Never in his wildest dreams did D.C. native Sean Finan imagine himself teaching fifth grade, but it was lurking in his DNA. Both of his parents taught and modeled curiosity and a lifelong love of learning. Sean’s early dreams stemmed from family trips to see all the Broadway plays. At the age of six, seeing “The Phantom of the Opera” awakened an obsession with the allure of live theater. Sean’s desire to be onstage was replaced by a passion for directing at Guilford College, where he discovered the magic of breathing life into a piece with a team of collaborators. Armed with a bachelor’s in theater studies, Sean did something he sees as crazy in hindsight. He moved to New York City to study at NYU, but without a clear understanding of all that would entail or a strong plan for after graduation. As it is for many people who move there, he found life in NYC to be a bit overwhelming, but he persisted and stuck it out. Two years later, he returned to the quieter, more palatable vibe of D.C. with a master’s in educational theater and started teaching. Like theater, Sean finds teaching to be both challenging and deeply rewarding. He claims there’s nothing like the instant feedback he gets from his students—just like an audience—to keep things exciting! Sean readily shares that he was an incredibly anxious and unfocused student, who would do anything to avoid tackling a long chapter in a book…until musical theater and Shakespeare opened his eyes to literacy and the wonder of reading. Today he has a master’s of education in literacy studies and is the lead literacy coordinator for third through fifth grades. Sean now dreams of bridging the gap between his two passions by creating a curriculum for musical theater that would open students’ minds about language, music, dance, and historical context. Sean’s favorite thing in the world? The musicals of Stephen Sondheim, which he claims taught him how to use language to create a picture and give a character depth. During the summer, Sean directs musicals at the Adventure Theatre Musical Theatre Center. In his free time, you might find Sean reading, going to the theater, taking long walks with friends, or listening to music that tells a story, like Adam Melchor, Brandi Carlisle, and Ben Howard. When they watch TV, Sean and his two cats, Jem and Scout (yes, from “To Kill a Mockingbird”), gravitate to watching historical documentaries—as long as they weave a good tale.
What is your most treasured memory? I saw Stephen Sondheim sing and play my favorite song of his at a benefit concert in New York a few years ago. Seeing this mythic genius who had influenced so much of my life was a very human, transformative moment.
What are you obsessed with? Double Chocolate Almond Flour Cookies from Trader Joes.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? Always show other people grace and remember their humanity.
What is something that you pretend to understand when you really don’t? Football.
What is the one place in the world you would like to escape to? London! I love it.
What is the best compliment someone can give you? “Thank you for listening to me. I really felt heard.”
What in life makes you smile? My 5th Grade Team. Caitlin Engelberg, Jon Lamkay, formerly Mollie Tolman, and now Erin Lee. They are so hardworking, collaborative, smart, and funny!