Upper school English teacher and Hutchison alumna Christina Wellford-Scott ’69 is the first teacher to receive the inaugural award.
To this day, Christina Wellford-Scott ’69 remembers the first play by William Shakespeare that she studied. It was “The Merchant of Venice” when she was in middle school at the former Hutchison campus on Union Avenue. She even thinks she still has her copy from back then.
Ever since then, her love for Shakespeare’s works has only blossomed. Her father and grandmother enjoyed his plays as well and took her to experience live performances of them during her childhood. Her passion for Shakespeare grew stronger when she was in college studying English. She has attended a summer Shakespeare workshop at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and a month-long intensive actor training at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts.
This April, the Tennessee Shakespeare Company (TSC) honored Wellford-Scott with its inaugural Teacher of the Year Award for her dedication to teaching Shakespeare’s works in the classroom.
“I was shocked, but I am flattered and thrilled to receive this award,” Wellford-Scott said. “Shakespeare has made me realize that I have a mission to teach at an all-girls school. I feel like it’s a calling to educate girls and women for serious lives.”
Wellford-Scott is in her 28th year at Hutchison. This year, she is teaching 90 seniors Heritage of Western Literature and AP English Literature and Composition, which includes two of her favorite plays: “Hamlet” and “King Lear.” As a classroom teacher, she has taught courses in acting, music history, film history, women's studies, biblical history, and all areas of English literature, including creative writing, American literature, British literature, and world literature. She also has acted with TSC and is an award-winning veteran of Memphis stages.
“I never imagined that I would end up being an actress, but I did,” Wellford-Scott said. “I just love the plays and being able to perform in and teach them.”
Christina Wellford-Scott as Amanda in "The Glass Menagerie" | Photo courtesy of Tennessee Shakespeare Company
Wellford-Scott said she comes from a family of teachers who told her they thought she would be good at it too. She was resistant to becoming a teacher, but she stepped into the classroom to be near her daughters as they were growing up. Once she got there, she loved it. As she teaches Shakespeare, she wants her students to feel the musicality of his language to understand its nuance. Another important concept she focuses on is digging deeper into the text through character analysis.
“I had the natural ability to enter the characters’ mindsets, and I notice the girls who pick up on Shakespeare have the same tendency. For all of literature, not just for Shakespeare, you have to get into the mindset of the person that is on the page to walk through whatever you’re reading to truly understand it,” she said.
Wellford-Scott was selected by TSC’s staff and board of directors based on criteria for a Tennessee educator who:
Promotes the study of Shakespeare and provides live performance opportunities for their students
Is a life-long learner who continues to discover ways to strengthen their knowledge, skills, and offerings in the classroom
Advocates for the arts and their vitality in schools
Leads with empathy and compassion, fostering a safe, open, and inclusive learning environment where students feel inspired to take creative risks
Values collaboration with outside organizations that strengthen students' learning experiences
“When we get Hutchison students from Christina’s classes in our performances at TSC, the IQ and attention in the theater skyrockets,” said Dan McCleary, TSC founder and producing artistic director. “She is a willing collaborator, a caring mentor, a sharp mind, and a literary scholar.”
Christina Wellford-Scott has faced several challenges along the way, but one, in particular, stands out. She struggled with dyslexia when she was younger and lacked confidence, but before she graduated from Hutchison, she came to an important realization: she could figure out anything if she put her mind to it. She said this was an incredibly freeing thought, and she hopes to pass down the same feeling to her students.
“I want girls to think for themselves and not be afraid to argue with me. I want them to love to read, dive into something, and dig into it. I want them to know they can conquer any text they put their mind to,” she said.TSC honored Wellford-Scott at a gala on Saturday, April 22. The gala included an award presentation, remarks delivered by Wellford-Scott, and performances on stage by TSC’s professional actors, curated from classics she has selected.