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Saugus High teachers portray historical figures

Students meet Joan of Arc, Coco Chanel and Gurid.

Posted: March 26, 2008 12:38 a.m.
Updated: May 27, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Saugus English teacher Wendy Rashkin portrayed fashion mogul Coco Chanel during the presentation.

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Armed with a sword and wearing chain mail and armor, Joan of Arc told students at Saugus High School on Tuesday how the voices of the saints spoke to her as a teen, sending her on a holy mission to lead the French army and help Charles VII ascend the throne.

Featured as one of this year's Women in History, Joan of Arc - portrayed Tuesday by Saugus Career Transition Advisor Louise Willard - was charged with heresy and was burned at the stake at age 19.
"She had a belief, and no matter how crazy other people thought she was, she stuck with it," Willard said of the woman she portrayed. "I think her story teaches kids to be true to themselves and to their convictions."

This year's featured Women in History, selected by the Santa Clarita Valley PTA, will be portrayed by parents and teachers at schools across the valley.

Saugus is the only high school that participates in the program, and this is its second year.

In addition to Willard, Saugus teachers who volunteered to take on a different role Tuesday included English teacher Megan Botton as Gudrid the far traveler; Resource Specialist Jill Pappas as Louisa May Alcott; Theater Arts teacher Kim Gall as Abigail Burgess Grant; English teacher Wendy Rashkin as Coco Chanel; and Resource Specialist Marcus Garrett as the son of Ella Fitzgerald.

"A lot of people think it's a big deal for me to be a part of a Women in History program on campus, but it's no big deal to me - I don't see the novelty," said Garrett, who also participated last year. "I'm pretty much willing to do just about anything to share information with folks."

Fitzgerald, known as the First Lady of Song, had a No. 1 song by the age of 21 and won 13 Grammies despite being orphaned at the age of 15, Garrett told the students.

"She had difficulties in her life and yet had an incredible amount of success doing something she loved," he said.

As Coco Chanel, Rashkin greeted the students with a hearty bonjour before expounding on her exciting life in the world of women's fashion.

"I'm an American literature teacher playing a French woman," Rashkin said before her performance. "It's fun. (Coco's) so elegant -which I am not - so it's fun to pretend."

The program, sponsored by the American Association of University Women, gives Saugus students a good look at the women's movement throughout the years and helps them celebrate the outstanding achievements gained by women.

"The students learn that no matter who you are, male or female, young or old, and no matter what time frame, you can make a difference,"

Willard said. "It's a different way of telling a story.

"You put up a set and wear a costume, and the kids will remember it."

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