Stanley Deen

by Amanda Martin from Denver, Pennsylvania in United States

It was 3:00pm on a Saturday, right after the curtains went down on the home school drama class's production of Charles Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby. The hallways were crowded, reverberating with the sounds of over-adrenalined high school students talking exuberantly with friends and family that had come to see the show. Stan Deen, the show's director, a small man in a full suit, with snow white hair that added a full three inches to his height, weaved his way through the throngs to congratulate each member of his cast and chat with their families. "Oh my gosh! The way you looked with that eye patch! Wow!" he said, laughing to the student who played Wackford Squeers. Reaching out to shake another student's hand, he said, "Great work out there today!" And to any of his students' siblings, he said, "Have you ever done theater? No? You should try out next year!" 

Stan Deen was a high school English and Drama teacher in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and the surrounding areas from 1967 until the day of his passing in 2016. However, prior to his teaching days, Stan Deen was a troublemaker. In elementary school, he was the kid who was always talking in class, always coloring outside the lines, always getting sent to the office, always asking questions. To most teachers, he was a nuisance--someone to be ignored as much as possible in the hopes he wouldn't cause additional trouble. He tried out for various sports programs, only to hear "If you don't like this--you can quit" from his coaches. In wasn't until he met his middle school drama teacher that he heard the words, "Stanley, I am so glad to have you in my class." Instead of ignoring him or sending him to the office, this teacher saw his strengths and fostered his creativity. She believed in him.

Those experiences shaped who Stan became as a teacher. He was passionate about nurturing creativity in his students and giving them a place to belong through theater. He encouraged every student he could to participate in plays, knowing that when he was a child, it was his teacher's belief in him that shaped the entire course of his life. He was determined to be that support for as many students as he could. His belief in his students deeply impacted their lives, helping both quiet, anxious students and boisterous, forceful students find creative ways to use their voices. He was able to gently encourage students who barely spoke into getting on a stage and performing for hundreds of people. And students who, like Stan himself, were troublemakers, were so inspired by his confidence in them that they put their all into his plays.

Though Stan might not be a world-renowned director, in Lancaster County, Stan is a both a legend and a hero. His legacy continues in the lives of his students, from those who took classes with him back in 1967 to those who learned from him in 2016. His memory still inspires creativity in those he impacted--so much so that there is an upcoming feature-film being released about his life entitled "Brave the Dark." And his story stands as a shining example that showing someone they are believed in can and will change that person's life for the better.

Page created on 1/15/2021 4:49:05 PM

Last edited 1/16/2021 8:12:17 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.