Fourth-grade Arizona teacher is a graduate of the Storytelling Institute
Graduation season is upon us — from preschool to Ph.Ds, lots of people are moving to the next chapter of their lives. In honor of that, The Show is turning the mic over to some of the most interesting grads in the Valley.
Mario Avent is a fourth-grade teacher who is now officially a storyteller. Avant, 43, recently graduated from the Storytelling Institute at South Mountain Community College. He has plans to create a storytelling club for his students.
The program that I completed is a 30-credit traditional oral storytelling certificate through South Mountain Community College. I think all my life I’ve been a storyteller, I just didn’t know it. I remember I used to read books when I was younger, I used to tell makeup stories for my little brother and sister.
One of the things I enjoy about storytelling is that it is the oldest tradition. It’s the oldest communication that we’ve had. We’ve been telling stories since stories have been stories. And then another thing that I like is it’s not reading out of a book. The way I feel is you can read out of a book all you want, but you’re not interacting with your audience. If I’m reading the story, my eyes aren’t connecting to the audience, my body isn’t connected to the audience. The book creates an obstacle for myself and the people who I’m telling the story to.
But when I’m doing a traditional oral storytelling, there’s no book there. It’s just me telling the story to the audience. I am vulnerable, I’m looking at them, they’re looking at me, and we’re all in the space together, so there’s no obstacles there. And that synergy, we feed off of each other.
I was in the army in Germany. When I came to Arizona, went to school — my wife and I — we came to South Mountain Community College, and she was doing a storytelling class. And at first I thought it was just reading books, it’s like, this doesn’t sound fun. And then she introduced me to one of her professors and at the time they were getting ready to do a contest called the Greek Enrollment Throwdown, where there’s 26 contestants, and each contestant gets a letter A through Z, and then they tell a Greek or Roman myth depending on their letter. So I met her professor and she asked me if I wanted to do a story. I said sure. She kind of told me what storytelling was and then she gave me the letter K for Kronos. Then I put it together and went on stage as Kronos with the persona of Dwayne the Rock Johnson from WWE and I did this whole story of Kronos and the crowd loved it.
And it made me feel good cause I was actually on stage, and I’ve done theater before, but it was completely different — it was breaking the fourth wall and interacting with the audience and I loved it. And from there I was hooked.
I use storytelling all the time in my teaching. I have a pond in my backyard, and we were learning about the ecosystem and we were learning about the food chain, and so I told a story about my pond and how there’s mosquitos that go into the pond, and then the mosquito fish that would eat the mosquitos, and then how the koi eat the mosquito fish.
Yeah, so I use the stories to teach a lesson. Storytelling is everywhere, and I feel like the more that people tell stories, the more that we will learn, and the more people that take storytelling, the more they will learn about themselves and the world around them.