Openly gay Pennsylvania teacher fired for applying for marriage license

Michael Griffin, an openly gay teacher at the Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Pennsylvania for 12 years, was suddenly fired from his job yesterday – the same day he and his long-time partner applied for a same-sex marriage license.

From WPVI:

Michael Griffin says he emailed the principal of Holy Ghost Prep earlier in the week saying he may be late Friday, that he was applying for a marriage license.

After an in-service day he says he was called into the office of School President Father James McCloskey, along with Principal Jeffrey Danilak. Griffin explains, “He said, ‘It’s not really a secret here that you’re gay.’ I said, ‘Correct.’ He said, ‘I assume this is a same sex marriage.’ ‘Yes.’ He said if I go through with it, he had no choice but to terminate my position.”

In tears, he left. His over a decade-long tenure at Holy Ghost was over. “I really didn’t think that it would happen. At our school we talk about it’s a community our motto is ‘One heart, one mind.'”

His partner, Vincent Giannetto, tells Action News, “We applied this morning and on the same day he’s fired from his job. So it kind of flipped things upside down for us.”

Holy Ghost is an all boys Catholic high school located in Bensalem, Pennsylvania.

(via Towleroad)

Students rally around fired gay teacher in Glendora, California

Ken Bencomo (R)

This makes my heart swell a bit 🙂

After the wedding of a popular teacher was made public, the private school he taught at fired him. Now present and former students are rallying to his defense and demanding he be reinstated.

More than 45,000 people have signed a petition launched by Ken Bencomo’s students, demanding that he be allowed to return to his job this fall. Bencomo has taught English at St. Lucy’s Priory High School in Glendora, Calif., for 17 years. On July 1, a local newspaper ran a front page article about marriage equality, featuring a photo of Bencomo and his husband.

Despite an outpouring of support by alumni, faculty, and current students, Bencomo swiftly was told by school administrators that his marriage violated the Catholic church’s teachings, so he had to be fired.

A press conference is planned for 9am tomorrow at the school to deliver the 45K signatures.

Brittany Littleton, an alum of the school and former student of Bencomo, had this to say about her reasons for coordinating the petition: “As a proud alum of St. Lucy’s, I am hurt and saddened by this
blatant discrimination against Mr. B. No one should be fired for
marrying the person they love. Along with current and former St. Lucy’s students, I look forward to
taking this message, along with 45,000 signatures, directly to my alma
mater. It’s the Christian thing to do.”

(via Advocate)

RIP Arthur Storch

Arthur Storch – 1925-2013

I attended university at Syracuse University and received a BFA in Music Theatre in 1985.  Arthur Storch was the head of the theatre department and Founder/Artistic Director of Syracuse Stage, the prestigious professional theatre in Central New York state.  (p.s. he also directed and appeared in many plays on Broadway like “Twice Around The Park” and “Tribute.” More on his Broadway career here).

Arthur was a great teacher, but tough.  You never got up in front of Arthur and “made a run at it.”  If you were going to act in Arthur’s class, you better know what you are doing and how you are doing it.  Arthur wanted his students to learn craft.  HOW to act.  Not “hope” it appears.

After running a scene in Arthur’s class, you would explain what aspect of the scene you worked on – intention, obstacle, environment, etc… The students would question & comment on whether they saw that work; this was often “the lambs to the lions.” And then the “king of the jungle” would weigh in.  Arthur was very challenging because he cared.  He wanted you to think for yourself and never stop exploring the work.  Some times, it seemed, you were crushed by him pushing you and your process.  But every now and then, when rare praise would happen, you knew you had taken a real step forward as an actor.

As a senior, I auditioned and was invited to take Arthur’s advanced acting class. 

Up to that point I never felt like I was taken seriously as an actor.   I was the “dancer boy.”  Most in the class were Drama majors and directing majors; only a few Music Theatre majors were in the class.  I was excited, intimidated and scared.

In Arthur’s advanced class, you could bring as much work as you liked to class and depending on the day, as much work as time allowed was done.  “Who has a monologue?  Who has a scene?”

I only did one scene in class, with dear Jill McCord.  I was scared to death.  The scene went as planned, the class gave some comments, and then Arthur offered up his estimation.  I’ll never forget – with a smile, he said “I thought it was very good.  I’m glad someone hasn’t wasted their parents money here at SU.”  Simple, but HUGE to me!  What a stamp of approval!  I remember feeling a bit numb, and I remember seeing uber-talented senior drama major Donna Horlitz smile in the back of class.  (This post is practically a stream of consciousness, so forgive me if I leave things out).

