La Follette School student Abby Swetz presented her one-person play, An UnCommon Core, at the 2018 Fresh Fruit Festival MainStage in New York in July. The hour-long play recounts one heartbreaking year in her middle-school teaching career.
Presented by All Out Arts, the Fresh Fruit Festival celebrates the LGBTQ community’s unique perspective, creativity, and diversity, and builds links among the LGBTQ artistic communities. Performances were at The Wild Project.
During the play, Swetz shepherds her eighth-grade students through a year of racism, police brutality, and homophobic violence – processed by the power of her students’ poetry. She previously performed the play at the Kansas City Fringe Festival and the empowHER Reading Series. The website Review Fix published an interview with Swetz on July 11, when her play opened in New York.
After seven years as a public school teacher, Swetz enrolled at the La Follette School in fall 2017 with the intent to enter government or nonprofit advocacy work. She received the 2017 GSAFE Educator of the Year award and a 2017 Rockwell Award for Outstanding Cooperating Teachers from UW–Madison’s School of Education.
In addition to her play, Swetz wrote a chapter for the recently published book We Rise to Resist, Voices from a New Era in Women’s Political Action, edited by Paula vW. Dáil and Betty L. Wells. Her chapter, Stand Up. Speak Out. Be Kind, focuses on the 2016 presidential election.
“As a U.S. history teacher, my ultimate goal is to create active citizens out of my students, and in this country, that means I want them to grow up to be informed voters, …” she wrote. “This year above all, they got it.”
In the chapter, Swetz shares the election social contract her students created, her struggle to remain politically neutral in the classroom, and the inspiring writing activity her students did November 9, 2016.