SANFORD, Fla. – What started as an after-school puppetry club has now become one of Millennium Middle School Fine Arts and Communications Magnet's most popular elective classes.
About 150 students are currently enrolled in the class, with more on the waiting list. Millennium is the only school in Florida offering puppetry.
"It looks easy but it's not. There is a lot of technique and work that's involved in it," Edna Bland said.
Bland's puppetry career started 24 years ago when she was working in entertainment.
"We were giving a special award to Carol Spinney who was Big Bird from Sesame Street. And I confessed to (Spinney) that I wanted to be one of the people on 'Sesame Street' ... a real life child. Gordon and Susan's child in particular," she said.
That conversation led to an invitation from Spinney to visit the "Sesame Street" set.
"And he introduced the art of puppetry to me and he mentored me, and 24 years later, here I am," Bland said.
Now she passes her love of puppetry to these students in Sanford. Students work on the basics of puppetry, including entering and exiting a scene, eye contact and enunciation. She says one of the keys is developing a character profile.
"Honestly, some of it just comes out. Some of the sassiness just kind of comes out. It all depends on when I pick up a puppet what happens. That's one of the part of the mystery of puppetry," she said.
Bland was recently spotlighted by the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry. She teaches workshops nationwide.