New East Lake drama teacher relishes putting students in the spotlight

Kim Florio performed on stage for 10 to 12 years before becoming a drama teacher.

PALM HARBOR — Lights, camera, action. East Lake High School has a new drama teacher.

She is Kim Florio, who previously taught drama at Countryside High School for 17 years.

What Florio likes about East Lake is the stage is huge and her students are driven.

Florio decided to switch schools to step out of her comfort zone.

At first, she didn’t want to be a drama teacher; she wanted to be a star.

“I was watching “The Love Boat” and watching Julie on a cruise ship and wanted do that for my whole life,” Florio said.

That’s when she decided to go into the theater but had a backup plan and got an education degree. Florio performed for 10-12 years before becoming a teacher.

The one thing that Florio misses about performing is that there are other people sharing responsibilities, and she was just an actor. As a drama teacher in a public high school, Florio does everything. What Florio likes about being a drama teacher is watching her students excel when they finally develop skills.

“I like watching the spark of the kids. I like watching them be scared and say I can’t do it. Try something that doesn’t work and then bomb it happens,” Florio said.

She always tells her kids she gets chills watching them.

The only hard thing is casting. When she watches some of her students not get what they want sometimes, it’s hard for her to see their broken spirit.

Florio teaches two musical theater classes, two technical theater classes and other classes. Florio is also in charge of the drama club at the school.

A typical day in her classroom is for students to get up and talk to people they don’t know — learning about theater and playing a game. Florio believes in hands-on learning.

Florio would describe herself as a kind teacher; she also believes in respect both ways.

Her students performed “Hello Dolly” in March. The sets were 14 feet high and she had a 70-person cast for the show.

Thinking about the shows she wants her kids to perform a year or two out, that’s when Florio starts doing all her paperwork.

One of her favorite shows is “A Chorus Line.” She first performed the show when she was 20 in college and then again professionally when she was 40 and understood her character more at that age.

“At 20 I thought I knew everything to play that character in “A Chorus Line” and I played Cassie, but at 40 when I played Cassie again, I was the age she really is. She was not a shriveled-up actress-dancer, but she already had her time,” Florio said.

She loved playing in the show and the dancing.

Anyone looking to become a drama teacher should make sure they are passionate and ready to give up some personal time. Also, they should make sure they know the technical aspects of teaching the course.

One of her favorite moments of being a teacher is when she brought in some professional ballroom dances that her students got to experience. One of her students went to the place after on her own time and thanked Florio for introducing her to that type of dancing.

Florio said that something like that has happened to her multiple times in teaching; students coming up and thanking her for taking them there or showing them some new skills.

The impact Florio hopes she has on her students is learning how to collaborate with others and being nice to others.

Florio’s next year shows possibly includes Disney performances.

She said Florio says the pay back of being a teacher does come years later from seeing her students trying to make it in New York City, to them performing in North Carolina at her professional theater during the summer and even some interviewing her.