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Kansas educator recognized after battle with brain cancer

Special to the Pittsburg Morning Sun
Pittsburg High School theatre teacher Greg Shaw was recently recognized with the International Thespian Society Spirit of Thespis Award. - COURTESY PHOTO

Pittsburg High School theatre teacher Greg Shaw has been honored with the International Thespian Society Spirit of Thespis Award, a discretionary honor that recognizes up to three schools or individuals that, when faced with a serious challenge, demonstrated grace under pressure.

ITS, established in 1929, has 2.4 million members and is the honor society for middle and high school drama students. A thespian troupe is a group of students who have earned induction into the honor society. ITS is a program of the Educational Theatre Association.

Shaw serves as the director of Thespian Troupe 3149 at PHS. In recent years, he has taken numerous productions to Kansas Thespian Festival, including the 2020 opening show Pippin, the 2019 International Thespian Festival show Bring It On, which was also the Kansas Thespians All-State Musical, and the 2018 Kansas Thespian Festival and International Thespian Festival mainstage show, Urinetown.

Shaw, who earned his degree from Pittsburg State University, serves on the Kansas Thespians Board of Directors and on the Pittsburg Community Theatre Board of Directors. He has continued this service, and his teaching, during a difficult battle with brain cancer that began last year.

In nominating him for the award, Jennifer Morgan-Beauchat, director of Thespian Troupe 287 in Leavenworth, Kansas, described Shaw as being gritty, creative, determined, and a stalwart advocate for his students and program.

“He is considered by many to be a fine director, teacher, and friend,” she said, adding that she wishes the Spirit of Thespis Award “will offer hope and inspiration to an amazing person who represents theatre in our schools with grace and class.”

The award was presented on Friday, June 26, as part of a teacher tribute at the first-ever Virtual International Thespian Festival held June 22 to 26.

"This surprise was very special — and no one can usually surprise me," Shaw said. "I am very honored to have received the award. We always start every pre-show by saying, 'if it falls pick it up, if someone falls, help them up.' This award definitely exemplifies this motto."

Shaw said he "couldn’t accept this without recognizing the team that helped me when my health was suffering: Jason Huffman, Chuck Boyles, Cooper Neil, Susan Laushman, Kimberly Arzoian, Julie Laflen, Andra Stefanoni, Ray Cornell, my daughter, McKenna, the drama mamas and papas, my students, the teachers and administration and I’m sure I’m missing some! None of our success has ever stemmed from luck. Hard work, talent and confidence in our team is what makes PHS Theatre thrive."