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Alumni Spotlight: Stephanie Styles

Post Oak eighth grade class of 2006

By shannon NEufeld, Communication Coordinator
From the May 27, 2010 edition of The Weekly POst

Stephanie Styles in her senior photo.

She performed in Scrooge at Theatre Under The Stars in grade one. Science Quest on PBS in grade four. The Sound of Music national tour in grade six. Opera in New York in grade eight. Winner of the English-Speaking Union Shakespeare Competition in the Houston area. Tommy Tune award for best actress in the high school musical (The Drowsy Chaperone) that won the award for best musical. Accepted to the prestigious musical theatre program at University of Michigan. Add to that list roles in Thirteen, My Son Pinnochio, Evita, and Aladdin, etc., and numerous gala appearances.

Not bad for someone graduating from high school on Sunday.

Stephanie Styles (sister of graduating Post Oak eighth-grader John Henry Styles) attended Post Oak from age 14 months through grade eight, graduating in 2006. She attended Episcopal High School and graduates on May 30. She has accomplished a lot outside of school, but some of her fondest memories are here at Post Oak.

“I loved this place so much,” Stephanie says. Some of her favorite times were with Mirani Smith, former Primary teacher and now Lower School director. “I swear I see sandpaper letters in my head when I write. Everyone always comments on my cursive—I always do cursive—it’s the natural motion of the hand.” She also loves and respects butterflies because of Mirani. “In fourth grade, I did a TV show with PBS called Science Quest, filmed at the Houston Museum of Natural Science,” she remembers. “There was an episode on butterflies and moths and they picked me because I love butterflies. I know all about them.  I was ‘Motha Stewart’ in a sketch.”

Stephanie Styles in a photo taken in grade eight.

In Lower El, she remembers the classroom plays they put on. “The first show I ever did here was Phantom of the Undersea Opera. I was ‘Christine’ the mermaid. In fifth grade, she constructed a rainforest out of broccoli for the science fair. And she liked dressing up as Eva Perón for “Famous Person Day.”

“The only art skills I have come from Luiza [Grandchamp],” Stephanie says. She wasn’t able to finish her eighth grade year on campus since she was doing an opera in New York, so she never completed painting her mask—something all graduating students do. “I still have it in my house and I have a sketch of what I want to do. So this summer I’m going to paint my mask,” says Stephanie. In fact, her brother just finished his. He will be attending Episcopal High School next year as she goes to college.

Because Stephanie sometimes traveled for performances during the school year, she benefited greatly from Montessori. “I’ve been the biggest advocate of Montessori,” she said. “Especially in the theatre world … on the road, in New York, and even in high school, I had to work on my own and be an independent learner. My education [at Post Oak] has definitely enabled me to do what I love and do it with more ease.”

Stephanie said she feels that Post Oak feeds the “creative aspects of life.” Once someone told her they admired her “scholastic enthusiasm.” She said she will never forget it, “because I do love to learn, and I think that’s what Montessori gave me. Once I got to high school, a lot of my friends seemed so burnt out from learning things they didn’t want to learn [at other schools] and learning in ways that weren’t the best for them. When I got to high school, I loved homework. Freshman year, I was so excited to do my pre-labs and my post-labs because I thought it was the coolest thing ever, because I loved learning.”

She says her transition to high school was smooth. “I feel like I’ve had to be mature because of theatre and working with older people and material, so I wasn’t scared to be with a lot of people,” says Stephanie. “Montessori teaches you to be so open and accepting that it was great and an easy transition.”

In addition to her acting outside of school, Stephanie is also on the high school newspaper staff. “I’m into creative writing, too,” she says. “I think I might minor in that in college if I can, but I haven’t looked into the logistics of that yet.”

Stephanie Styles in her younger years at Post Oak.

Her love for creative writing began at Post Oak, and she is nostalgic for the paper used in Post Oak classes that allows for writing and illustration. “I wish we still had that because I would draw pictures on all my book reports.”

Stephanie first realized her passion for theatre when she was four years old. Her parents took her to see Phantom of the Opera at Jones Hall, and she loved it so much she asked them to take her again the next night. She ended up having a backstage tour with the lead actor, to whom she had sent a message attached to a then-popular Beanie Baby stuffed animal. “That night, I said, ‘Mom, sign me up for theatre classes. I want to do this.”

Stephanie knew she wanted to go to University of Michigan for their musical theatre department, “but I never in a thousand years thought I would get in,” she said. “It was a ‘Harvard’—it was a reach.” She said about 2,000 girls are accepted just to audition each year, and they only consider students with 4.0 GPAs for that opportunity. Students auditioning have to prepare to sing two 16-bar songs, perform a dance combination, perform one of two prepared monologues, perform a piano test, and write five essays. “It’s an intense process,” she says. “Usually you hope to get deferred, but I auditioned in November and found out I was accepted in December. I couldn’t believe it ... Michigan is a dream.”

Even in  moving forward, she will always look back fondly at Post Oak. “I loved everything about this whole school. It was really great, and it really prepared me for anything I’ve done in life.”