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El Paso teacher wins prestigious national grant for work in puppetry

EL PASO, Texas -- An El Paso educator is turning is his childhood dream of becoming a puppeteer into a reality. Anthony Stokes, a high school teacher at Jefferson/Silva, received a prestigious national grant from the Jim Henson Foundation, named after the creator of the Muppets and Sesame Street.

“If anyone knows anything about puppetry work, even if you're not really into it, the words, Jim Henson, we know that name," Stokes said.

Stokes told ABC-7 he's always had a love and curiosity for puppetry watching it on television and film. It wasn't until a few years ago Stokes said that he took his love to a whole new level and was invited to train with the Sesame Workshop and the Jim Henson Company.

This year, his hard work paid off. He is one of 30 people to receive a grant from the foundation.

"I feel like there's a certain responsibility I have to make sure that the work that I do is substantial and really worthy of the honor that I've been given," Stokes said.

He won the grant by presenting a puppet based on his interpretation of the Scarecrow in the novel and film "Wizard of Oz."

“I thought about the Scarecrow and I thought he doesn't have an actual story after doing the research. There's no real origin story," Stokes said.

He’s hoping to use the $3,000 grant to eventually put together a production using the piece. bringing the character to life and even using it to explore racial issues. 

Stokes said while he doesn't utilize his puppets to teach his high school students as much, he gives them a look at how the puppets are made.

"I'll use that as an opportunity to be like, 'this is how you build this, this is what this is', the techniques that are required and all the stuff that you need," he said.

Stokes said he also uses it as an opportunity to show them how he's working towards his goal. This money will go a long way to help Stokes tell important stories something that he said is so meaningful as we celebrate Black History Month.

"I'm just grateful for the opportunity and I'm here for this opportunity," Stokes said.

Article Topic Follows: El Paso
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Brianna Chavez

Brianna Chavez is an ABC-7 reporter/producer.

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