Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

March 24, 2011

Jacque Wheeler wins Kennedy Center Inspirational Teacher Award

VALDOSTA — A Valdosta State University Theatre & Dance instructor is one of 10 teachers nationwide to receive the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards.

Jacque Wheeler won the prestigious honor for her “exceptional influence” on her students. Wheeler is featured on a website dedicated to inspirational students. She will also receive $10,000. She plans to donate a portion of the prize to funding professional theatre personnel to conduct workshops for VSU Theatre students.

“It’s amazing,” Wheeler said Wednesday of this week’s announcement. “I’m overwhelmed, so humbled when you read the level of dedication of the other teachers receiving this award.”

Wheeler and the nine other teachers were selected from hundreds of nominees. The awards were created in honor of Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday. Sondheim is the genius behind music and lyrics for “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Follies,” “A Little Night Music,” “Sweeney Todd” and many more.

“Teachers define us,” Sondheim said in a released statement. “In our early years, when we are still being formed, they often see in us more than we see in ourselves, more even than our families see and, as a result, help us to evolve into what we ultimately become. Good teachers are touchstones to paths of achieving more than we might have otherwise accomplished, in directions we might not have gone.”

Former student Debra Fordham nominated Wheeler. Fordham is a VSU Theatre graduate and a three-time Emmy nominee who wrote for the TV comedy “Scrubs.” She also wrote the play “Holler Me Home,” which had its world premiere with VSU in 2008.

In her nominating letter, Fordham wrote how Wheeler pursued her to enroll with VSU Theatre. There, Wheeler encouraged Fordham to experience all facets of theatre: acting, directing, stage management.

In a playwrighting class, Wheeler realized Fordham had hit her stride. Wheeler declared to Fordham: “You are a writer.”

Fordham didn’t buy this conclusion. She didn’t think a “small-town Southern girl” could be a writer. Wheeler did not let it go: “Are you writing? You should be writing ...”

Even after Fordham’s graduation from VSU, Wheeler called every few months, pushing her to write.

“It took years, but her belief eventually became my own,” Fordham writes in the letter. “And two decades later, I am a three-time Emmy-nominated television writer, living a life I never dreamed possible.”

That dream became possible because Jacque Wheeler insisted it could be a reality. She pushed Fordham. She pushed her to write the play “Holler Me Home.” Fordham had explained the idea of a play to Wheeler. As time passed without Fordham having written the script, Wheeler provided the motivation. She placed “a play by Debra Fordham” on the VSU schedule. So, Fordham had to write the play, which the writer describes as “the most fulfilling journey of my professional life.”

Fordham doesn’t see the play as the end of this story. “You see, what makes Jacque Wheeler special is that she doesn’t just teach for a semester or a year. And her lessons don’t end at graduation. No, Jacque Wheeler is your teacher for life. And 22 years (later) ... she is still changing mine.”

Wheeler began her career with Valdosta State a short time after the theatre department hired her husband, Dr. Randy Wheeler. She held a master’s degree in drama and speech. Referring to the theatrical couple, Randy Wheeler said the late Ren Christie told him “that he considered hiring me as getting two for one.” Jacque Wheeler worked part-time three years before Valdosta State hired her full-time.

Though she has directed and acted in dozens of Valdosta State productions, her most recent work as a director was this past fall’s VSU production of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” The Times review of this show stated: “Jacque Wheeler proves herself a master again at directing these epic, period pieces. She understands the inherent cinematic pacing of Shakespeare. She keeps the show moving, from scene to scene, soliloquy to soliloquy. She fills this production’s first act with her signature choreographed pieces of physical humor and dancing.”

She also serves as artistic director of Peach State Summer Theatre, a professional summer musical program hosted by VSU. This year, she coordinates “Carousel,” Disney’s “The Jungle Book” and “Hairspray.”

1
Text Only
Local News
  • 140417-Rail_Plan-001.jpg State Transportation seeks public input on rail plan

    The Georgia Department of Transportation held public meetings across the state this week to discuss its 2014 Georgia State Rail Plan.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140417-valdosta_appr#10C8BA.jpg Officials serve lunch to city employees

    The City of Valdosta hosted its annual employee appreciation luncheon Thursday at John W. Saunders Memorial Park.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140417-Wiregrass003.jpg Wiregrass learns through play

    For three years, Wiregrass Georgia Technical College has hosted its Wired Up! event to engage students, faculty and staff in a fun but educational activity day.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • rain.jpg More spills? Valdosta braces for more rain

    In the past four weeks, Valdosta has experienced four major rain events that dumped more than three to four inches of rain on the area per incident.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140117-Scott_SGMAC-001.jpg Moody in running for Afghan pilot mission

    Moody Air Force Base is one of three military bases being considered for a temporary mission to train Afghan pilots next year, Rep. Austin Scott told the South Georgia Military Affairs Council Thursday.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • City: Most overflows stopped

    The City of Valdosta reported Wednesday evening that all manhole overflows resulting from Tuesday’s heavy rains had stopped, with the exception of two.

    April 17, 2014

  • 140416-gov_deal002.jpg Signed into law

    Gov. Nathan Deal went on a signing tour Wednesday across Georgia, flying into the Valdosta Regional Airport to sign three bills into law.

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • 2 charged in N.C. kidnapping

    Two more people were charged in the kidnapping of a North Carolina prosecutor’s father, bringing the number to at least eight people who authorities say were involved in the elaborate plot.

    April 17, 2014

  • VSU opens spring senior art show Saturday

    Several graduating art seniors will present their show this weekend at Valdosta State University.

    April 17, 2014

  • 140415-water003.jpg Sewage problems persist

    Early Tuesday morning, Valdosta became saturated when the area received approximately three inches of rain from 4 a.m. to noon. As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, 11 manholes throughout the City of Valdosta have spilled 286,500 gallons of wastewater into local waterways, and this number will continue to rise.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

Top News
Poll

What you think about school and workplace rules about Facebook friends?

There have to be rules.
No need for rules, just use common sense.
If people want to be friends, what is the big deal?
Nobody uses Facebook anymore.
     View Results