Theater teacher retires after 38 years of teaching

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Photo by Kate Kotlyar

Kate Kotlyar copy editor

Theater teacher Kaz Chandler will retire at the end of the year after teaching for 38 years, with her final six years at the high school.

After teaching for 32 years, Chandler planned to retire in Costa Rica with her husband, but she quickly realized that the couple did not have enough money to finance their dream retirement home. So, she looked for teaching jobs all across California, and when the opportunity to interview with Beverly’s principal at the time, Dave Jackson, she laughed because of her history with the school when she was in high school. 

“I went to South High School in Torrance and we used to come [to Beverly] and do our big competitions at the Peters Auditorium. We would come here, and it was always so intimidating,” Chandler said. “If you can imagine, you’d pull up on Moreno and the bus would let you out. You’d walk up that big grass hill into this giant theater. It was intimidating and it was pretty amazing. So, I laughed when I saw Beverly Hills on the list.”

When Chandler arrived in Beverly Hills after countless hours of paperwork, TB tests, bloodwork and fingerprinting, she was both “excited” and “disappointed” because of her classroom space. Due to construction, the Peters Auditorium has been shut down since 2015, so the Salter Theater was her classroom for three years until its shut down in 2019

“It’s never good to have the theater as your only classroom. It’s abusive to the theater, and the poor Salter was in desperate need of a lot of work. Then, they showed me this giant room across from the theater where all the costumes and everything were jammed at the last minute because they had to get the Peters emptied for construction. When I walked into that room, I seriously had to wonder if I made a mistake in accepting this job because everything was everywhere. I announced to my classes that there would be tech hours and we’d get that room in control,” Chandler said. “I had a couple of alumni living in this area from my last school and I called them and they showed up to help. They were like ‘When Chandler calls and says she needs help, you show up.’”

Chandler not only built an environment for her former students that made them want to come back and help her clean up when she first came to Beverly, but she does that with her current students as well. Senior Ryan Hodor believes that Chandler has been a “great mentor” to him over his four years in the theater program. 

“She’s been a person that I can come talk to, a person who I can chat with about everyday life, like a tough-love director who has really instilled a sense of discipline in me, and I’m really grateful for that,” Hodor said. “She’s one in a million.”

Similar to Hodor, senior Emma Maurer feels that she can turn to Chandler whenever she’s “having a problem or in a bad place.” 

During her retirement, Chandler plans to travel and do work for the Educational Theater Association by possibly starting a chapter of the International Thespian Society in Costa Rica. She also plans to continue creating art in a different medium than the stage. 

Chandler works in three visual art mediums: oil paint, stained glass and mosaics. She hopes that art will “dominate” her retirement. 

“I do want to take a little more of a backseat to the theater side of my life and not slow down, but working in [visual] art has a different zen effect on me that I crave,” Chandler said. “I’m such a high energy person that it’s the closest I get to meditation. My brain and my body are craving that bit of solitude and that peacefulness it brings to me.”

Reflecting on her teaching career and the 150 plays that she’s directed, Chandler believes that the performing arts program’s production of “Singin’ in the Rain” was a good send-off for her. However, she believes that out of all the highs in her career, her favorite is how much she laughed.

“I think my favorite thing about teaching theater is that about once a day, I belly laugh,” Chandler said. “That’s a rare thing for an adult. I think if you ask most adults, ‘Do you laugh hard every day almost to the point where it makes you cry?’ they would look at you funny. Maybe they can’t even remember the last time they laughed that hard. It happens almost every day to me.”

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