September 27, 2004
A doctor visits New School for the Arts and Academics in Tempe twice a week — but not to perform health exams.
Instead, Chandler physician Charles Knouse comes to the charter school with his wife, Jacki, as volunteer drama teachers for their daughter, Hannah, and about 35 other middle school students who meet in two classes.
"Drama gives the biggest opportunity for personal growth," said Charles Knouse, who has taken many courses in the arts and academics. Besides a master’s degree in performance that he earned early in his career from Emerson College in Boston, he has a 1998 medical degree from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.
"It’s a big mistake to overemphasize college prep, especially at the junior high school level," Charles Knouse said.
His wife, a former teacher with experience in community theater, arrived late to the first class last week and quietly took her place on the hardwood floor at the end of a line of students. Immediately, two girls relocated so they could sit on her right and left sides.
Her husband, meanwhile, was in front of the class encouraging students to shout out potential character types for an improvisation exercise. "How about Dr. Knouse!" one student suggested, and the class laughed.
Charles Knouse said he enrolled in medical school at age 42 after his mother died of lymphoma. "I watched what happened to her and thought there ought to be better ways to treat cancer," he said.
In addition to his general practice in Chandler, Charles Knouse conducts cancer research using plant extracts. He said he has been a problem solver all his life, and cancer presents problems he would like to solve. With his volunteer drama classes, he said the problem is: "How to help each student grow."
The Knouses, who have four children ages 10 to 15, moved to Arizona about two years ago largely because of the state’s liberal charter and home-school laws.