"Dear Ms. Sheila, Thank you for coming to Seven Hills and teaching me many different things...I LOVED it when you were Old Bess! I forgot I was sitting there in the library it Seemed real...." - Liz M., Seven Hills School, Walnut Creek, CA
"...The last thing I learned was that they [the slaves] memorized songs. In the real world, this taught me that I should be able to memorize my spelling words better...." - Kyle, Heven Hills School, Walnut Creek, CA
"You were one of the best performers in the school. Most of them were really boring but you were amazing." - Aneesa, Pickering Valley Elementary School, PA
"Dear Ms. Arnold, I was flipping channels and I happened upon the Florida Education Channel. I was jealous that I was not one of the educators in that room. I was very impressed by your portrayal of Miss Judge. You are a very talented women! I hope to see you in person one day." - Sincerely, Maryann K., Stafford, Virginia
"You were in Stillwater, Oklahoma a week or so ago giving your Ol' Bess presentation. I was the music teacher that walked in late. I just wanted you to know how absolutely wonderful you were. You truly touched my heart and I could have listened on much longer. What a poignant humorous program! And you are such a beautiful woman! Thank you so much for what you do-children and adults alike can only benefit from seeing your work. I pray the Lord will bless you in your efforts to bring that time period alive in children's hearts so they may never forget the past and hopefully to learn in the present. Thank you again."
A very enjoyable experience!
"I forgot to ask the kids what they though about her, but I meant to. I loved that she gave them a brilliant example of becoming a character through and through. Her projection on stage was also appreciated, so often the students depend on microphones or are afraid of projecting in front of a crowd, but she did it naturally. I also appreciated the way she interacted with the audience. She stayed in character, using the dialect and mannerisms she established early on. She is obviously very talented at what she does and engaged the students, making for a very enjoyable and educational experience."
Student comments from bell ringers today:
" I like how she didn't talk to us in the beginning, she just started singing. That was cool because she made me feel like she was real and got my attention."
"It was cool because I got to go up on stage with her and I was nervous, but she was funny."
"I liked her outfit."
"She talked about stuff that we had been talking about in class, so I didn't feel like it was over my head."
"I wish we could have stayed longer."
"I got so emotional when she started talking about her dead baby and that made me think about all the moms back then and what a lot of them had to go through."
"I thought her voice was cool."
"I liked hearing about the taverns. I knew they were a place to sleep, but I didn't know you had to sleep in a bed with strangers."
Overall, I thought that it was a great presentation. The kids were in total attention and had a lot of good feedback and comments when we came back to class to discuss what we had seen. I would love to see her again next year if she can fit us into her schedule. It made me want to go to Colonial Williamsburg :)
She is amazing. She gets better every year. The kids and I enjoyed the more interaction to keep them on their toes.
Dear Ol’ Bess,
You taught me many valuable things that I can use all throughout my life. Some of those things are to always keep a song in your heart. Also, that freedom is everything and to hold on to it. Lastly, that one person can make a difference.
Keeping a song in your heart is very important. It’s important because for all those times where you feel lonely you can think of the song to make yourself feel better. Or for the times when you feel sad you can pull the song from your heart to lift up your spirits. Lastly, keeping a song in your head is good so you never have the feeling that there is no one out there for you so the song helps you never feel that way.
Freedom is great. I’m very sorry for you because you don’t have freedom. But the people who do have it hold on to it. Since not many people had freedom back then I feel very sorry. Itry my best to be thankful for it. If I have freedom then I should hold on to it and not waste it.
Lastly, I learned that one person can make a difference. No matter who you are you can change the world. Also, it only takes one person to do it. Finally, don’t be afraid to tell your opinion on things because everyone has the rights to do that. I just wanted to thank you for coming in and taking your time to come here. You taught me many great things. Thanks again for coming!
