Position: Theatre Director
District: Centinela Valley Union High School District
Location: Hawthorne, CA
Estella Owoimaha-Church, a 2017-18 LifeChanger of the Year nominee, is a theatre arts educator in Los Angeles. She is the daughter of two migrants to the US. Difficult circumstances growing up meant she had to help raise her siblings while still pursuing high school education. Estella now teaches in order to leave the world a better place than she found it. She credits her own teachers with her success. Presently, she serves as theatre director, district theatre course lead, academy leader, and English teacher in her school. Hired to rebuild a languishing theatre program, Estella has turned around a department that suffered low participation, student apathy and low graduation rates. In just two years, the students have produced four main-stage productions, competed in four state competitions, and attended at least three industry and leadership conferences. Reading and writing skills have improved, with half of students having a lexile increase of 25+ points. In theatre, Estella has regularly implemented conflict resolution strategies, including circle discussions. With added training in restorative justice, she has been able to improve conversations among students in a way that allows them to develop listening and speaking skills, resolve conflicts, and understand the importance of community. Developing empathy is a key objective for Estella’s teaching.
Last year, Estella was recognized at the Annual Education Excellence awards, and her department has also won the Theatre of Excellence and Extraordinary Theatre Educator awards. If awarded the prize, she would sustain her teaching by paying off the large student debts she had to take on to become a teacher; open a social-justice-based performing arts academy for grades 6-12; and travel around the world to learn from those doing similar work.