Substitute teaching gig goes full-time for talented Midlands English teacher

Retired English teacher finds new passion in classroom at Midlands Arts Conservatory

What started as a one-week gig as a substitute teacher at Midlands Arts Conservatory grew into an extended tour as a permanent English and Social Studies teacher for Deborah Drotor.

After teaching English for 36 years in several Midlands-area schools, Drotor had retired. Hoping to pick up some extra cash, she listened to a friend who taught at Midlands Arts Conservatory and took a short-term job as a substitute teacher in September 2018 – one month after the new state charter school opened.

Midlands Arts Conservatory is a state charter school, approved by the S.C. Public Charter School District Board in 2016. The school opened in August 2018 and quickly is building buzz in the arts community. The school was approved to serve students in middle and high school, and plans are to add one additional grade level each year – for 2019-20 the school offers grades 6-8.

“I had just retired the previous year, and had never planned to return to the classroom, especially not so soon,” Drotor said. “I wanted a fun job for extra 2 cash. But the day I walked into the MAC classroom, the spark that had fueled my passion for teaching re-ignited.

“Spending a few days at the school each month when I substituted gave me an objective viewpoint as the school blossomed in its first year,” she said. “I always found time to listen to the students playing their violins, violas and cellos as they progressed from the squeaks and scratches of September to a most melodic month of May.

“I loved seeing the independence of the students grow as they began to master their art and experience success in multiple areas. Inside the academic classrooms, I saw teachers with the freedom to teach as they saw fit based on student needs, not being mandated to follow programs and boxed curriculums.

“I began to see MAC as a place where I would love to teach again, and I am thrilled to be part of this exceptional team as we move into our second year with the full middle school grades,” Drotor said.

She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Columbia College, as well as a Master of Education in Divergent Learning. She has done graduate course work for her Master of Arts in Communications/Public Relations at the University of South Carolina, and has a specialist certification in literacy from USC. Brad Tillman, principal at MAC, said Drotor’s deep teaching experience provides strong academic support for the arts-focused school.

“Every day, she finds a new way to relate to our students,” Tillman said. “She reinforces that while they may come to MAC to study their arts, their academics are what will help them thrive the rest of their lives, not to mention help them take the next steps beyond high school.”

Midlands Arts Conservatory students spend three hours daily in concentrated arts study in either dance with a ballet foundation; music with strings, piano and voice; visual arts; or theater. MAC students also focus on the traditional academic core studies so they are well prepared for college, the workforce or employment in the arts.