Gwen’s career journey has been as varied as the schools she has served. Over the past 37 years, she has been a teacher, administrator, theater director, counselor, and student advocate in both private and public educational institutions with students at all age levels: K–graduate school. Having spent over 25 of those years in all-girls’ schools—including Miss Porter’s School, The Ethel Walker School, Chatham Hall, and St. Joseph College—Gwen is a firm believer in the transformational power of the single-sex school experience for both girls and boys.
“I prefer to say that I teach students rather than “I teach English and theater,” says Gwen. “While I am ardent about literature, not every student feels the same way. My goal is to guide students to a deeper understanding of and appreciation for literature, writing, and acting, supporting them as they endeavor to find their authentic voices in the classroom, on the page, and on the stage.”
Gwen holds a BA in both English literature and theater arts from Drew University, and an MA in education from St. Joseph College (now University of St. Joseph). In the classroom, she works through texts in a way that allows students to connect to the experiences of the characters; she believes when they feel empathy for a character, there is a better chance that they will work harder, read more deeply, and remain interested in the reading. Likewise, in theater, she continually challenges actors to think deeply about creating complex characters.
“Students create more genuine characters when they are empowered to make connections with their own experiences and trust their own intuition.”
An avid theater director, Gwen was honored to receive honorable mention from the Tony Awards for Excellence in Theatre Education in 2016. Her passion for the stage began at the age of 13 when she played Zaneeta Shinn in an Iowa community theater production of The Music Man. From that point on, she looked for any opportunity to explore the craft.
“While in college, I performed in numerous productions but also worked with a New York composer/lyricist team to create original lead roles in two new musicals, a collaboration which opened up an opportunity to record and perform vocal music from new musicals for prospective financial backers in NYC.”
In 1985, she moved from the New York area to begin a new chapter at Miss Porter's School (MPS) where she worked in admissions, taught English 9 and Advanced Acting, and also directed the school's musical theater productions. It was then that she first became affiliated with Avon Old Farms, casting several Winged Beavers in MPS productions. While at MPS, she also implemented the first all-school Shakespeare Festival, a tradition continued with AOF rockstar Roger Cantello years later at The Ethel Walker School. In 2014, Chatham Hall supported her summer academic work at Oxford University where she studied nine Shakespeare plays alongside colleagues from all over the world. The experience was a blend of literary and dramatic study, inspiring new ways of thinking about teaching and learning. Thrilling productions at The Globe, as well as the Royal Shakespeare Company, were included in the coursework.
“I will take every opportunity to experience professional live theater and keep a reflection journal of all the performances I’ve seen since 1981 when I saw James Earl Jones and Christopher Plummer in Othello,” Gwen says.
She and her husband, Ned Edwards, raised two daughters, Liss and Mega, both of whom attended The Ethel Walker School. While her daughters are dramatically different individuals, each found her unique voice through her time at a single-sex school.
“I feel honored to bring my experience to Avon Old Farms and look forward to the adventure of teaching and directing theater productions at an all-boys’ school for a change!”
- By the age of 18, Gwen had already lived in New York, California, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, and Connecticut. “When people ask me where I grew up, it’s kind of hard to nail down an answer. And, no, my parents were not in the military.”
- An aspiring beekeeper, she gave up her hives when she moved from southern Virginia to the Farmington Valley because there were just too many bears crossing through!
- Her husband, daughters, and she lived through the process of building a log cabin in the woods north of Camden, Maine. Although they no longer own the property, it was truly a family bonding experience!
- Her baseball loyalties are on the minor league level. “We were season ticket holders for the Durham Bulls when we lived in the South, the Sea Dogs when we spent summers in Maine, and now we head into Hartford for the Yard Goats. Small ballparks, future stars, cheaper food, and great games!”
- Gwen adores basset hounds and will consider no other breed.