Jan shares a milestone with the Guild

2019 marks 50 years since the AGME began operations. But it’s also a 50 year milestone for one of the Guild’s most respected teachers—Jan Skinner.

Jan’s first Diploma students qualified in 1969, two of 54 students to do so since then from the Jan Skinner School of Speech and Drama. Fittingly, she has a student completing an Associate Diploma of Public Speaking in 2019.

Her Albury studio would be the dream of any teacher—packed with a lifetime collection of teaching resources, and featuring photos of many of her Diploma graduates.

Jan’s first Diploma graduates

The earliest entries in Jan’s booklet listing her Diploma graduates

Jan’s talents and qualifications are not limited to Speech. She has a broad background in the arts, including modelling, piano, highland dance, musical comedy, tap and ballet (see images at the top of this post). Jan taught dance for a number of years and had students examined by the Royal Academy of Dancing.

She has also produced over 30 musicals and over 20 plays, both in schools and with her private students for eisteddfods, and these include some original compositions. She has taken groups to eisteddfods in New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria and her students have appeared several times on television. She has fond memories of packing all the costumes in trunks, staying with her students in a flat at Manly, and the boys having lots of fun wheeling the trunks around wherever they had to go!

Eva Vaccaro
Albury Wodonga Eisteddfod

Samuele Vaccaro
Albury Wodonga Eisteddfod

Given her long and successful career, I was interested to know what Jan thinks is the key to the teaching and learning process. She answered without hesitation: the relationship between student and teacher. She told me how much she enjoys her time with her students, and loves to hear what they have to say. Jan takes great pleasure in seeing the development of students from a very young age (some students start lessons from 4 years old) through to diploma level.

Lillyanne Tan
4 years old

Jan feels it’s important to encourage students to try new things, and when they find they can do something they weren’t sure about, that develops their confidence. She also believes that selecting the appropriate speech syllabus to suit students’ needs and talents, choosing material to engage them, teaching them what they like and what interests them goes a long way towards their enjoyment and success.

I asked her what parents and children want from speech lessons. Parents want their children to develop confidence, to speak clearly and be able to communicate with others and not stand back. The children just want to have fun!

Lollipop time!

This theme of building confidence also relates to the many adult students taught by Jan. They have usually commenced lessons to develop the confidence to speak up in meetings, and to present professionally to workplace colleagues. A lot have succeeded in their careers through the improvement of their communication skills.

I also asked Jan to reflect over her long teaching career and compare students of 50 years ago with students of today. She is finding her private students have less time for their Speech work than students of previous years; children now do so many activities that they sometimes come to lessons unprepared. (I think this would be the case for all of us!) In relation to Speech theory she feels students today are not as interested, making this component of lessons more difficult, and of course, there is the distraction of technology.

But she is pleased to see the increase in public speaking within the schools system in recent years, and finds today’s students much more outgoing than those of the past; they seem to enjoy the self-expression and dramatic aspects of our work.

Jan has taught well known people such as Sally Boyden, Julie Haskell, Karen Knowles, and Andrew Hoy. Her long association with the AGME has connected her with great Guild people such as Ivy Keates, Ron Little, Hilda Mitz, Marie Sullivan, Ivan Holmes, Gordon Blake, Ern Knoop and Glen Carter-Varney.

Some career highlights

  • London College of Music qualifications: ALCM, LLCM, LLCM (TD), FLCM
  • AGME qualifications: LAGS (CD), Examiner’s Licentiate
  • Adjudicator since the early 1980’s
  • AGME Examiner since the early 1980’s
  • AGME Assistant Director of Speech and Drama from 1985
  • AGME Speech Convenor since the mid-1990’s
  • Albury Wodonga Eisteddfod Speech Convenor since 2012
  • Teacher at these Melbourne schools (whilst living and teaching in Albury and making the trip to Melbourne on a weekly basis): Sacred Heart, Newport, St Leo the Great, Altona, St Margaret Mary’s, Spotswood, St Monica’s, Moonee Ponds, Lowther Hall Anglican Grammar School, Essendon, from 1977 to 1988, Mount St Joseph Girls’ College, Altona, from 1989 to 2012 and Head of the Drama department during that period.
  • Large private teaching practice: rarely fewer than 20 students, and up to as many as 50 students at various times.

In conclusion, it’s a pleasure to drive to Albury each year to assess Jan Skinner’s students. Whether they are 7 years old or 17, I find them to be polite, friendly, professionally presented, well taught and thoroughly prepared for their examination levels. Last October I examined three siblings; this is not unusual as Jan always seems to have brothers and sisters on her list of students. I think it says a great deal about the teacher that whole families are trained in the art of Speech by Jan Skinner.

Congratulations Jan on a magnificent career—54 Diploma graduates, and no doubt, many more to come!

Jan with some of her students in October 2018, from left to right: Annabelle Tan, Starcia McNulty, Lillyanne Tan, Isaac Finlayson, Samuele Vaccaro, Alessandro Vaccaro and Eva Vaccaro

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