Position: Theatre Teacher
School: Tuscarora High School
School District: Loudoun County Public Schools
City, State: Leesburg, VA
Music that Describes Justin
Justin Daniel was nominated by his colleague, Mary Hayes.
Mr. Daniel has taught drama/vocal instruction since 2003. He loves sharing his knowledge and expertise with Tuscarora's finest, especially those who are Broadway-bound. He previously worked at both Belmont Ridge and J.L Simpson Middle school as the drama sponsor.
Mr. Daniel also founded the Northern Virginia Preparatory Theatre Company, a select group of secondary students who are preparing for professional careers in the Theatre Arts. Over the course of his career, he has directed over forty shows, including productions of Steel Magnolias, Little Shop of Horrors, Into the Woods, Seussical, Once on this Island, Sound of Music, Bye, Bye, Birdie, Children of Eden, High School Musical, Beauty and the Beast, A Christmas Carol, A Raisin in the Sun, Annie, CATS, and Sister Act. His recent honors include directing the highest ranking productions at the Virginia Theatre Association's Young People's Competition two years in a row against 13 middle schools across the state. He has also coached Odyssey of the Mind teams, who have won 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in the Regional and State Tournaments and 7th place in the WORLD competition. Mr. Daniel obtained his B.F.A. Music Theatre degree from Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA and pursued his Masters in Theatre Education during his time at Tuscarora.
Mr. Daniel is dedicated to his craft and students at Tuscarora. Watching his students collaborate to provide the student body and community with a quality performance is amazing, especially given the 90 minutes every other day Mr. Daniel has with them.
Mr. Daniel is effective with his students, and he provides a safe space for students to be themselves. His students range from being outgoing to introverted, and some have special needs and emotional challenges. Each student, however, finds their own talent in the theatre department and evolves to be an important part of the team. Some students, who might not feel like they fit in, shine in the theatre department.
"I have seen Justin's plays transform people, build relationships and shift the entire atmosphere of this school," said Hayes. "About three years ago, Justin announced that he selected the play 'Sister Act' for the big spring play. It was his vision to incorporate staff in the play as extra nuns. He conducted auditions for staff and students. I was part of that process. For a minute, Justin took heat because of the play he chose, but the claims did not merit stopping the play. Instead, I witnessed a unity forming. Students and teachers bonded. Teachers and office staff who never interacted on a day to day basis learned more about each other. A true sisterhood was formed from 'Sister Act.' The following year, one of our staff members took ill and passed away, but we all fondly remember this bond we formed. It's funny - even in school, we still refer to each other as sister. It is still the play many of the staff remember and talk about often."
Mr. Daniel's leadership shines in the many extra hours he spends after school making sure that each performance is better than the previous. He does not ask his students to do something he would not do himself. If he asks the students to come early and/or stay late, he is there with them. Mr. Daniel is right there assisting students with costumes, lighting cues, setting the stage, building sets, etc. Many of his students have won prestigious awards and have moved on to pursue theatre in college. Some students have become professional performers and have active acting careers.
"There is no doubt in my mind of Justin's dedication to his students and work," said Hayes. "I have no doubt that Justin would use the LifeChanger recognition and award winnings to get much-needed supplies for the theatre department - from tools to build sets and a sewing machine to make costumes, to helping students with fees for financial obligations."