I speak about love and life experiences through poetry: Sheila Almanzar
What do you do for a living?
I am a dually certified Spanish/English teacher, writer, and an actress.
How would you describe what you do?
As a teacher, I help mold the minds of young children and teach them a new language (Spanish). As a writer, I speak about love and life experiences through poetry. Lastly, as an actress, I help bring characters and stories to fruition.
What does your work entail?
My work as a teacher not only entails me being a teacher but also a mother figure, counselor, problem solver, and entertainer among many other things. Standing in front of these little humans takes lots of work, patience, creativity, and dedication. I have to be able to capture my student’s attention and hang on to it for probably longer than you and I can stay on one task. My job consists of memorizing the material I am teaching while finding ways of making it fun and entertaining. I have to be able to improvise at the drop of a dime if I begin to lose their interest. There isn’t such a thing as “having a bad day” in teaching. Once I am in front of that classroom that switch has to be turned on and the action begins. I have to transform myself into a singer, dancer, comedian and whatever else it takes to help my students understand and retain the material being taught. Much of this also pertains to acting.
As a writer, my work entails many hours of brainstorming, writing, revising, editing, rewriting, and creating layouts. It also entails me becoming very vulnerable because I open myself up to the public and give my readers a part of me that is very private.
As an actress, I have to put in hours at the gym to stay in shape, memorize scripts, attend auditions, network, take acting classes and always keep an open mind and stay positive.
What’s a typical workday or week like?
My typical work day/week teaching requires creating different lesson plans in order to meet my student’s different learning styles and needs.
As an author, there is a little bit of more leniency because I work at my own pace. I write when I have free time, but it can be somewhat overwhelming because of the type of writing I do demands a lot of soul searching and emotions.
The acting portion of my work week depends on the projects I am working on. Sometimes it requires lots of sleepless nights, photoshoots, and attending acting classes in order to perfect the skill.
How did you get started?
I’ve been teaching since I graduated college 18 years ago. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but ever since I was a little girl, I always enjoyed writing poetry. As time went on I began to feel unfulfilled as a teacher and realized that writing was one of my passions, so last year (2017) I gathered my poems, wrote some more and began creating my first poetry book.
The thought of acting had always been in the back of my mind and my friends would constantly tell me that I should pursue it. All throughout my school career, I played different roles in plays and modeled in fashion shows. I put acting on the back burner for one reason or another, but early this year I took the plunge and decided to really pursue it. I became really good friends with someone in the industry and he opened up a door for me on a new hit TV drama series called The Vice Squad, which will be coming to a network near you in 2019.
What do you like about what you do?
I love that my careers are challenging but fun. I always have to be on my toes and keep the momentum going in order to maintain a certain energy that is needed for all three “jobs”. I feel that in all three of my roles I get to teach and entertain people at some level. None of my “jobs” are really “jobs” because I love what I do. I love being able to make a difference in young children’s lives. I love being able to connect with adults through my writing and making them feel that they are not alone. Letting them know that we all have struggles, we have all loved and have experienced heartache at some point in our lives, but the important thing is that we walk away from those experiences a better person. Lastly, I love being able to play different roles and entertain my audience.
What do you dislike?
In teaching, I dislike all the politics behind it. Teaching used to be fun and creative, now teachers find themselves teaching to a test. There really isn’t much time for fun and creativity anymore. What I dislike about writing and acting is when the projects I’ve been working on come to an end. There is a void that is felt and the search for a new project has to begin. I’ve already begun writing my second book and I’m constantly checking for acting opportunities.
What skills are needed to do this?
All three of my “jobs” require time, patience, preparation, planning and dedication.
What is most challenging about what you do?
When it comes to teaching the biggest challenge I face is dealing with all the different personalities and the different learning styles. I have to plan lessons that are interesting and engaging in order to acquire and peek my student’s interest and retain their attention. Therefore, I might only plan one lesson per grade level, but I have to come up with multiple ways of executing that lesson in order to help all my students learn.
