousness of the work, which is designed to produce educators that can excel in the classroom and help their students succeed.
“You have to embrace that it is going to be challenging, but it is completely doable,” Waid said. “It is going to be a hectic year trying to teach and get a master’s degree but once you accept that, you can roll with the punches.”
There were benefits to teaching and being in school at the same time. Waid was able to apply his classwork to his teaching strategies, giving him the chance to see what worked best and what he could modify to suit his style and subject matter.
“It was really awesome to be in the classroom as a student and then take what I learned into my classroom with my students,” Waid said. “Being able to not just look at everything in theory but actually put it into daily practice was very beneficial. The job-embedded program was helpful because I was able to take what I learned and immediately put it in front of students.”
After graduating in 2021, Waid can say decisively that he has made advancements as an educator while his heart for his students and their exposure to theatre and the arts has remained constant.
“There are kids who are passionate about theatre and there are kids who are just there for credit, but they get to enjoy it even if they’re never going to be a performer,” Waid said. “At least 60 percent of my kids are on free and reduced lunch, and many of them are probably never going to get to New York City. They may never even see a live play or musical, but being able to give them even just a little bit of that experience makes it all worth it.”