Former Northport teacher impacts students decade after retiring

League of Professional Theatre Frances McGarry taught English and theater in the Northport-East Northport school district until 2004. Her former students include Tony and Emmy winner Edie Falco, a graduate of Northport High School and a star of “The Sopranos” and “Nurse Jackie.” Photo Credit: Blanche Mackey image[1]

Updated June 18, 2016 10:18 AM
By Joe Diglio  joe.diglio@newsday.com

The biggest piece of advice Frances McGarry gave students over the course of her 30-year teaching career — take risks and don’t be afraid of failure — was crystalized in one young man who overcame his fears and found his voice.

McGarry said an eighth-grade student she once had was terrified of a public speaking assignment because of a speech impediment. His mother asked that he not participate, but McGarry refused. She worked with him to overcome his barriers.

“By the end of the year, he was speaking freely and confidently,” McGarry said. The student had revealed himself to be “a bright kid who had a lot to share and was eager to voice his opinions.”

McGarry, who taught English and theater in the Northport-East Northport Union Free School District until 2004, said she was fortunate to come across many students with whom she could share her passion of literature and the arts. Often, the roles between McGarry and her students reversed.

“The honors English classes’ literary discussions kept me on my feet and taught me to listen and guide their queries and observations,” McGarry said.

A decade after retiring, though, McGarry still is heavily involved in both teaching and theater. She continues to work as an actress, most recently performing in the off-Broadway musical “Votes.” As a board member of the League of Professional Theatre Women, she serves as a mentor to young actresses. McGarry also runs an arts advocacy blog called “First Online with Fran.”

She said it’s been rewarding to see her impact on those she taught.

One former student went on to become a famous actress of stage and screen. In a 2013 Broadway.com interview, she said McGarry was the teacher who inspired her to pursue acting.

High praise for the teacher, but to McGarry, she was still Edie Falco, the shy teenager who graduated from Northport High School. McGarry said she maintains a relationship with the former “Sopranos” star to this day and attends many of her performances.

“She’s just ‘Edie’ to me,” McGarry said.

Other students have reached out to her over the years, submitting testimonials on her blog about how the arts — and McGarry — have transformed their lives. Considering her continued involvement in theater and the lasting connections she has maintained with her students, it’s no wonder McGarry said she doesn’t miss teaching.

“I’m always amazed at the lives I’ve touched,” McGarry said. “There are so many paybacks to being a teacher.”

Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing series on the careers of retired Long Island teachers and where they are now. If you are a retired Long Island teacher and would like to share your story, click on the Newsday  link.

 

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The First 100 Stories Campaign

The Arts continue to be cut from school curriculums across the nation. Despite arts advocacy groups’ efforts to prevent the decline of arts inclusion, the budgetary solution remains to be that the arts are perceived as extra-curricular and disposable.  In Chris Cleave’s novel Little Bee, the central character decided to right a wrong by collecting stories:  “One story makes you weak.  But as soon as we have one-hundred stories, you will be strong.” Similarly, we can do the same for the Arts.  Here’s how:

First Online with Fran is launching The First 100 Stories Campaign.

Let’s hear it from you: Teachers! Students! Graduates! Parents! Artists!

How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today? Click here.

How are the arts re-igniting your community and sparking innovation and creativity in your local schools? Click here.

Here’s the first testimonial…contributed by one of my favorite high school students…

Testimonial #1. Edie Falco, Tony-Award winning Actor

“Fran McGarry and Eve Terry, perhaps unbeknownst to them, played a huge part in my path to my present career. Though I was just a school kid, they treated me like an artist; made me believe I had something unique to offer. They helped grow my confidence which I believe can take you anywhere you want to go. I am so grateful.”

What’s your story?  First Online With Fran wants to hear what you have to say…

The Madrid’s Edie Falco on Carmela, Jackie and the High School Musical That Launched Her Career

By Kathy Henderson
Twitter @KatH_NY
February 27, 2013
Broadway.Com

Before Edie Falco donned mob wife couture as Carmela in The Sopranos, she won a Theatre World Award for her harrowing performance as the embittered wife of a jazz musician in Warren Leight’s Tony-winning drama Side Man. Falco continued to make stage acting a priority while becoming only the second person in history to win lead acting Emmys in both drama (The Sopranos) and comedy (the title role in Nurse Jackie). Now starring as a runaway mom in MTC’s off-Broadway premiere of The Madrid, Falco chatted with Broadway.com about her iconic TV heroines, three favorite stage roles and the high school musical that gave her the confidence to pursue a career in acting.
Read more…

Role That Changed My Life

“I was a shy, awkward kid—I didn’t know how to be popular and never wore the right clothes—and being chosen to play Eliza in My Fair Lady at Northport High School [on Long Island] was very, very meaningful. My mother had been an actress, and the idea of auditioning for a play was mortifyingly scary for me. But Fran McGarry, who is still performing, cast me and gave me the confidence that I could carry a play and lead an ensemble. The fact that she trusted me was a huge part in my becoming an actress. My Henry Higgins was David Troup, who now works at a theater in Maine [Everyman Rep] and was one of my dearest friends. I would love to do a [Broadway] musical. I almost did Threepenny Opera with Alan Cumming, but I had a conflict. I find the whole mode of expression in musicals very moving.”

Fran’s Comment:

As Edie’s high school drama teacher, I am grateful and humbled to know that I played a small part in the arc of her career; nevertheless, there are thousands of teachers who have impacted the lives of so many students. Edie was the first to share her story:
“Fran McGarry and Eve Terry, perhaps unbeknownst to them, played a huge part in my path to my present career. Though I was just a schoolkid, they treated me like an artist; made me believe I had something unique to offer. They helped grow my confidence which I believe can take you anywhere you want to go. I am so grateful.” Edie Falco, July 11,2011

What about you?
How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

The First 100 Stories Campaign: A Testimonial from Edie Falco!

Frances McGarry, Edie Falco and Eve Terry
“Fran McGarry and Eve Terry, perhaps unbeknownst to them, played a huge part in my path to my present career. Though I was just a schoolkid, they treated me like an artist; made me believe I had something unique to offer. They helped grow my confidence which I believe can take you anywhere you want to go. I am so grateful.”

– Edie Falco
July 11, 2011
Let’s hear it from you: Teachers! Students! Graduates! Parents! Artists! 
Click here to submit your testimonial.