Dr. Mary Schuttler, director of the undergraduate Theatre Education and Master’s in Theatre Education programs at the University of Northern Colorado, is the recent recipient of the prestigious Educational Theatre Association’s Founders’ Award. It was presented to Schuttler on Sept. 20 at the EdTA’s National Conference. She is currently in her 25 year teaching at UNC and continues to be inspired by her students.
Schuttler teaches Workshop in Directing and History of Theatre to UNC undergraduate students and classes within the Master’s program. In 2016, she directed UNC’s production of “Spring Awakening” and last spring, directed “Beauty and the Beast,” which was performed at the Union Colony Civic Center.
Schuttler holds a bachelor’s degree in theatre and mathematics, as well as a master’s and doctorate in theatre. Her mother was a high school mathematics teacher and Schuttler initially followed in her footsteps by teaching high school math in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. After learning the particular school didn’t offer any theatre classes to the student population, she utilized her theatre degree and eventually implemented theatre courses into the school. For Schuttler, her passion for theatre overcame her dual interest in mathematics and she eventually began solely teaching theatre education.
“Theatre is essential in educating ‘the whole person,’” says Schuttler. “ It teaches skills valuable skills-communication, confidence, leadership, community, and so much more.”
The Founders’ Award is given to an individual or group who has made significant contributions to the progression and development of theatre education. Schuttler has been a member of the Educational Theatre Association, an organization where teachers can continue their knowledge and expertise by attending workshops and events solely focused on theatre education, since 1985.
She initially began to attend EdTA conferences while also being a member of the Michigan Thespian Board. Upon starting her position at UNC in 1994, she also joined the Colorado Thespian Board, which she is still currently serving on. That same year, she became the President of EdTA, continued to build network connections with her colleges and has continuously been selected to work on important theatre education projects in the state as well as nationally.
When asked about specific mentors who have impacted her journey, Schuttler first and foremost acknowledges her mother and high school math teacher for their unwavering support and steadfast belief in her.
To name a few others, Schuttler said, “Tom McNally, the former Chair of UNC’s Theatre program, who inspired me at EdTA conferences to be a better teacher and director. Jim Palmarini from EdTA, Jim Symons from CU, and all of the Colorado Thespian Board members I have had the privilege of working with.”
Over the course of her educational journey, Schuttler has become extremely versatile in her profession and is a role model to many UNC students.
“Follow your passion, and trust your instincts!” Schuttler said, reflecting on her words of wisdom for students. “Even though my passion has always been theatre, I like math, so I became a math teacher because I was told I could never find a job as a theatre teacher. That was incorrect information and that is still the case today.”
Schuttler has made a substantial name for herself in the educational world with over 30 years in theatre education.
Her students believe that she gives them the best opportunities possible.
Junior theatre education major Shelbie Reynolds is currently in Schuttler’s Workshop for Director course.
“Mary strives to give her students a place to pursue art, specifically theatre, in their own way and in a safe environment,” Reynolds said. “It’s a privilege to be learning from someone who has experienced it all before, and who is so supportive of our futures. She is extremely driven and quite an asset to the UNC School of Theatre Arts and Dance community. The praises she’s received are much deserved.”
Schuttler said she comes back to UNC every year because of the students she teaches.
“Every year something happens that makes me come back – and it has to do with the amazing students I am honored to teach.” Schuttler said. “Smile more. Be gracious. Give more than you receive. Take a risk. Enjoy the little things. And never judge…anyone.”