When not sitting in front of my consoles or podcast booth doing my best at becoming a legitimate member of the gaming press, I spend my full-time hours teaching 4th grade at a local elementary school. Teaching is my passion. I do everything possible to try to make my students want to be at school and also make lasting memories that will affect their futures in positive ways. The following story is one that happened recently of which I am particularly proud. Not only was this experience able to provide a student with a unique experience, but it may have just motivated her to think about her career despite being only eight years old.
Each year, like many schools across the country, my school holds “Career Day”. Most people have probably experienced something like this during their elementary years. Sometimes parents come to individual classes to talk about their careers, but our school brings in people from the community to talk to multiple classes about what they do for a living as a way to make a personal connection about life after school. Their intent is to motivate students to look beyond their childhood years and try to think about what they might want to do with their lives, encouraging them to work harder in school to reach those personal goals.
Students were encouraged to make posters about their desired careers, and one poster displayed proudly in the hallways of the school caught my eye. A third grader by the name of Amanda let the school know that she wanted to be a voice actor. She put a lot of work into her poster, which included a drawing of a woman using a professional microphone complete with a boom and shock absorber. With the help of her mother, Angela, she even attached blinking lights (powered by a concealed battery) near the top to attract attention.
Immediately intrigued that a third grader was so interested in pursuing such a specific career, I quickly snapped a picture of the poster and tweeted it at Cissy Jones, a video game voice actor I had the pleasure of interviewing several months ago. Cissy retweeted the photo, which was in turn retweeted by several other prolific voice actors from the industry. That’s when the light bulb went off in my head as to how this could help encourage Amanda to pursue her career and teach her how the business works. I contacted Cissy and asked her if she would be willing to talk to Amanda over Skype in our classroom after school one day. She almost immediately agreed, and then Amanda’s mother, teacher and I worked together to coordinate a meeting.
This past Monday, May 8th was the big date. We set up a podcast microphone at school, and hooked up a laptop to my SmartBoard in our classroom (so we could watch the interview without interfering). Cissy had a surprise for us when she accepted the call on Skype: she contacted a couple other fellow voice actors to join in the conference call! Roger Craig (Ezio Auditore in “Assassin’s Creed II”) and Yuri Lowenthal (Peter Parker in 2017’s “Spider-Man”) hopped on the call in addition to Cissy (Delilah in “Firewatch”). All three actors were incredibly sweet and encouraging to Amanda, who was visibly excited to talk to them. She even prepared her own questions to ask about what’s it’s like to be a voice actor and what she should do on her own to advance her career as a voice actor.
Words can’t describe what an incredible experience this was for me as an educator. Working with industry leaders to facilitate an experience that was not only memorable, but also planted potential seeds in the mind of a motivated eight year-old that could one day be a star. This completely solidified my own career choice. Cissy, Roger, and Yuri were all incredibly sweet to Amanda and gave her some great advice to work on her craft. You had to fight back the tears as Amanda’s mom, Angela, spoke to Cissy and her friends, thanking them for taking the time to talk to her daughter. We were blown away as Cissy’s responded in kind, sharing that her own father wasn’t nearly as supportive of her dreams when she was younger. The trio was even able to get Amanda to share her voice over Skype (she recited the Pledge of Allegiance in a cartoon voice of her own creation). It put a permanent smile on our faces to see these professionals cheering her on and telling her that they were soon to be out of work because of Amanda’s talent. Simply inspiring.
But that’s not even the best part of this whole experience. Cissy knows of a developer that might be looking for a 10-year old voice actor for one of their games, and she asked Amanda if she would be interested in recording a few lines to audition for the part, to which we all enthusiastically responded, “Yes!” While there’s no guarantee that Amanda will get the audition, much less the part, we agreed that the whole process would be an incredible learning experience for Amanda so she can see the steps involved in becoming a voice actor. We’re still waiting to see if this comes to fruition (we will update this post with any progress), but even the possibility of this happening for Amanda fills me with an incredible sense of pride.
We are incredibly thankful to Cissy, Roger, and Yuri for taking time out of their busy schedules to meet with Amanda. All three seem to be some of the genuinely sweetest people, and it warms my heart that they are willing to encourage a child to pursue a career for which they are obviously passionate. But most of all, I’m proud of Amanda, who took the initiative to express her interest and put forth quite a bit of effort to learn the craft by preparing questions and being very brave during a video conference call with three strangers. This has been one of those experiences as both a teacher and a fan of the entertainment medium that will resonate with me for years to come.