- Brett B., K.D. Markeley Elementary School, Malvern, PA, Mar. 2009
“…I liked the performance and learned quite a bit. Stories and acting can make learning more fun.” – Slayler C., 8th grade, Computech Middle School, Fresno, CA; Apr. 2009
“…I may have not been a big fan of history but listening to you speak of how a slave worked, treated, and lived makes me want to read & study about slavery & Civil War all the time.” – Allilson W., 8th grade, Computech Middle School, Fresno, CA; Apr. 2009
“…Your performance was wonderful and enjoyable! I got to see how slaves were treated harshly and cruely. It’s hard to imagine that slavery was part of this country, that was founded over freedom and Liberty.” – Ricky G., 8th grade, Computech Middle School, Fresno, CA; Apr. 2009
“When you went through the life of Betsy with us, it seemed that you took us to a different world and we were witnessing everything. I t was almost like a movie, I could picture everything you said in my mind. You really get into the emotions too, when you got sad it made me sad, and when you got happy, I got happy. You really took me through an experience that I will never forget.” – Jenna O., 8th grade, Computech Middle School, Fresno, CA; Apr. 2009
“…Even though I was one of the few that didn’t cry, the play seriously changed my view on things. For example, the way I treat people isn’t so mean, but I never really treated anyone mean because I’m an angel. And also I grateful for the little things I get because I’m sure I have more than Betsy had when she was out on that plantation.” – Monica M., 8th grade, Computech Middle School, Fresno, CA; Apr. 2009
“The fact that when Betsy was free she didn’t give up looking for her son Peter. I pictured her running around frantically searching for him, and calling out his name. It reminded me of when my little brother left walking down the street, and nobody knew where he was. There wasn’t much I could do, but run down the street calling his name until he answered me. You inspired me to never give up on anything or anybody. If you wouldn’t have come I don’t know what predicament I would be in today. I can’t thank you enough for the experience.” – Dazjana M., 8th grade, Computech Middle School, Fresno, CA; Apr. 2009
“Our textbooks describe history without emotion, so that the full implications of a slaves personal life is not comprehensible to the majority of students. It is because of this I am grateful there are people like you working to educate us about what a terrible thing slavery was and why we should work to combat it throughout the world.” – Sam B., 8th grade, Computech Middle School, Fresno, CA; Apr. 2009
“I think being free comes with responsibilities. One responsibility I have is to respect the environment and the animals around me. The environment and animals play a big role in earth that we have to respect. We wouldn’t be able to survive without them and for that, we have should make an effort to be more responsible about how we hunt and use are natural resources. I believe the biggest responsibility to be free for me is the environment and animals. Again, thank you for coming.” – Maddie D., 8th grade, Computech Middle School, Fresno, CA; Apr. 2009
“…I believe that if every fifth grader could have some time with ONey, they would learn to respect our country’s great men and women even more….” – Max C., 5th grade, La Entrada Middle School, Menlo Park CA
“How you said ‘with freedom comes responsibilities’ really got me thinking on what those responsibilities might be. I think that my responsibility as a free person is to make choices that everybody will benefit from, not just me, or my other one person, but all together, if you know what I mean. Again, thanks for coming to La Entrada this year.” – Karim U., 5th grade, La Entrada Middle School, Menlo Park CA
"Phenomenal connection with the audience--a transformative experience for our kids and teachers. Bravo!" - Chris Ross, Miller School 12th Grade English Teacher, Charlottesville, VA
"Ol' Bess" captivated our students from the very first moment. I have NEVER seen our kids (and faculty!) so engaged with and responsive to a performer! Ms. Sheila radiates a warmth and love that permeates the whole room and touches each person in it." - Sharon Barrett Kennedy, Miller School Art Teacher, Charlottesville, VA
…I'm sorry that I didn't have a chance to see you before you left to express personally my sincere thanks for your being our "keynote" presenter yesterday. You were terrific!! What a wonderful presentation. Everyone I spoke with at the conference raved about you. You are an amazing professional. I will never forget how you were able to rework your performance smoothly, so that it was especially effective….
