Teach Tech Theatre (previously Survivor: Theatre Teacher) began in the Summer of 2012 as a brainchild of Julie Benitez and Kirsten Giard Branch.
We both were running successful programs and found that people around San Diego kept asking for advice when someone had a technical question or when someone not specifically trained in theatre took over a theatre program (in California there is no Theatre credential, so it falls under English). So we served as consultants for various theatre teachers and programs in San Diego County and realized there was a need for theatre teachers to be trained or to re-learn some vital skills to help them with their programs. Catering to teachers who were feeling overwhelmed or under prepared, we began a series of summer workshops helping theatre teachers that perhaps had more acting than technical experience to feel confident about running their programs AND make sure those programs were being run safely. We soon realized that if there was such a great need in just our county, that we could help even more people if we were just able to reach them!
We know we will not teach you everything you need to know about teaching theatre, but we will give you important foundations to take back to your classroom as well as lesson plans and units that can be taught the very next day!
Julie Benitez has taught theatre at Monte Vista High School in the Grossmont District since 1996. She realized how much fun the backstage world was while in her undergrad at Iowa State University and has an MFA in Theatre for Youth from Arizona State University. She works as a teaching artist with The La Jolla Playhouse and the Juvenile Court Schools teaching Technical Theatre to incarcerated youth. Due to the limitations of her theatre at Monte Vista (not built as a theatre), she has explored and embraced all aspects of Stagecraft and has improved her creativity quotient in creating noteworthy sets in a less than ideal theatre space. Students often hear her quote “cover the ugly and make it pretty” because she is a Set Evangelist. Julie’s fondest desire is to make YOUR sets amazing. Check out some of her set designs in our gallery.
Julie was named Teacher of the Year for Monte Vista High in 2018 and her theatre has been named a Distinguished Technical Theatre program. She is co-owner/presenter of Teach Tech Theatre.
Kirsten Giard Branch
Kirsten Giard Branch taught theatre at Valhalla High School in the Grossmont District from 1991 to 2014. Ms. Giard Branch spent five years expanding her theatre work to directing and set designing for local community theatres. In 2019, Kirsten took over the Theatre program at Granite Hills High School and is being reacquainted with the work of rebuilding a program. She has a BA in Theatre and a Masters in Curriculum and Education from SDSU and a Masters in Theatre Design from Southern Oregon University. She works as a teaching artist with The La Jolla Playhouse and the Juvenile Court Schools teaching Technical Theatre to incarcerated youth. She co-founded the San Diego Educational Theatre Association in 1996 and has served on their board since. She also served as a teacher leader for the Grossmont Union High School District Visual and Performing Arts Department helping to create the District Strategic Plan for the Arts. Recognized for her work in Educational Theatre, Ms. Giard Branch mentors a variety of theatre teachers at all grade levels and is co-owner/presenter of Teach Tech Theatre. She has been recognized at the school, district, county and state level for her excellence in teaching and directing.
Ms. Giard Branch was awarded Educator of the Year by the California Educational Theatre Association in 2010 and was named Teacher of the Year for IDEA High School in 2018.
Dustin is a graduate of the University of California at San Diego with a BA in Theatre with an emphasis in Theatrical Design. He has worked in TV, film, theatre, concerts and corporate live events. Some of his projects include Walt Disney Animation Studios, Disneyland, NFL Superbowl, Qualcomm, DirecTV, Callaway Golf & Pyro Spectaculars. Dustin served as Technical Director for Valhalla High School from 2004 to 2014 and has been on several district committees regarding theatre spaces and equipment. Dustin is the industry professional for Teach Tech Theatre and assists in keeping the technical theatre instruction current and relevant on the world of work.