For Brian Olkowski, the performing arts has been a lifelong passion; each day he works to pass that enthusiasm along to his students.
During the day, Olkowski serves as Coyote Creek Elementary’s performing arts teacher.
The San Ramon school added the position three years ago as a way to create a focus for the students and serve as an additional outlet for the arts.
“I had already been doing a drama club,” Olkowski said. “We had a band and chorus program and a visual arts program. So my principal put it out there that we could be an arts school, and (the district) went for it. I think we are one of the only schools that has this position.”
In his free time, Olkowski also works at the Livermore Bankhead Theater as part of the tech crew and production team, helping backstage during shows to ensure smooth performances. He also works with the Tri-Valley Repertory Theater, a nonprofit, volunteer organization dedicated to quality theater and theatrical training.
“I think performing arts is very helpful to kids, even if they’re not going to be performers. They are able to get out there, explore different ways to access their curriculum, and it helps some of those shy kids come out of their shells.”
With almost two decades’ teaching fourth and fifth grade under his belt, Olkowski’s unique approach to performing arts is steeped in experience.
“At the beginning of the year, we were doing a unit on storytelling – how to be a storyteller, using their voice and gestures and engaging their audience – through the lens of Native American storytelling,” he said. “So my fourth graders retold the story of California Native Americans and used performing arts as the lens to learn that content.”
Olkowski’s commitment to the program has earned him high praise.
“It’s a fantastic program,” said Coyote Creek Principal, Bill Alpert. “As far as the value it brings to our school and community and kids, it’s just huge. Especially now. With the focus on social and emotional learning as much as academics, it’s a huge asset to have at our school.”
Olkowski said he has dedicated so much of his time to performing arts because he enjoys working in theaters and watching shows.
“And I love being able to share that joy with kids,” he added.