Name: Jennifer DiBella
Position: Associate Education Director
Years at Roundabout: 5
Q: Give us a brief background of your career leading up to working at Roundabout.
A: I originally wanted to be an actor… doesn’t everybody? During the second semester of my freshman year in college, I took an education class and I was hooked. I switched my major to Theatre Education and received my NY State certification to teach Theatre to students in grades K-12. After graduating, I moved to Philadelphia to work in the Education department at Walnut Street Theatre. I also taught in the Philadelphia public schools, which was an incredibly challenging but rewarding experience. I moved back to New York to pursue my masters in Educational Theatre at NYU and, soon after, landed my job at Roundabout. I have directed and taught actors of all ages and I absolutely love sharing my passion for theatre with others.
Q: What exactly does the education department do?
A: Education @ Roundabout reaches over 8,000 individuals each year through five main areas: After School Programming, Career Development, Professional Development for educators and teaching artists, School Partnerships, and Subscriber Programming. Every program that we offer is tailored to meet the unique needs of our constituents. For example, we might have a teaching artist in a math classroom helping students break down word problems through the playwriting process, or we might pair a teacher and a teaching artist to create scenes with students based on the themes from Roundabout’s productions.
Q: What is a typical day in the office like for you?
A: There is not a typical day in Education; that’s what I like most about working in our department. In one day I might be designing a marketing email for our program, helping facilitate an all-student matinee, or heading to a classroom to observe one of our teaching artists at work at a partner school. The work is always fast paced and a lot of fun.
Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of working in education?
A: I feel incredibly lucky that I was exposed to some pretty phenomenal arts and culture experiences throughout my childhood. It is devastating to know that there are so many young people, living in the cultural capital of the world, who do not have access to the arts. Although I sometimes miss working directly with students, it is amazing to see our teaching artists in action and to know that our program is reaching thousands of young people from all over the tri-state area. Without our program, these students wouldn’t have access to arts education.
Q: Any specific moments working with students that made you feel really inspired?
A: Five years ago I helped create an after school program at Roundabout called Student Production Workshop. We wanted to provide a safe environment for NYC public high school students to independently make theatre and explore the human condition. Watching the students in the program grow from awkward rebellious teenagers to confident articulate leaders has been incredibly inspiring. I am proud to say that 100% of the seniors who participate in the program graduate high school and most go on to college. Hearing about their post-graduate success makes all of the data crunching and reporting worthwhile.
Q: What did you want to be when you “grew up”?
A: I wanted to be an astronaut, an Olympic swimmer, and finally an actor. I tend to dream big.
Q: When you’re not working you are...
A: …cooking with my husband, reading, going to museums, trying to see as much of the world as possible, and entertaining (we throw a mean BBQ).
Q: One reason why arts in education is important.
A: Only one?! Our world is changing everyday. We need to encourage young people to think critically, solve problems creatively, and approach issues of humanity with empathy. Arts education gives students the tools they need to thrive in a global society.