Developing a love of the arts at Magic City Acceptance Academy—apply now


MCAA fine arts staff
MCAA fine arts staff at Red Mountain Theatre. l-r: Megan Haller, Spiro Gerontakis, Jim Gibbs + Rachel Benoit. Photo via Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now

Magic City Acceptance Academy (MCAA) is going to be offering phenomenal opportunities to its students. Last month we met the STEM teachers. Now it’s time to meet the Fine Arts staff. They shared the vision for the arts at this new tuition-free public charter school for rising 6-12 graders. MCAA is open to anyone in the area, and they’re taking applications for the 2021-22 school year now

Fine arts are a key part of the Magic City Acceptance Academy (MCAA) experience

Charity Jackson, MCAA
Charity Jackson is Magic City Acceptance Academy’s Chief Academic Officer. Photo via Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now

To learn how the arts fit into the overall curriculum, we reached out to Charity Jackson. She explained that Fine Arts was one of the most requested programs they’ve had from the very beginning.

“Alabama High School Graduation requirements include three full credits of CTE (Career Technical Education), World Language and/or Arts Education. For high school students, Fine Arts classes can fulfill their requirements or serve as electives.

Middle school students will be able to take semester-long Fine Arts courses in theater, voice, instrumental music and visual arts. We want all students to truly explore their many talents and interests.”

Want your child to have this kind of opportunity for a deep dive into the arts? Register today for rising 6-12 graders for the 2021-22 school year.

Meet Magic City Acceptance Academy’s new Fine Arts staff

MCAA Fine Arts staff
Magic City Acceptance Academy’s Fine Arts staff. Photo via Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now, mural by Cliff Simon

To learn more about Fine Arts at MCAA, we talked with three new teachers and the program’s director:

  • Rachel Benoit, 6-12 Visual Arts and Graphic Design
  • Spiro Gerontakis, 6-12 Theater and Chorus
  • Megan Haller, 6-12 Instrumental Music and Band
  • Jim Gibbs, Director of Fine Arts

MCAA Fine Arts Staff Bios

Rachel Benoit, MCAA fine arts
Rachel Benoit will be teaching Visual Arts and Graphic Design. Photo via Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now, mural by Cliff Simon

Rachel Benoit worked in PR and advertising before deciding to become an art teacher. Her mission is to advocate for the arts and provide a creative outlet to every student, no matter their background. Her own art focuses on diversity and environmental issues. She’ll be teaching Visual Arts and Graphic Design. 

Spiro Gerontakis has a deep passion for theater and the arts. He’s excited to collaborate with students to create and share stories together. He’s spent the past five years in Boston teaching everything from 9th grade math to performing arts. At MCAA, he’ll be teaching Theatre and Chorus. 

Megan Haller spent four years in the Shoals Symphony Orchestra. For the 2019-20 season, she served as the Student President of the symphony. Currently, she teaches private violin lessons and is a violist for the Gadsden Symphony Orchestra. In her free time, Megan enjoys hiking and swimming with her dog. She’ll be the Instrumental Music teacher. 

Jim Gibbs professional theater journey has spanned the globe, from London’s West End to New Zealand, for over two decades. His first Broadway show, Dame Edna—The Royal Tour, received a 2000 Tony Award. He directs the Fine Arts program. 

To learn more, we asked each teacher two questions:

  • What are you most excited about?
  • What attracted you to Magic City Acceptance Academy?

Here’s what they said.

Bham Now: What are you most excited about, getting ready for MCAA’s first year?

Megan Haller, MCAA
Megan Haller will be teaching Instrumental Music and Band. Photo via Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now, mural by Cliff Simon

Rachel Benoit: I’m excited to see what a difference the learning environment makes. It’s focused on what the students need and how they can succeed. Of course, I love art. Being able to teach that in a classroom, and being supported in that is really awesome, too.

We’ll be doing pottery and ceramics, painting, drawing. We’ll be exploring the side of creativity that a lot of kids tend to leave behind at a young age. I want to meet them where they’re at and challenge them to develop their own sense of style.

Spiro Gerontakis: I’m really excited to learn with my students and to collaborate with them. That can be on theater projects, outside-of-class events they’d like to have, or anything that sparks their excitement around theater. And showcasing their talents in some type of way. 

Megan Haller: I am excited to teach in the classroom. I want to be a good music teacher for my students. I want them to develop a love and a passion for music.

Bham Now: What attracted you to Magic City Acceptance Academy? 

Spiro Gerontakis
Spiro Gerontakis will be teaching Theatre and Chorus. Photo via Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now, mural by Cliff Simon

Rachel Benoit: When I saw on Facebook that they were trying to create this inclusive environment for students to learn in, I thought that was a really wonderful thing. As soon as they were starting to look for people to apply, I felt very pulled to want to be a part of that so I can continue to grow as a teacher in an environment where students are really cared for.

Spiro Gerontakis:  Lots of things! Initially, it was really how important diversity, equity and inclusion were so clearly stated on the school’s website and social media posts. That and project-based learning—seeing kids engaged and taking charge of their education in that way seems super, super fun. Also the fact that it’s in Birmingham, where I grew up.

Megan Haller:  I think the mission is amazing. Growing up in the LGBT community, there was a lot of societal pressure in school and at home in general. To have an environment where that is no longer a factor for students, where you aren’t worried about your peers or your teachers looking down on you will be amazing. 

The bottom line: encouraging a lifelong love of the arts

Jim Gibbs, MCAA
Jim Gibbs is eager to create an inclusive learning environment for all, where each student can develop a love for the arts. Graphic via MCAA

Jim Gibbs summed it up like this: 

“We want to encourage a lifelong exploration of the arts. They’re a great way to learn how to communicate, to express yourself and figure out more about yourself. I love everything about the arts.”

Gibbs elaborated that everyone is committed to getting the students out in the community to experience art in real time, in addition to what they’ll be offering in the classroom. They are determined to find ways to provide students with opportunities and training, no matter their particular interest area. 

Magic City Acceptance Academy is taking applications now for rising 6-12 graders for the 2021-22 school year. All are welcome to apply.

Sponsored by:

Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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