Maureen Breslin '99
"I enjoy the traveling. It's like a whole new dimension to the workplace."
Education - Teaching under the Big Top
It was an interesting job ad, to be sure, but Maureen Breslin ’99 and her friends couldn’t help but laugh. For a Peace Corps volunteer in China, the idea of teaching young performers in America’s most celebrated traveling circus seemed distant, even foreign.
Six years later, the job presented itself again, after Breslin had earned her master’s degree in international education and training from American University in Washington, D.C. At that point, she was coaching field hockey but looking for other opportunities.
And the idea of teaching with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus was no longer a laughing matter. “What it came down to was, I still felt as though I could take the other teaching paths,” says Breslin, speaking last November from just outside Detroit, where the circus was performing at the Palace at Auburn Hills. “This was a now-or-never kind of choice.”
The Media, Pa., native had been interviewing for other teaching positions, but felt strongly attracted to the new opportunity.
Today, Breslin arrives in a different city each week to teach two classes, with fully accredited curricula. First- to fifth-graders comprise one class, while the other is for high-school aged students — that is, when they’re not too busy dazzling crowds with their high-flying acrobatics. Her students last November included members of a Chicago acrobat troupe and the son of two trapeze artists who had joined the team on the road. (The Chicagoans have since returned home; her new students include three teeterboard performers from Bulgaria.)
While many would think these young professional athletes live lives full of fun and games, Breslin says her students are determined and attentive in class. Still, they’re just like any other kids in any other school. “They get rambunctious in class like every other high school kid, but they have a quality that’s different, in that when they have to sit down and do something, they do it,” she says.
Despite the long gaps without seeing her family, Breslin finds herself meeting up with friends across the country. “Some of my students laugh when I say I know someone wherever we go,” she says. Like the performers, Breslin’s time with the circus has its limits. But she’s not ready to move on just yet: she says she plans to stay on the job for another few years.
“I enjoy the traveling,” she says. “It’s like a whole new dimension to the workplace.”
Posted Spring 2007