- Steve Goldberg, Westchester-Lower Hudson Social Studies Council, NY
Katherine regaled us with tales of just how great the storyteller today was (Sheila Arnold) She fell in love with her. I gather they even ate lunch "together" and Katherine was in heaven. Way to go! Wish I'd been there!
- Leslie Boatwright, Campbell Hall, North Hollywood, CA
Thank you so much for entertaining our 8th graders with your talents. They really learned from your inspiring presentation of slavery and it was one of there favorite things they remembered on our D.C. trip. Thanks Again.
- Antoinette Deardorff, Hickman Jr. High Parent, Hickman, CA
My son Jake Swanson came home from his Washington DC trip with Hickman Middle School and Mr. VandenBosch and was very impressed with you and what you talked about with the students. He said he thought you were a real slave! Thank you for opening his eyes to the past in a very real way and allowing our family to have a wonderful discussion we might not have had if not for you.
- Theresa Swanson, Hickman Jr. High Parent, Hickman, CA
It was such a treat to show our children a piece of history from your heart. It is hard to imagine being a slave in the 1800's and you were able to show them a glimpse at life without freedom and rights. Thank you so much. As a parent I always try to have them imagine what it would be like if we did not have our freedom, but you were a great visual aid and obviously a special lady with a big heart and soul. Thank you again for the performance at Williamsburg. It was truly one of our favorite highlights of our tour.
- Sheri Gaylord, Hickman Jr. High Parent, Hickman, CA
My daughter and I were with the Hickman Middle School group, what a pleasure it was to listen to you. Your story was one of the first things my daughter told my husband about when we got home. I think we were all able to go back in time with you and get a small taste of what it was like and about. You are a great blessing to anyone who gets the opportunity to listen to you! Also, thank you for putting up with us! Thank you!!!!
- Shawna & Sarah Miller, Hickman Jr. High Parent, Hickman, CA
Thank you for your incredible performance you gave us during our visit to Colonial Williamsburg. I was able to get most of it on video and I look forward to sharing it with my family. The kids truly enjoyed it as evidenced by the looks on their faces. They were enthralled! I hope to see you again as I have two more children that will be going on the 8th grade D.C. trip in the future. Thank you again!
- Heidi Bordi, Hickman Jr. High Parent, Hickman, CA
Thank you you so much for going out of your way to give us that extraordinary performance. I always had an idea of the slave life, but after watching you i was able to really know what it was like. I hope that I can see you again in the future.
- Caroline Bordi, Hickman Jr. High Student, Hickman, CA
Fri, 2 May 2008 11:57 pm
Hello Ms. Arnold,
What an impact you made on our Riverglades students during your recent visit! There were so many positive comments circulating around school amongst the parents...who had heard fabulous reports from their children about your storytelling.
- Mona Steinberg, Riverglades Elementary, Parkland, Florida
I just had to write to you about your programs. I couldn’t judge them objectively because I was so sold on you to begin with. Teacher after teacher came to me to say how much they loved your performance. Some said it was the best assembly they’d experienced in their entire career. The sixth graders talked about your presentation in positive terms!! On Friday, a parent of a fourth grader came into my classroom in the middle of our Christmas party. She wanted to know if I’d been responsible for bringing in the guest speaker on Wednesday. Ever the pessimist, I thought “Oh, no. What now?” She told me that her daughter had come home Wednesday night and didn’t stop talking about the performance all night. I can’t tell you how hard it is to impress this staff and how difficult it is to please McDill parents. You managed to do both. Wow. It would delight me if you might be in our neighborhood next year. I’d do my best to recruit enough of out other elementary schools to keep you in town for the week. I’ll be teaching Social Studies next year, and I’m already in a state of delightful agony trying to decide what character to have you present. Thank you so much.
- Jan Langton, McDill Academies, WI