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Drama queen imparts stage savvy to teaching

The energy displayed by fifth-year Education student Megan McNulty transcends everything she does, which, on a typical day, includes teaching a dance class for five to seven-year-old girls, student teaching high school special education classes and working the box office of Culbreth Theater -- all this on top of her academics.

"I get all of my energies from my father. He's a very theatrical guy," McNulty said.

Her inherited energy has inspired her to amass a prolific resume. She has starred in theatrical productions at the University since her first year and recently directed the "U.Va. Cabaret" performance for the Virginia Women's Club, a production consisting of performers of diverse talents.

But even before the University she was involved in theater and drama.

McNulty has performed in some form or another nearly all of her life. She began as a ballet dancer in her hometown of Princeton Junction, N.J., performing at the nationally-famed McArthur Theater.

Her first role was as the mouse in The Nutcracker, which she played at the age of eight and continued to play for several years.

"My whole family became involved in the production," McNulty said.

In high school she became passionate about drama and teaching, which became a factor in her college considerations.

"I liked the idea of going to a good ed. school, and the special education school is good here," she said. The University seemed the perfect choice.

Upon her arrival, McNulty decided to swear off drama and focus on her education, but she soon realized the theater captivated her too much to turn away.

"I was cast in an FYP [First Year Players] production in my first semester and have been doing it ever since," she said.

McNulty also has worked for a professional production company, Heritage Repertory, for the past three summers, and she choreographed its West Side Story last summer.

She will graduate this spring with a master's degree in Special Education and said her work in theater has enabled her to teach in more innovative ways.

In "Preparation for Employment," one of the special education classes McNulty teaches at nearby Monticello High School, she has used techniques from theater. "We went over how to call an employer, act out those scenarios, and then we'd critique each other's work," she said.

In her classes at Walton Middle School, she explained, "I'd use role-playing to comprehend literature, and they'd do presentations I'd videotape."

Also, having a Master's degree ensures job security in the capricious world of theatrics.

"I will put my heart and soul into theater, [but] I have other skills, and one thing I love is teaching," she said.

Her long-term goal is to continue combining special education and drama and to throw dramatic strategies into teaching, she added.

For a time McNulty questioned herself, unsure if she'd made the right decision by attending the Education School.

"All my friends graduated last year and were in L.A. and New York doing their thing," she said.

Now, with a year of hindsight and graduation a short month away, she knows she made the right choice.

"It's the smartest thing I've ever done," she said.

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