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Ricker-Spicer Brings Drama to Life

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Pamela Ricker-Spicer could really be any teacher. Her outward style does not bespeak drama, no more than her immediate mannerisms forecast theatrical tendencies. Yet, as a child of a Broadway set-designer and a playwright, there seemed little doubt she was destined for the stage. She acted professionally for the first time onstage with Ted Knight in “The Impossible Years.” She danced in front of audiences of 1200 in a bikini. All this at 15 years old. After that, she felt she could do anything onstage.

And that she did. A varying and lucrative career on and backstage included assistant director of the Broadway play “Late Night Comic.” During her semester abroad in London as part of her theater major at Temple University, Ricker-Spicer was an intern at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Ask her about it —Ricker-Spicer is notorious among her students for her stories.

“I walked in and told them that I wanted one and they said: ‘what’s an internship?’ And I said: ‘I do work for you in order to gain experience.’ And they said ‘and we don’t pay you?’ and I said ‘No.’ And they said ‘Let me get this straight—you work for us, and we don’t pay you?’ And I said: ‘That’s right.’ And they said: ‘Of course you can have an internship.’”

This is her second year as an educator at George Mason High School in Falls Church, and she has expanded on the subjects in which she teaches. Including four classes of theater (Theater I & II, Eighth Grade Theater and IBH Theater), she has added English to her repertoire. Before Mason, Ricker-Spicer confessed to teaching literature, speech and art. Remnants of the last of those hang around her classroom. Some have won awards; one, she painted at the DMV. Ask her about it — it's another great story.

As a director, Ricker-Spicer is multitalented. She choreographs, coaches and encourages, all while keeping multitudes of dramatic teenagers on task. While her directions are the majority of the final product, she allows the actors and her assistants to add to what the production will look like. She said, "the process is as important, if not more important, to me than the product.” George Mason has two major productions a year (and several minor ones), and Ricker-Spicer directs them all. In her first year, Mason put on “My Fair Lady” and “Flowers for Algernon.” This year, the fall musical was “Kiss Me, Kate” and Neil Simon's “Fools” is in production right now. The IBH Theater class is also working on a piece to present at the Folger Shakespeare theater festival. Doing more than one production at a time is not alien to Ricker-Spicer. On top of that, she has five children, aged 6-12. Yet she manages to give her creative and physical self to the productions with a vigor one can only attest to her combined love of theater and teaching.

Her work is not unappreciated. This year marks the fourth time she has been nominated for the Who's Who of American Teachers. These nominations have been spread out over three schools where Ricker-Spicer has taught. She is beloved by her students and respected by her colleagues (who have included Kenneth Branaugh, Bernadette Peters and Alan Rickman). She articulates it well in her teaching philosophy. "...my primary focus is on fostering the willingness of each student to explore him or herself and to take the risks... necessary to grow in confidence, sensitivity, and sophistication.”