Stillwater High's Lisa Larios: Teacher of the Month – Presented by Simmons Bank

simmons bank

Raised on a horse and cattle ranch just west of Yukon, Lisa Larios grew up in a home where both parents were entertainers. Her mother played the fiddle in the family band and her father sang cowboy ballads. A recording of some of their work is in the Smithsonian Institute. So, it is no wonder, Lisa became a drama teacher at Stillwater High School.

“Teaching on the middle school level for eighteen years, I was searching for something different. I found that my philosophy in teaching was changing and I wanted to stretch and try directing more challenging plays and students. Coming to Stillwater High School was exactly what I longed for,” said Larios. “I felt a sense of freedom to experiment and help students develop a life-long love for the performing arts. Throughout my teaching career, I have been fortunate to work with some very talented students, directing 112 one-act plays, 46 full length plays, and 17 musicals.”

As a student, Larios was heavily involved in drama when she attended school at Yukon High School. “I competed in both debate and competitive acting events winning several awards. However, my real love was acting. I was in every production offered in the three years at Yukon High School being cast in support roles and character parts. It was my food and water and I just couldn’t get enough of it. But a project in my drama class changed the direction of my life,” said Larios. “I was given the opportunity to direct a one act play production. I loved it even more than acting. This is what I knew was my destiny, to direct.

Once I began teaching, I was inspired by one of my students to perfect my craft in pantomime. Quickly I became known in the community and soon people were paying me to perform all over the state and beyond. Because teaching is my real job, pantomime remains a hobby and I make myself available for charity events.” 

Lisa Larios

Like other educators in the profession, Larios can point to several people that made an impact on her over the years and how that influence led her to where she is today.  “Most people have that one defining moment that changes the direction in their lives. I had two: Doyle Greteman and Dr. Jerry Davis. Both of these incredible teachers are responsible for my becoming a drama teacher. When entering high school in Yukon, I felt lost and forgotten. There I was, an introverted string bean from a rural school facing a large high school. Who came to my rescue? A teacher! Doyle Greteman, the Speech/Drama teacher, took a giant risk casting me, an unknown sophomore, in a major role in the school play. It changed my life. Through his constant prodding and teasing, I began to discover things in myself that I didn’t even know were there. And I discovered something else, my purpose in life. Mr. Greteman was ultimately responsible for my decision to become a speech/drama teacher,” said Larios. “But I can’t leave out Dr. Jerry Davis, my Oklahoma State University stagecraft and lighting professor. He demanded more than any teacher I ever had. A perfectionist, he expected perfection from his students. He really prepared me for work after college. This same professor still comes to most of the plays, giving his critiques and insight to each. What an incredible teacher!” 

Her path to Stillwater High School started in Mustang, OK at a middle school in 1980 during a time when drama teachers were a rarity at the middle school level, according to Larios.  Like other educators, Larios is facing challenges in the classroom, all-be-it different challenges than many of her peers. 

“About three years ago, I was given a new acting class that was geared for special needs students only. To my knowledge, no one else in the state teaches a class like this. There was no training, no curriculum, and no online resources. It has been trial by fire with lots of laughter and even a few tears, but the students are learning. In their eyes, they are getting to do something “normal.” More importantly, they are developing a life-long love for the arts,” said Larios. “Stillwater High School has a beautiful Performing Arts Center, but play productions are a very expensive endeavor. We are fortunate to have a supportive school board that provides partial funding for these productions. One major thing the Performing Arts Center is lacking is ample storage. Following any production, there seems to be more costumes, more props, more set pieces and nowhere to store them. Currently we store the larger items such as set pieces and furniture in a warehouse off campus. We are grateful to have the space, but it is not very convenient. Storage on campus is overflowing, leaving the only option to “weed out” items that are rarely used.”

But for Larios, like educators across Oklahoma, there is a larger picture to consider when analyzing Oklahoma’s education system.  “In order for Oklahoma to move forward and become a leading state in education, it is going to take more than adequate funding. The teacher accountability process and educational laws are constantly changing, leaving administrators and teachers alike overwhelmed. We must continue to fight for greater funding and be informed on the current issues affecting education. We must not be divided but work together to solve these issues. Teachers as well as parents must get involved in this process. With the last elections, a shift in leadership at the capitol has begun. This is a positive step in the right direction,” said Larios. 

Lisa Larios, is married to Kevin Larios, a Noise Engineer for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. They have twin boys, both graduates of Stillwater High School. The Larios family has called Stillwater their home since 1998. Son Lance is a Parks Planner for the City of Miami, Florida and son Williams is a Grounds Area Leader for Oklahoma State University. The rewards of teaching come to Larios from her students. “The greatest reward in teaching is when the students recognize and develop a true sense that what they do matters, that they matter. When you can bring your own principal to tears while viewing a play that is when you know you have done something wonderful,” said Larios.