10 Adults Saya IMG 8785Saya joins Nueva from the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, where she created educational theater content and facilitated training classes for young performers. Saya earned a BA in comparative studies in race and ethnicity from Stanford University. Her studies focused on minority representation in the performing arts, and she was deeply involved in student-produced musical theater.

Saya has trained in physical theater, devising original work, clowning, and acting at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, and is eager to share her love for improvisation and creative expression with Nueva students.

As a proud Nueva alum who attended from preK-5th grade, Saya cannot wait to make new memories here at Nueva.


1. What experience or perspective from your time as a student at Nueva have you carried through adulthood?

I can’t overemphasize how grateful I am that SEL was a part of my regular schedule in elementary school. There have been so many times when I have watched disagreements between adults play out, whether on a personal, communal, or even national level, and wished that the adults involved would do an SEL exercise, such as explaining the conflict from the other person’s point of view.

Concepts I learned in SEL, such as perspective-taking and self-knowledge, have helped me approach situations — from navigating conflicts with friends to hearing political statements I disagree with — from a place of empathy.

2. What challenge are you most excited about in your new role at Nueva?

Designing lower school theater classes that actively incorporate Nueva’s educational philosophy is a challenge I am eager to take on. I want to teach students that they do not have to make themselves fit a “type” in order to be in plays and musicals. I want to empower students by teaching them how to bring their whole, genuine selves to a performance and how to create their own work when they don’t see a part in a play that’s right for them.

I am currently working on the curriculum for my first lower school theater enrichment class, and I can’t wait to see how students embody the characters they create.

3. It is really inspiring that you came on board and quickly put together an excellent lineup of after-school enrichment programs.  If you were in the students’ shoes, which enrichment offerings would you be most excited to join?

I have been so lucky to have an incredibly supportive network of parents and faculty mentors who have given me so many helpful insights about how to improve enrichment — so much appreciation to them!

Truthfully, I want to enroll in all the enrichment classes. I’ve gotten to peek in on all the classes, and students seem so engaged; I’m seeing lots of laughter and eager question-asking!

If I had to pick a few, one class I would definitely join would be Zubin’s eco-adventures class. He took his students on a hike on their first day of class. When I was a Nueva student, I always wanted to sneak off the Tanahana Trail and explore the flora.

I would also want to join any class that Helen Wicks from ODC offers. She teaches very high-level performance skills to our youngest Nueva students. She gets them comfortable using their bodies to tell stories and fill the stage, which is something adults often struggle with.

4. If in the future you were reflecting back on your first years working at Nueva, what would you hope to have accomplished and in what ways would you hope to have grown professionally?

In my work with enrichment, I hope I will have helped to create a strong sense of cohesion and community within the program. It’s wonderful that we have so many students who want to keep learning from Nueva teachers after the school day has ended, and I want to make sure we are offering those passionate students a rich array of classes to explore their interests in depth.

As a teacher, I hope that I will have gained confidence and learned effective strategies for differentiating lessons and creating responsive curricula for students who have diverse learning needs. I’ve learned so much about these topics from Carolee and Claire’s mentorship in the preK classroom; I’m excited to apply what I’ve learned there to performing arts classes.

5. If you could time-travel somewhere and stay for five minutes, where and when would you go?

I would split my time into two 2.5-minute chunks and eavesdrop on conversations happening simultaneously between my two sets of grandparents when they were my age. They grew up across an ocean and half a continent from each other, in the suburbs of Chicago and a fishing town on Tokyo Bay.

Despite living in two very different cultures, they had so much in common: both grandfathers were engineers and liked eating pickled garlic straight out of the jar (much to both grandmothers’ chagrin), and my grandmothers shared a birthday and could stop you in your tracks with their sass. I’d love to see how they were different as twenty-somethings and what they retained into grandparenthood.

 October 13, 2017




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