At the next Lab (scenes in front of the full acting department and faculty on Wednesdays) Arthur made a point of asking my thoughts on a scene that day in front of the entire department.  And he did so on other occasions.  Some times he would verbally agree (!!!), some times he would just nod and move on after my comments.  But it was flattering that he thought I had something of interest to say.

One day during that senior year, he stopped me to chat about HANDY DANDY, which he had just directed for Syracuse Stage.  I told him how much I liked the play and the approach to the production.  It’s hard to believe I could even admit to having an opinion about it.  He asked me questions, and wanted me to ask him questions.  We spent about 20 minutes – that I never forgot – talking about the play and the process.

All of this meant the world to me and was a serious confidence boost.

To this day, I ask the dancers and actors I work with to keep digging every day  – past opening night.  I recently staged a production of CHICAGO the Musical and all I said to my actors on opening night was “there is no finish line – keep digging.”

Arthur taught me to ask questions.

He taught me about craft.

He taught me.

Thank you – RIP Arthur Storch.

National Teacher Appreciation Day 2012

I am today an amalgamation of the amazing teachers who inspired me along my journey.  My fifth grade teacher Mrs. McDaniels, my high school choir teacher Donna Norton and my college acting and dance teachers who pushed me to hone skills and explore the art of theater.

The hours those teachers spent made a difference.  How many times can you say you made a difference?

On this Teacher Appreciation Day, I’d like thank all teachers for your countless hours, your sweat and tears, and your relentless commitment to our children. You do not make enough in financial compensation, in my estimation, for taking on the task of preparing the next generation of Americans.  Thank you for answering such a higher call.

For me, nothing says what I feel about teachers better than Taylor Mali’s brilliant poem – “What Teachers Make” – in the video above.  Mali is a vocal advocate of teachers and the nobility of teaching,
having himself spent nine years in the classroom teaching everything
from English and history to math and S.A.T. test preparation.

has performed and lectured for teachers all over the world, and his New
Teacher Project has a goal of creating 1,000 new teachers through
“poetry, persuasion, and perseverance.”

Visit for more on Mali and his New Teacher Project.

Keeping The Beat: a teacher talks about schools and music education

In many ways, my “life” began in elementary school music classes. Without music classes, I would have never begun singing, which led to dancing, which led to acting, which led to my whole career. Arts programs – like music classes – not only help develop the artistic side of children but it gives kids confidence to own their own expression.

As schools face difficult budget cuts, arts programs across the country are now in danger. Losing them could deprive students of a valuable experience that they may not have a chance to have later. Many universities are facing their own budget problems, and it’s not easy for an accredited online college to lead a music class

Jay Chung, a Philadelphia music teacher, recently stood with President Obama and Vice President Biden and called on Congress to pass the American Jobs Act. The Jobs Act would help hire more teachers and improve school facilities across the country, among other things.

Watch Jay’s story and see first-hand why the American Jobs Act is so important to schoolchildren in Pennsylvania.

Matt Damon’s speech to teacher’s rally in Washington, D.C.

Here is part of the speech that actor Matt Damon gave today to thousands of teachers, parents and others who attended the Save Our Schools march on the Ellipse near the White House to protest the Obama administration’s education policies that are centered on standardized tests.

I was raised by a teacher. My mother is a professor of early childhood education. And from the time I went to kindergarten through my senior year in high school, I went to public schools. I wouldn’t trade that education and experience for anything.

I had incredible teachers. As I look at my life today, the things I value most about myself — my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity — all come from how I was parented and taught.

And none of these qualities that I’ve just mentioned — none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought me so much joy, that have brought me so much professional success — none of these qualities that make me who I am … can be tested.

I said before that I had incredible teachers. And that’s true. But it’s more than that. My teachers were EMPOWERED to teach me. Their time wasn’t taken up with a bunch of test prep — this silly drill and kill nonsense that any serious person knows doesn’t promote real learning. No, my teachers were free to approach me and every other kid in that classroom like an individual puzzle. They took so much care in figuring out who we were and how to best make the lessons resonate with each of us. They were empowered to unlock our potential. They were allowed to be teachers.

Read Matt Damon’s entire speech here.