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“Beautiful soul.” “Inspirational founder of Happy Valley Improv.” “Creative hero to many.” “Annoying lady who takes too long to pick a checkout line at Wegmans.” These are some of the phrases that have been used to describe me.
Are they true? You’ll have to judge for yourself. But one thing I know is not NOT true: I am the one who should get 99.9% the blame/credit for this little experiment that is Happy Valley Improv.
As with many things in life, it all started for me at a summer camp. In the summer of 2016, I attended a three-day camp in the Poconos called Camp Improv Utopia. I didn’t know anyone, I had never done improv, and I was scared. But I had a great time for those 3 days. People were friendly and supportive, especially when they learned I was a newbie. I was hooked and determined to find a local community to continue playing and practicing with when I returned to State College.
But I couldn’t find anything like it. So I reached out to Sam Tanner, a colleague whom I knew had extensive experience with improvisational theater, and James Tierney, a faculty member whom I had never met but had been recommended to me by an Improv Utopia leader who knew James from his California improv days.
I didn’t know whether James and Sam would be interested in forming a group that met to practice regularly, especially considering that I was brand new. But they were and we did, and soon the stars aligned and Nate found us and here we are.
I used to teach high school mathematics. Then I earned a PhD in mathematics education. As a faculty member in the department of Curriculum & Instruction at Penn State, I get to teach preservice elementary, middle, and high school teachers. I also get to study mathematics teaching and learning in classrooms. My hunch is that improvisational theater can offer some ideas about more joyful ways we can approach mathematics teaching. So that’s what I’m setting out to explore next.
In my spare time, I like to read fiction, especially with my neighborhood book group. It’s literary fiction, you guys. LITERARY! I like to ride my bike—I’ve been a founding member of TWO bike clubs, one which was composed of two other 6th graders. In that one we mostly just rode around in circles. The other one was while I was in graduate school in Bloomington, Indiana. We formed an annual “Bike and Beer” event, which was a pub crawl on bikes, and we ended up riding around in circles in that one, too.
I like camping with friends, but only if they do all the work and I can just sit in a chair and read books among all the nature. I like eating food that other people cook for me, especially when it’s my mom’s, and especially when it’s her prize-winning blueberry pie. One of my hobbies is learning how to freestyle rap under the tutelage of my coach, JT. That hobby mostly consists of me talking about how I want to learn how to freestyle rap. I used to love watching Pirates baseball, but instant replay has ruined it for me so now I just like complaining about the good old days.
My family consists of my supportive husband Jason, our amazing daughter PJ, and our adorable dog Sluggo. All 3 of them are eternally grateful to Happy Valley Improv for providing an outlet for me to get out of the house and get some much-needed attention. It has relieved them of some (but not all) of that burden.