Retired MHS Drama Teacher
Continues to “Carry On” the Magic!
Retired drama teacher Sandy Stones, who dedicated her 12 years at Mesa High to creating magic not only on the stage in the school auditorium but also in the lives of those students who participated in the classes and productions she taught and directed, played a major role herself in creating yet another kind of “magic” that continues to bring her back to the East Valley every summer.
In 2007, during her tenure as a teacher at MHS, Mrs. Stones and Mr. Germàn Aguilar, former Mesa High choir teacher, along with a Denver-based production staff, brought to life a dream shared and inspired by Ruth Covey, a parent of one of their students with disabilities – the Arizona Magic of Music and Dance – a musical theater camp for children and youth with special needs. Student volunteers from Mesa High and other local high schools were paired with students with disabilities and then for a week, they worked together to put on a musical theater production. The students with disabilities were the cast members – the stars – and the high school student volunteers were with them to support and guide, as needed. Their first show “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was a huge success, and thirteen years later, the summer camp is still going strong!
Mrs. Stones, who moved from the Mesa area when she retired in 2013, has returned every summer to help as Production Director for the camp. Mr. TJ Hagen, a current science teacher at Mesa High, joined the production staff early on, and several of the original Mesa High student volunteers who helped with team leadership, stage crew or choreography are now involved in the actual management of the entire summer camp experience. “It is my favorite week of the year,” says Mrs. Stones of the musical theater camp, “And reuniting with Mesa High alumni students is the best!”
Mrs. Stones grew up Sandra Lee Garrison in southern California and says her passion for directing began early in life, as she often accompanied her father to work in the CBS studios where he was a sound engineer and cameraman for shows like “The Carol Burnett Show,” “The Red Skelton Show,” “The Young and the Restless” and “Sonny and Cher.” She began directing while still in high school and has continued performing and directing ever since, earning a Bachelor’s Degree from ASU in Theater Education with an emphasis in directing, as well as graduating from the Southwest Shakespeare Conservatory, at the same time her six children – all Mesa High graduates (years 1998-2011) – were attending school.
Even before earning her degree, Mrs. Stones was a freelance director for schools and theater companies, ran the Theatrical Academy for Youth for Gilbert Fine Arts Association and was one of the founding directors for the Gilbert Youth Theater. She taught theater arts at Mesa High from 2004 to 2016, during which time she also co-directed Speech and Debate, sponsored several clubs – including the Christian Dance Company, plus spent seven years as an advisor for Student Council. Mrs. Stones, many of her students, and each of her productions were the recipients of numerous prestigious regional, state and national awards, and for the 2015-2016 school year, Mrs. Stones was a Semi-Finalist for AZ Teacher of the Year (AZ Educational Foundation).
After both she and her husband Ed retired in 2016, they spent time traveling and then served a mission in Tallahassee, Florida, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although their home base is currently in Rexburg, Idaho, they have six children and 19 grandchildren who are spread across the United States. Ed and Sandy now spend much of their time traveling between their six children and their many family events.
If you know Ed and Sandy Stones, however, you will know that their six children are but a handful of the many Mesa High alumni that fondly refer to them as “Mama and Papa Stones” – reminiscent of fun times in the classroom as well as the hours and hours spent working together during rehearsals and stage-prep for the numerous past musicals and drama productions. Mrs. Stones still regards her former students, as well as her faculty peers, as her “Mesa High family.” “The support and camaraderie among the faculty and staff felt just like family,” recalls Mrs. Stones. “If ever there was a need, one of my colleagues was always there to help. The Mesa High community and parents were incredible and I always had their help and support, as well. And the students – they became like ‘my own children.’ Working with such talented and dedicated young adults was truly humbling and those young people blessed my life more than they will ever know.” Now Mrs. Stones actually finds herself working under the leadership of one of those students, Mr. Vinny Chavez, who is now the official Program Manager for the AZ Magic Summer Theater Camp.
Given her love for the theater and directing, and the close ties she established among her many students and co-workers over the years, it’s not surprising that Mrs. Stones will travel back to Arizona to reconnect with both. And, thanks to the AZ Magic of Music and Dance, one of Mesa High’s favorite retired teachers can be found spending her favorite week of the year doing just that – reconnecting and continuing to create her magic right here in the East Valley!
Way to Carry On the Magic, Mrs. Stones!
Ed and Sandy Stones – 2016