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Yasenchak committed mentor on WHS stage

Melanie Yasenchak is an English and drama teacher at Wasco High School. She is a committed advocate for the arts and has played an integral part in promoting creativity on the stage for her students and the community.

She began her career as a teacher in 2006 at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. In the 2012-13 school year, she joined Wasco High School.

Since taking on her role, she has produced over 20 theatrical productions, including the first school musical last year based on the film Grease. Many of her shows are comedies.

Every year, she does a children's show and a community show, where she invites all of Wasco to attend.

"Last year, we had over 800 kids at our elementary play. It's like a field trip for them to go to the WHS auditorium. This year, it will take place on December 7, and the play is Goldilocks on Trial.".

This play is student-run. Two students are directors, and they will run the entire show together.

"They pick the costumes and the cast. They are the teachers for that play."

The students will perform it for the community the next day, December 8, for everyone to come to.

In March, the drama club will produce a big show that anybody on campus can audition for. "We have yet to decide what show we are doing this year. It could be another musical."

She said that that is their largest production every year. "It's a full-length play and our grand production. Last year we made over $10,000. We normally have an excellent turnout for our shows."

Yasenchak said she loves her students. "I will never leave Wasco. They are the best students around. They love you with their whole heart."

She comes from a long line of educators. "My mom was a teacher, my uncle was a principal, and many of my cousins are teachers. My husband, Thomas Yasenchak, is the principal at Wasco Independence High School."

"We are a family full of educators and just love Wasco. My husband came from Stockdale High School in Bakersfield to Wasco after meeting my students when I worked at the junior high here. The Lord led me to Wasco, and it's where I belong."

She is also involved outside of the classroom, working with the Shafter Children's Summer Theater program and spearheading their fundraiser, a murder mystery dinner theater show.

It will occur this Friday, Oct. 20, at the Shafter Ford Theater at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 and includes dinner and a show.

Yasenchak was hired as an English teacher at WHS, and when they interviewed her, they asked her if she had any other interest in something else.

"I said theater was my safe place in high school, and I was very interested in the theater program. I heard that WHS had not had a full-length play performed on the stage for over ten years, so without one prop or one piece of wood to build a set, I just created an entire program from the ground up."

She has a unique view on inspiring her drama class students. "Teaching is a kind of acting. Every day we have to stand up and hold our student's attention. It's creating excitement about what they are going to learn."

"If we can sell them on that, then we've got them, and they will listen and want to be engaged with you."

Her teaching style fosters creativity and self-expression among her students. "My fundamental goal is safety. If they feel the drama classroom is a safe place, they will go to their limits on stage."

"If they don't have that trust, they will never give me 100%. I start my school year just building trust, so there are a lot of activities where they rely on one another, and they learn about each other to create a family in our classroom."

Yasenchak has high hopes for the future. "What I want is a program that will last for a long time on campus, that can grow and flourish because I think it's one of the most important arts."

 

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