Doherty’s Own Ryan Reed Helps Students Realize Their Potential

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Courtesy of Evan Cleghorn

One Acts students celebrate after their first performance with Mr. Reed.

Zoe Roberts

Marynn Krull, Editor-in-Chief

At just about any time of dayparticularly after school and at lunchthe Performing Arts hall of Doherty High School is bustling with life. Kids pack eagerly into the entrance by the call-board, fingers crossed tightly for a spot on cast or crew for the upcoming production of “12 Angry Jurors.” A dim hallway just a bit further takes you backstage, where more students laugh and talk in dressing rooms, or goof off under gleaming overhead lights. At lunch the next day, kids pack into the auditorium to play improv games and perform before their next class. For many students, this is as close as it gets to a home away from home.  Most of the action circulates around the heart of Doherty’s theater department, tucked humbly in the back of a costume closet. 

Mr. Ryan Reed, teacher and the proud beacon of the theater program, is always around to chat with students or lead whatever activities are going on. Sometimes overlooked as being frivolous and unrealistic, the Performing Arts program guides students to prosper beyond a career in performing.

Teaching students to express themselves, act as a positive influence on others, and above all else, overcome the challenges they face in life, Mr. Reed pushes what theater can do above and beyond its artistic capabilities. 

“Doing things that matter and that I feel like have a purpose. Things that you can see [are] producing good outcomes, whether it be in myself, those around me, or the world; [I’m] just trying to make things better. Smiles. Laughter. Growth. I guess that’s all that motivates me” says Reed. Across his 4 theater classes, the annual musical and play,  life-skills musical, improv-performance night, and student-directed One Acts, theater reaches hundreds of kids throughout Doherty, be it in the audience or on the stage. 

One of the most prominent impacts of the theater department is Mr. Reed’s ability to empower students and show them their potential. Every year, Mr. Reed’s Life-Skills class comprised of special needs students put on a musical production. In previous years the group has put on musicals including Aladdin and Shrek. On putting on the show, Reed says, “That class is just so rewarding and so inspiring to watch. It’s just a beautiful thing because students that are in the class get a chance to say ‘Look at what I can do,’ and student’s who aren’t who’ve come to see the show can go, ‘This is really inspiring, look what they can do through the obstacles they’ve overcome,’ and that’s beautiful. They walk away hopefully thinking ‘I can do more too.’ I just love that program.”

Ryan Reed
Ryan Reed, his wife Kathy, and son Otis pictured on Mothers’ Day

Reed, having overcome personal challenges of his own, draws inspiration from his son Otis. Otis suffers seizures daily from an undiagnosed neurological condition. “Feeling like I’m [not] able to help and stop those has been a huge struggle. As a parent, not knowing what’s the best thing to do for your kiddo is one of the hardest things.” Mr. Reed and his wife Kathy moved to Colorado in 2014 to support Otis’ medical needs. “One of us, either Kathy or I, needed to take time off to be with him full time. And it made more sense for me to quit my job, and that was probably one of the hardest things that I had ever done because I just love teaching a lot.”

However, Otis’s triumph past struggle inspired Mr. Reed to overcome his own. “It’s watching all the little things that he is able to do is so inspiring. I don’t have a lot of obstacles in my life that stop me from doing the things I wanna do, and Otis has so many just with his seizures. And yet he still, when he’s having a good day—or even sometimes when he’s not, he’ll look up and me and his laughter and his smile empower me.”

Taking that message to heart, Reed takes a lot of pride in the Life-Skills musical. Reed says, “I think getting through that and [knowing Otis] has taught me so much about how to love people and where we find our worth. So many people find their worth in their accomplishments or what they can do, and he’s definitely taught me to slow down…The production gives students the opportunity to overcome the roadblocks they might face and create [something they’re proud of.]” 

Hunter Portaleos, an active participant in Doherty’s theater productions, Theater Cabinet Secretary, and senior student of Reed’s, says, “I’ve learned that even though you might not think you can do something, you totally can!”

Ryan Reed
Mr. Reed and his family pose for a holiday photo.

Furthermore, Reed chooses to take that see-the-bright-side mentality with him in his other theater endeavors. “I think that we all have a responsibility to choose how we tell our own story: you have a choice to be grumpy or you have a choice to be happy—not to discount that sometimes you have stuff that happens that means you have to be bummed out for a while—but you have a choice to come back from that and do your best.”

Cole Russell, sophomore Theater Council Representative and an active member in the community, says, “I’ve learned from Mr. Reed that you don’t have to be your best in order to try your best. I’ve learned about the human condition, and above all else, I’ve learned that expectations are supposed to fuel you, not control you.” 

Russell goes on to explain, “He also teaches us how to live life by his motto: be kind and do your best. Mr. Reed’s presence not only provides a shoulder to lean on, he also creates a kind atmosphere wherever he seems to go.”

Another pupil of Reeds, freshman Alea Ludvik, says “As a teacher, he’s there to answer any question and never judges a person or looks down on them no matter the situation. You can see the light he brings into everything he does and makes the sometimes bleak community here shine.”

“Mr. Reed has made an amazing impact on me and the others in theater because he’s such an outgoing individual, and has let many students talk to him about things that are going on in their lives…He’s kind, caring, outgoing, very funny, and allows anyone to talk to him whenever they need” reinforces, Portaleos. 

Reed’s main focus with the theater program isn’t to produce broadway performers, but to connect with students and teach them more applicable life skills. “After a while, I realized that’s an art-form too. I shouldn’t feel ashamed of the fact that I don’t really focus on pumping out broadway performers. That’s not important to me; it never has been. Nothing against broadway performers, but the amount of people that are going to go on to become them is very small. Whereas, the number of people that are going to need to express themselves, is every single one of us. I think goals for this department moving forward are [catered to the wellbeing of] each student, as opposed to the commercial success they have, and I think that’s a stronger foundation to build on.”

For some, however, Reed has given students something they’re passionate about enough to pursue long-term. Russell, being one of those students, said “Mr. Reed has instilled a love for the arts that I’ve never had before. He’s made me reconsider where I am in life and made me want to pursue performing beyond high school.” 

One of Reed’s many goals is to support students in whatever life-path they choose. “If I were to give some advice to [my younger self,] I would say continue to go after what is in your heart and your head. Don’t be afraid to change what it is that you’re passionate about.

Another pupil of Reed’s, freshman Alea Ludvik, says “As a teacher he’s there to answer any question and never judges a person or looks down on them no matter the situation. You can see the light he brings into everything he does and makes the…community here shine.”