Caitlin Gallichan-Lowe says 'arts can save lives'
Passionate. Bold. Creative. Inspiring. These are some of the words colleagues, students and friends had to say about Caitlin Gallichan-Lowe, the drama teacher at Western Canada High School.
"The arts can save lives, especially at that high school age when people are feeling really vulnerable and trying to figure out who they are," said Gallichan-Lowe.
"One of the cool things that the arts does is that it creates an environment of tolerance and creativity; and an environment where people could be safe to be who they are and figure out who they are. "
She said that is one of the reasons she loves teaching drama to teenagers; helping them to find their process of creating art is one of her biggest joys.
Brendan Hagan, the learning leader for the fine and performing arts programat Western Canada High School, said, "She is incredibly impassioned in the way she teaches her kids with tremendous energy and enthusiasm. She has great vision for her program and for the students in it."
"She gives it all each year from a clean slate. She doesn't change what she thinks a student is capable of from year to year."
As a co-worker, Hagan said, Gallichan-Lowe is great because "her enthusiasm is contagious" and she is always communicates ideas to colleagues that are considerate of every student in the school.
Gallichan-Lowe is a short woman with dark hair. She may be in her early 30s, but she has the energy and excitement level of a young child. Whenever she talks about her students, her wide eyes brighten up.
For nearly 20 years she has been involved in some capacity with theatre companies, school drama programs, and summer theatre camps. She has been at Western Canada High School since 2008.
She has also worked with theatre groups in Toronto, and has taught theatre overseas in Ghana.
Gallichan-Lowe points to her high school experience at the Canterbury High School in Ottawa as an early defining moment her life that led her to a career devoted to theatre because she came out of with a greater sense of who she was.
Theatre company days in Ontario
From the beginning it seemed a career in theatre was in her future.
"My parents are in theatre," she said, "It's always been a part of my life. I don't remember any part of my life where I wasn't interested in theatre."
After high school, Gallichan-Lowe moved to the University of Toronto to study theatre. She said she stumbled in the first couple years of university because she couldn't determine if she wanted to be an actor, a designer or a producer.
Gallichan-Lowe said a lot of her learning took place outside the classroom doing work with different theatre companies. She enjoyed watching those professionals at work.
During her time in Toronto she, along with a friend created their own theatre company, Company Theatre Crisis.
Theatre education in Calgary and overseas
Gallichan-Lowe moved on from the University Toronto to the arts in the Community Education program at Queens University.
After her time at Queens, she came to Calgary to pay off her student loans. She became a substitute teacher, but teaching quickly turned into a career when she landed a job teaching English at Lord Beaverbrook High School in 2005. There, she worked with long-time drama teacher, Karen Goerzen, whom she still works with today.
Goerzen said she admires Gallichan-Lowe because of the "risks she takes on productions" and the "passion she has for her students."
At the end of that year at Lord Beaverbrook, Gallichan-Lowe was hired to teach drama at Bowness High School. It was there that she realized she enjoyed working with youth.
She said: "I really love making art with teenagers. I love their energy. I love what they have to say to the world. I love their process. I love helping them find their process and I think they are really cool people."
When the chance to teach drama at Western Canada High School came around. Gallichan-Lowe knew she had to go for it.
Gallichan-Lowe said that everyday she feels lucky to be at Western adding "the kids are great."
Evidence of Gallichan-Lowe's passion is in the interest she takes in her student's lives. Before a recent dress rehearsal for an upcoming production she gathered her students in a circle and asked them to share a happy thing that happened to them that day. The students and Gallichan–Lowe shared some laughs and that set the tone for the rehearsal.
One of those students, Dillon Kolias, said he enjoys her teaching because it makes drama something worth taking seriously, rather than just viewing it as a regular class.
It is clear that she does have high expectations for her students. At that rehearsal, of she continued to challenge her students to improve and give their best effort, saying things like, " I know you can give me more."
The productions at Western she has directed so far include You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, Girl in the Goldfish Bowl, A Midsummer's Night Dream, The Triangle Factory Fire Project and The Trojan Women.
Reflection and future aspirations
For the future, Gallichan-Lowe's goals include developing the school's theatre space a bit more, and create a show that focuses on life issues such as depression. But neither is her most important goal.
"I would like to create a show with a group of students and tour all over the world," she said. "But that's a really big dream."
- By Quinton Amundson