Montana State University

Puppeteer graduates from MSU

January 5, 2005 -- by Jean Arthur, MSU News Service


Five year-old Cale Josephs practices his puppeteering skills with Mathew Rabinsky at the Sourdough Montessori School. (MSU photo by Erin Raley.)   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
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Bozeman--Mathew Rabinsky graduated from Montana State University in mid-December with a degree in elementary education and a calling as a puppeteer.

The 29-year-old New Jersey native has been a landscaper, a guitar repair technician and a line cook, but it was his career as a traveling puppeteer that helped direct him toward elementary education. Through puppetry's jestering and chivalrous melodrama, Rabinsky learned how to connect with children.

"I chose teaching because I have had a lot of unfulfilling jobs since I graduated from high school and wanted to change that," Rabinsky said. "Teaching appealed to me because it is an opportunity to build positive relationships with children and, hopefully, make a big difference in their lives. Teaching can be rewarding every single day."

MSU's College of Education, Health and Human Development was a natural choice for Rabinsky because he lived in Bozeman, where his wife is a Montessori teacher, yet he stumbled onto the comedic spirit of puppetry entirely by accident.

Five years ago, after he quit an East Coast landscaping job, a friend suggested he try puppetry.

"As she was telling me about the puppets, she picked up the phone, called an old friend, and I began puppeteer training the next week," he said.

The traveling show cruised the East Coast in a van full of stage, sound and puppet equipment, stopping at schools to present shows with educational, social or holiday messages. When he moved to Montana in 1997, he taught puppet-making classes and created his own puppet troupe--a one-man show called the Crazy Mountain Puppets.

Once enrolled at MSU, however, most of the puppets retired to the garage including the giant puppets Rabinsky wore in Bozeman's Sweet Pea parades.

He spent the fall semester as a student teacher in Gary Cunningham's second-grade classroom at Bozeman's Whittier School. As part of his duties, Rabinsky created a social studies unit for his charges. He taught business education to second graders, an act that set him apart from his peers, according to Nancy Lund, MSU's student teacher supervisor.

"Mathew taught the second graders how to create their own businesses," Lund said. "They had a locker-cleaning business, a water-bottle washing business, a paper airplane business and others. He gave them fake money to buy advertising. The kids even created commercials on video."

He learned that teaching is more about being observant in the classroom than quelling chaos because, he said, from the chaos comes creativity.

"When the room became loud and seemed out of hand, I found that the youngsters were better off if I subtly redirected them and let them ease back into their project rather than raise my voice," Rabinsky said.

For his creative energy, and because he maintained a 3.77 GPA, volunteers with Big Brothers and Sisters, and has been on the Dean's List several times, Rabinsky was named MSU Rotary Student of the Month for December. The Bozeman chapter of Rotary International recognizes outstanding MSU students who excel academically and are involved in the campus and community. Rabinsky received a plaque and $50.

While the 2004 graduate is applying for teaching jobs, he substitute teaches at Sourdough Montessori School where recently, he dusted off his puppetry-making materials and taught some of the three-to-six-year-olds the art of entertainment.

"Now that I have completed this part of my education, I am thrilled with the idea of having my own classroom." said Rabinsky. "This is a very exciting time for me."

Contact Mathew Rabinsky 587-5195