Who we are
Pyjama Drama Learning are three teachers; Sarah Rijnen from the USA and Sarah Owen and Rachel McKenna from the UK. They have one goal: to bring drama and imaginative play to early childhood and elementary school settings. Joining them in the development of Stand Up and Act Out is Carrie Langer, professor at California Polytechnic State University.
About Sarah Rijnen...
Sarah has a degree in theatre and a master's degree in education. She has taught first grade in the US and Finland, and preschool drama classes in the US, Finland, Argentina, and the UK.
Whether in a 1st or 5th-grade classroom, a self-contained classroom for preschoolers with special needs, or at a camp for children on the Autism Spectrum, Sarah has seen how drama activities improve the learning experience of all children, but especially those with behavior challenges, learning disabilities, and who are learning a second language.
Sarah’s journey into the world of using imaginative play in the classroom began after her first term teaching when she got to Christmas and realised that she hadn’t laughed with her class once. She was an incredibly organised, hard-working teacher who wanted only the best for her students, but she admits she had lost sight of the most important part of making learning for young children powerful – making it fun! Over Christmas break, she watched the movie ‘Finding Neverland’ and the ‘secret’ of how to be a better preschool teacher hit her like a train (and it wasn’t really a secret at all) – to use the imagination!
Sarah began writing her own drama and imaginative play activities and saw the incredible power it had to unlock potential in her students. It was whilst researching for ideas online that she stumbled across Pyjama Drama Franchising based in the UK – and the rest is history!
Sarah lives with her photographer husband and their two young children by the coast in California. She spends her time delivering Pyjama Drama Learning’s online and in-person professional development courses and co-creating our drama-based resources. Her young children remind her daily of the power of pretend play.
About Carrie Langner…
Carrie has a PhD in Social and Personality Psychology from UC Berkeley. She has been a professor in the Department of Psychology & Child Development at California Polytechnic State University since 2008, teaching courses on social psychology, multicultural psychology, health psychology and conflict resolution.
Carrie’s research includes a focus on bias reduction among young children. While doing a study of cross-language friendship at a bilingual elementary school, she observed that the children’s favorite part of the intervention was role playing as Upstanders (intervening to help someone teased or excluded). Not only did role play help children practice inclusive social behaviors, it was the activity they begged to do again!
Carrie reached out to Sarah Rijnen to collaborate on curriculum that would build an inclusive school climate via drama - and Stand Up and Act Out was born! She lives with her partner, two children, and two cats in San Luis Obispo, California.
About Sarah Owen...
Sarah has a degree in drama, a post-graduate certificate in education, and has taught high school drama and English for a number of years before setting up Pyjama Drama Franchising in 2005, when her youngest was just one year old.
Sarah’s work as a high school teacher and at Pyjama Drama Franchising has given her an enormous amount of experience of drama training. Since 2009, Sarah has been training individuals to run their own Pyjama Drama businesses. These franchisees often have little or no drama experience, and sometimes no prior experience of having worked in early childhood settings. However, Sarah’s down to earth, hands-on approach and her carefully structured training, has seen Pyjama Drama Franchising produce the most incredibly talented drama teachers, as proven by their incredible customer reviews.
Sarah then took her knowledge and understanding of training franchisees into the creation of professional development courses for early childhood practitioners, to ensure that anyone who wants to use drama and imaginative play in their setting can do so with confidence and flair. The result? Empowered and highly skilled early childhood practitioners and happy, confident and eager little learners.
Sarah’s three children are now 20, 18 and 15, and she spends her time training franchisees, writing and delivering online and in-person professional development courses and co-creating the incredible music and resources that Pyjama Drama Learning has to offer. She continues to live in Mid Wales, UK where the Pyjama Drama journey first began with her Principal husband and the ever-evolving troop of teenagers who flow through her doors!
About Rachel McKenna...
Rachel has a degree in art and design, a post-graduate certificate in education, and a master’s degree in teaching. Before joining her sister (Sarah Owen) in 2015 to head up Pyjama Drama Franchising, she worked as an art teacher for many years and ran her own graphic design business.
Rachel’s experiences first as a high school teacher, and later as a franchisee trainer, has given her a wealth of knowledge to bring to the co-creation of Pyjama Drama Learning’s courses and resources. Rachel is also responsible for the creation of our gorgeous brand and the design of our downloadable resources.
Finally, Rachel brings her lack of drama experience to the table! Other than brief spells in primary school productions, Rachel does not consider herself to be ‘a drama person’ and her understanding first-hand how daunting practitioners can find the idea of using drama with young children, has benefited the team enormously. Rachel strives to ensure that everything Pyjama Drama Learning offers can be accessed by practitioners who have no experience of drama or who consider themselves to be naturally shy.
Rachel lives around the corner from her sister with her voiceover husband, her two boys now 8 and 11, and her much-loved pets! Listen out for members of the family regularly singing on our Pyjama Drama music!