Viera Charter teacher’s TV, radio classes a hit with students


Michael Szabo teaches Viera Charter School students the fundamentals of radio and television production. Photo by Mike Gaffey

Teacher Michael Szabo can sense the growing excitement among Viera Charter School students as word spreads about his radio, television and drama production classes.

“They’re just knocking down my doors,” Szabo said of sixth- through eighth-graders eager to sign up for the two classes or for an after-school radio and TV club. “It’s so much fun for the kids. They just want to do it.”

Now in its second year, Szabo’s program offers students hands-on training in radio and eventually will grow to become a TV/video and drama production studio. 

Until his studio is built, his students can be heard on the school’s public address system in the morning, leading the Pledge of Allegiance and offering school-related news, sports and weather.  

Students also broadcast on the school’s in-house radio station WVCS-FM 88.1 on the dial. The station has a limited range that extends only to the school parking lot, but Szabo said the school is purchasing streaming software that will enable the station to reach a wider audience.

“We set the stage with a professional mode so what it does is raise the kids’ level of ability, creativity and self-esteem, and it’s absolutely amazing what they can do,” said Szabo, a Viera resident and an instructor for 31 years who also teaches five classes of seventh-grade science at VCS. “They’re writing scripts, they’re getting the whole production process down.”

This year, Viera Charter principal Dr. Julie Cady gave Szabo a larger classroom so he could create a TV/video production studio. A wooden stage already has been constructed, and Szabo plans to add a green screen behind the set so that students can present morning announcements from the classroom instead of downstairs in the school’s main office. The program will be titled “From the Front Office.”

“Once we go streaming, every teacher will have an icon on their computer and they can click on it and we have a wireless system that goes from the computer to the projectors,” Szabo said. “We don’t need TVs anymore. You can go directly from the computer to the teachers’ smartboards. That’s an ongoing project. That’s what we’re ultimately going to do. I’d say by the end of the year or before the end of the year, all teachers will be able to have that in their rooms.”

Szabo, a former professional musician who produced musicals such as “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Brigadoon” while teaching in Maryland, was teaching science years later at Osceola High School in Kissimmee when a school official asked him if he had ever taught television production. 

Szabo started the program at Viera Charter with an after-school TV and radio club, which still meets Tuesdays and Thursdays and accommodates students unable to get in the two 90-minute classes offered this year. “The club is booming,” he said. 

The classroom is covered in movie posters and other promotional materials donated from nearby Carmike Cinemas Avenue 16, in keeping with Viera Charter’s 2015-16 theme of “Hooray for Hollywood.” 

“I’m trying to get them a full range of opportunities on radio and TV,” Szabo said. “For example, I have a boy who loves weather. He’s my weather man for morning announcements. Some kids want to be sports announcers. We teach them how to use cameras, go out and do electronic newsgathering. We’re also purchasing software for editing and some more computers so eventually this room will become an editing suite.”

Szabo hopes to offer more radio and TV classes as student demand grows. 

“I’m real excited that this school has made it a priority and given me the opportunity to build this program,” he said.