Shakespeare on the lawn

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - With schools closed, and classes being moved online, North Platte high teacher Brittany McDaniel wanted to do something special for her students, and is doing so in the form of Shakespeare sonnets.

North Platte High School teacher Brittany McDaniel visits a student to recite a Shakespeare sonnet. With schools closed, McDaniel is not able to see her students every day. (Credit: Patrick Johnstone/KNOP-TV)

"You've seen videos online of teachers dropping off work books for their students, or like stickers for little kids, and I thought, 'oh I can't do that for high school kids,' and then I thought, 'yeah, no, I can,'" McDaniel said. "So, I've just been reciting Shakespeare sonnets to a couple of kids a day. They're short, they're only 16 lines, so it's a good way to check in on a student, read them something Shakespeare, and then tell them to go research it, find out what it means, and then get back to me."

McDaniel teaches about 50 students, and more than 30 of them are for theater classes. Her decision to recite sonnets for her students was influenced by her affinity for Shakespeare, and her desire to show her students how much she cares about them and misses them.

"Most of [the sonnets] are lovey-dovey and they tend to have a little bit of a riddle or a puzzle kind of turn of phrase in there. I teach acting and theater, I like the nerdy and geeky side of it, I like Shakespeare, like to teach it, it just seemed like a good fit. It doesn't last as long as a song. I can sing them a Broadway song, come up with a dance, but then they would stand there awkwardly for 3 minutes," McDaniel said.

With the threat of the Coronavirus, the North Platte Public School District made the decision to postpone the spring musical, and cancel in-person classes. Not being able to see her students, or come to school, has been hard for McDaniel.

"It's so hard," she said tearfully, "we were like 24 hours away from opening up the spring musical at the high school, we were all geared and ready for that, and I had just cast the show for my advanced acting class. I'm with these kids for an hour and a half every day, and I love them, and they're super special."

McDaniel understands why the school district closed the school, but since it was so abrupt, there is still a lot McDaniel and her students didn't get to accomplish.

"When you get close to summer break, things start to wrap up, you get that closure. But, this was just nope, we're closed. I appreciate that the school district made that choice and is wanting to keep us safe, and I'm so, so thankful for that, but then we just didn't get that closure that you typically get," she said.

McDaniel is using her trips to her students as a way to catch up, and make sure they're doing well.

"I hope it's as good for them as it is for me. To see their faces to make sure they're okay to just check in and be a little silly with them in the midst of this time that's kind of anxious and kind of scary and kind of unknown," she said.