Writing and acting also have their challenges because I have to produce content that is interesting and appealing to many different types of audiences. They are both very demanding and competitive avenues in which one has to have very thick skin in order to survive. This sometimes becomes very challenging because if rejected for a role or a script is turned down, I begin to question and doubt myself. Positive self-talk becomes a little challenging and I have to dig deep in order to gain my confidence back.
What is the most rewarding?
What’s most rewarding about teaching is the relationships I build with my students. Prior to being an elementary school teacher, I was a middle school teacher, and though I left my position as a Language Arts teacher over 4 years ago I still have a rapport with some of my students. I get text messages out of the blue of them filling me in on their accomplishments and new endeavors. Some of them have gone on to attend college and still reach out to me. To know that you’ve had such an impact on a child’s life is absolutely priceless.
With regards to writing and acting, simply seeing someone reading or watching your work and giving you positive feedback is overwhelming and humbling.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
I find it extremely disheartening that when someone expresses an interest in becoming a teacher my advice is to consider a different profession because teachers are overworked and underpaid. Most of us have to find other streams of income in order to make it on our own.
With regards to writing and acting, I would say to follow your dreams. Pick a topic or a role, do your research, make a plan, prepare yourself and go for it. It won’t be easy, but hard work and perseverance will pay off. Build good relationships with people in the industry and be leery of scammers.
How much time off do you get?
People tend to think teachers have the best job out there because we have all holidays and summers off and we get paid for it. It’s not that we get compensated for those days, they are simply built into our salaries. Teaching is not a profession where the work stops once you walk out the door. Teachers go home to plan the next lesson, correct papers, read student work and so on; and that’s only at the intellectual level. Emotionally, we bring home all the problems our students have.
All of my three jobs require full-time attention, so there really isn’t any time off. I am always planning or preparing for something.
Do you have a talent agent or manager?
Yes, I am managed by Stephanie Corn-Kellum with Ascendant Talent Management.
What projects do you have coming up or what are you currently working on?
I am currently still teaching K-2nd grade Spanish while my poetry book, Tears of the Heart is being published. It is set to be in a store near you and as an E-book in November 2018. This collection of poems is based on my experiences with love and heartbreak. I am currently also working on my second book. In 2019, I will be playing a lead role on a new hit TV crime drama series, The Vice Squad, where I will be part of the Strike Team division.
What else would you like people to know about your career?
I would say that all three of my careers are extremely challenging but just as rewarding. They all have their ups and downs but at the end of the day, I love what I do. Every profession comes with challenges, what matters is how we deal with those challenges and that we overcome them and reach our full potential. My role as a teacher can very easily be tied to acting. I perform in front of my students every day, and most days I have to switch my script and improvise based on my student’s moods and needs.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
People often think that being a teacher is an easy gig. We get textbooks and materials and we teach from there, but that is not the case. Sometimes teachers don’t even have textbooks or materials. We have to find our own sources to teach our students the standards they need to know by the end of the year. Most of the time we use our own money to buy supplies to keep in our classrooms for the less fortunate students. We buy snacks and clothes and keep them in our closets for the students who come in hungry because they didn’t have any food to eat in their house and for those who are homeless or neglected and come in with dirty clothes. These are things that go unnoticed because teachers don’t brag about them. We do them for the love of children and the “job”.
What charitable cause do you support?
I don’t have a specific cause that I support but I am big on feeding the homeless and I constantly donate clothes, shoes, and toys to the Covenant House, which is a shelter for battered women with children. Whenever my friends hold a charity event of any kind I am also there supporting their cause. I enjoy sharing as much as I can with the less fortunate. There is just something extremely joyful and beautiful about helping those in need in any way possible. Money is not always the only way of helping charities. Donating time, food, clothes and whatever else we can is also a wonderful way of helping those in need.
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