As kids all over America head back to school, Broadway.com decided to ask our favorite Broadway stars to look back at their own years in the classroom—and share a school picture! Newcomer Amber Iman is making one heck of a Broadway debut as soul singer Nina Simone in the new musical Soul Doctor, now running at Circle in the Square Theatre. Below, the actress recalls her jam-packed schedule and offers fabulous advice to her high-school self.
Who was your favorite teacher and why?
Mr. Brown. He taught 6th grade math and literature. Back then, I went to a very, very, very small private school—13 students total in grades 4 through 8. I loved him because he knew I was an advanced student and he made it his job to push me and challenge me and not allow me to rest on my laurels. But, unlike other teachers that publicly separated me from other students or drew attention to my "smarts," he gave me extra work and projects very discreetly. We would work on my advanced material during class time (when I had finished the regular work), but nobody else knew. I wanted so badly to be popular and included and not ostracized, but still challenged, and this was the best of both worlds. I am forever grateful for his guidance and wisdom.
In school you would have been named “most likely to…”
Middle School: be a goody-two-shoes.
High School: be a performer.
What’s your favorite back to school item?
Oooooh! I'm a little OCD when it comes to organization (and cuteness), so I am a Trapper Keeper Junkie! I looove buying the folders and dividers and paper and pencil/pen keepers that you can put in the front of your notebook. And sticky notes, and mini staplers, and highlighters (Lord, I had to have at least five different colors or I couldn't study.) Can I go back to school now?!?!
What class did you dread and why?
Oh boy—I hope my mother doesn't read this (lol). High school senior year, my mom made me take advanced algebra/trigonometry. I was a math/arts magnet student and I was very smart—but I was BURNT OUT! For four years, I had taken every honors/advanced placement course, on top of getting on a bus everyday at 6:45 A.M. to get to school and staying late to rehearse for the musicals, and then doing extracurriculars (I had zero social life). By this point, I already had offers from several colleges (full and partial scholarships) and I wanted to just breathe through my simple schedule of AP literature, AP psychology, drama and mentorship (not so simple, actually). However, my mom was friends with the advanced algebra/trig teacher, so my fate was sealed. I.Hated.That.Class. I just couldn't make myself care and I couldn't focus. I knew I was going to school for theater and I knew that advanced alg/trig wouldn't help me do crap in my life! So, I suffered through it for about three weeks. Before the add/drop period ended, I forged my mother's name on a slip, allowing me to drop the class. Sometimes you gotta take matters into your own hands. Sorry, momma! lol
In which extracurricular activities did you participate?
I participated in almost every extracurricular activity, except a sport (which I regret to this day because I probably wouldn't still be struggling with these same stubborn 10 pounds! lol) Girl Scouts, ballet, tap, jazz, piano lessons, flute lessons (for about three weeks, then I hated it), Atlanta Public School Honor Chorus, Toastmasters International (I made a lot of speeches), cheerleading (but I was in 3rd grade and we wore green sweat pants & sweatshirts....and it was Catholic school...and we were the St. Anthony Saints...wow), debate team, and probably more. At church, I was an usher, president of the choir, finance committee member (I loved counting the money every Sunday—I felt very rich... lol), vice president of the youth group, and youth liaison. Wow. lol.
Describe your school-age self in three words.
Awkward, smart, square… lol
What advice would you give to your school-age self?
Boys are stupid—their opinions do not matter. One day, you will have a boyfriend —it will take a long time, but it will happen. You will grow into your height. The fake ones are not your friends—you don't need them. You are not alone—there are others out there just like you—and you will find them, and they'll become your forever friends—and they will understand you, embrace you, love you. It's okay that you're not "the popular one"—you are talented, gifted, beautiful, and different, and the payoff will be worth it!