QHS Alumni Spotlight: Meghan Buckley ‘02
By: Katie Rodemich
It has been twenty-two years since high school graduation and Meghan (Parks) Buckley ‘02, now holds the title roles of Director of Theater and English Teacher at QHS. Meghan has been involved in nearly 100 shows as director and/or student performer and is now carrying on the traditions of A-Building for the next generation.
Looking back as a former student, what did QHS prepare you for?
“QHS really prepared me for being very active in the fine arts, how to balance my time and how to be a good communicator, not with just the students, but also with the directors and adults in my life. I needed to be able to be independent. My parents were very supportive of me with my decision to make a career working in the fine arts. I had to learn how to do things on my own. I remember freshman year in college, when other students who did not know how to function without parents and time management. This was something that QHS prepared me for immensely.”
Who were your favorite teachers when you were a student in high school?
“That’s a great question. My fine arts teachers, of course, were incredibly important to me in high school. I had the privilege of having Tom Burnett as my theater teacher and director. When I came back to teach, Tom and I were co-directors for shows for several years, and still to this day, whenever I have a production, one of the first invitations I send always goes to Tommy. Whenever he’s in the audience, I just I feel so lucky, and I always want to make him proud. There are only a couple people in the audience that I feel the need to make proud, my mom being one of them and Tom Burnett being another.
“I loved my experiences in choir and band. Les Fonza and Dan Sherman, of course, were the people that were my directors. I loved every minute of those experiences. Of course, Show Choir and some of the extracurricular activities that Kathi Dooley oversaw really made my high school experience so fun. Coming from QHS, knowing our strong traditions, now as an educator and getting to uphold and carry on those traditions and watching the kids do something that I did, is incredible. I still get warm fuzzies when I hear them sing “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” before a musical. Some days I can close my eyes and I can hear my friends and I standing in the same circle and singing the same song, even though it’s been over 20 years.”
Did the fine arts teachers of the QHS Music Department inspire you to become a teacher?
“I feel like they inspired me to push myself and to think outside of the box. Mr. Burnett taught me to never limit myself, try new things, take risks, and that it’s okay if it doesn’t work out the first time. Just try again! I don’t necessarily feel it inspired me to become a teacher because that wasn’t originally the plan. I do feel my teachers inspired me to keep the performing arts in my world, which is why I wanted to be a theater major and to see where that would take me.”
Looking back, what are some of your best memories from school?
“I have a lot of fun memories from high school. All the crazy trips we would take for either competitions or for marching band and going to Disney. Believe it or not, my first time going to Disney was when I was a senior in high school with the music trip. I had been to a lot of places, but my family had yet to go to Disney. I was 17 when I got to experience that for the first time. I loved going to theater festivals with Mr. Burnett, going on trips to State so we could see what other schools were doing, and going to workshops.
“My high school friends and I get together and have funny little jokes that we still bring up. I remember we hated our show choir outfits. They were dated with very poofy sleeves. While they looked good on stage, we always had to wear very big earrings and when your arms went up the puffy sleeve of sequins would get caught in your earring. You would have to finish the production or routine with your ear stuck to your shoulder until it came loose. I loved getting a good tan at Bandcamp, even though it was ridiculously hot every August. The musical was always one of my most favorite times of high school. Musicals, plays and Show Choir were probably some of the most fun.”
As the QHS theater teacher, Meghan is honored to pass on the traditions that were taught to her as a student. She learned to take the chances to express oneself as a performer from the Fine Arts program.
“I love teaching my theater class and part of the reason why I love that is because there’s something about the dynamics in the classroom. I have students from all different ages, all different friend groups, all different walks of life, all different levels of confidence and shyness. It’s just such a unique group because they’re there for a variety of reasons. Some want to take it for the credit for graduation, as an English credit, and some want to take it because they’re really interested in theater. Others want to take it because somebody suggested it to them. There’s just a variety of reasons.
“During the first few weeks of school, we spend a lot of time doing team building and starting the idea of being comfortable with each other and understanding that when you walk into the room, it should be a safe space and a place to explore ideas and that you aren’t always going to be yourself. You must be able to put yourself out there and that if you mess up, that’s okay, because there’s no such thing as perfect in the world of theater.
“I feel so wonderful to see students gain confidence in the classroom. Not everyone’s going to leave the room feeling like they are the next theater major or next performing arts, Oscar winner or that they’re going to be working tech theater on Broadway. But when they do leave, my goals are for them to feel like they know how to speak well in front of somebody. So maybe for a job interview or that they know how to work with others in a team building relationship, especially if it’s somebody you’ve never met, or maybe it’s somebody you have a clashing personality with. And I love seeing them grow from August to May. It’s very cool.”
Aside from teaching Theater and English, Meghan is one of many players within the Music Department running the traditional musical that theater-goers cherish every autumn and she also directs the two plays for winter and spring.
“Outside of the academic day, while I whole heartedly love musicals, they are alot. Our last show, we had 142 students involved in “White Christmas” with just a few adults to manage everyone, schedules, teaching, and space. While I really enjoy a musical, I also enjoy the intimacy of the small group for a theater production. So right now, for “Rosie the Riveter,” I have 44, and that’s a big group. We’re getting to make stronger relationships, one-on-one. We have more time to help the cast and crew grow, whether it’s one of the new painting techniques or stretching them as an actor. There’s something special about the smaller group for the spring and winter plays.”
As a teacher, a director, a mom of two; Haley (7) and Landon (2) and a wife to fellow alum David Buckley (‘01), Meghan’s life is full. When asked if she had other interests that she would love to take on, aside from fulfilling her passion for theater as a teacher, Meghan could only laugh.
“That’s hilarious, because when the school year starts there’s not a lot of time for the extra things, and when I do have the time, it’s spending with my kids. I rehearse six days out of the week for the school year. I usually get a couple of weeks with no rehearsal, but in addition, I am the Theater Club sponsor, and I also teach an overload class of technical theater outside of the school day.”
“Summertime is probably where I see more of my free time. I’m a big movie watcher when I can find the time, and I love to read as well. Traveling is something my husband and I did a lot more before we had kids, but now that Landon’s getting a little bit older, we’re starting to travel again and provide more experiences for them as well.”
Mrs. Buckley’s advice for current students –
“Dream big. This is such a time to be selfish when it comes to your future. It’s hard to remember when you’re only 14, 15, 16, or 17 years old that if you are so passionate about something you should strive to learn as much as you can. Education is one of those things that no one can ever take away from you, no matter what. What you learn is always yours.”
“I love to remind my students just to dream big, but still be realistic at the same time. QHS has such wonderful opportunities for elective classes and extracurricular activities that other schools don’t have. So, if at 15, you’re thinking graphic design might be neat, let’s take the class. Let’s learn more, let’s try these things, let’s see what we can do to get that into your world now to see if you like it or not.”
“Then the other thing that I would recommend for advice to my students is to make strong friendships and cherish those strong friendships even if it’s one or two. Fifty friends doesn’t mean fifty quality friends. Surround yourself by people that are going to support you and you are going to support them! These people can be part of your inner circle and having that strong support of family and friends is something that is going to take you far in your personal and professional life.”
Don’t forget to get your tickets for the upcoming performance of the QHS winter play, Rosie the Riveter, Performances are February 8th– 10th at 7:00 pm.
To get your tickets, visit qps.org/music or call the Music Office at 217.224.3774