We spoke with 2020 Hausner grad Val Zvinyatskovsky, who has returned to the school to teach a new theater elective this year. Learn about what it was like to graduate at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and find out how his Hausner education has shaped his outlook and influenced his future plans.
1. When did you graduate and what are you doing now?
I graduated in 2020 — just a few months after the beginning of the pandemic. Now I’m in high school at the School for Independent Learners. I’m also back at Hausner teaching a theater elective to middle school students! Jody Passanisi, Director of Middle School, reached out to me over the summer and asked me to teach the theater elective. Teaching this semester has been really fun, helping spark the student’s creativity and pushing them out of their comfort zone.
2. What was it like graduating during the beginning of the pandemic?
I think I was probably the least disappointed out of my entire class. No one liked online learning, but Hausner handled it well. When graduation approached, no one knew how to put on a virtual graduation, but I was able to help organize it because I had experience staging a virtual theater production. I thought it was very meaningful considering the circumstances.
3. How did your experience at Hausner shape your future?
Attending Hausner taught me about standing up for myself, standing up for what I believe in, and taking opportunities. I learned to ask questions and I appreciated how the teachers were willing to let students follow their passions. The teachers left a lasting impact on how to be a teacher and how to be a better human being.
4. Who influenced you the most during your time at Hausner and why?
Two teachers had a huge influence on me: Mo Fisch (Jewish Studies) and Kate Gaines (Music). Mo was my Bar Mitzvah coach and he taught me trope. He made Jewish studies so cool — I loved his teaching style and his class made me feel excited. Kate was only a teacher at Hausner for 4 years, but she influenced me the most as a musician, teacher, and a human being. I’m so interested in music, I’ve been playing the piano for 11 years now, and I would jump at every single opportunity she provided.
5. What is your favorite Hausner memory?
I started at Hausner in Kindergarten and I truly think that K is the best year at Hausner. We had a Hanukkah celebration in Kindergarten singing songs for the parents, and I remember the vivid feeling of not wanting this year to end. From my middle school years, I loved organizing the virtual graduation. It was not how we imagined our final year at Hausner, but it was a powerful ending, a nice piece of closure.
6. What is something people may not know about you?
I am a big introvert. Theater people like me are often introverts who desperately try and pretend that we’re not. We have to put ourselves out there and make ourselves vulnerable in front of thousands of people.
7. Describe Hausner in 3 words
Safe, Flexible, Well-Spirited
8. What are your plans after high school graduation?
Currently, I’m dipping my feet into a lot of different theatrical areas. By 2022, I will have finished another 8 shows within 3 months. I want to keep exploring working on stage, off stage, and below stage. I’m not sure where I’ll end up… but I definitely want to do something theatrical. The world needs an escape and people need a tool to face the world with and face themselves.
9. What’s your favorite musical?