My First Year as a Public-School Teacher: "We Had Half the Starting Lineup From the Football Team in Our Nutcracker"

Photo by Elizabeth Byam, courtesy of Tina Philibotte

In Take the Lead, actor Antonio Banderas wins over a group of reluctant inner-city students with a racy tango performance. While the 2006 film was inspired by Pierre Dulaine, ballroom dancer and founder of Dancing Classrooms, teaching in a public school is rarely as easy as it looks in the movies. From financial challenges to lack of administrative support and parental involvement, public-school teaching differs greatly from the studio environments in which most dance educators began their own training. We asked several public-school teachers to share their passion for the hardest job they've ever done. —Kat Richter


Tina Philibotte

Goffstown High School

Goffstown, New Hampshire

To recruit male students, I met one-on-one with all of the coaches at our school to explain how dance would be good for their athletes. We have chosen to keep our dance classes within the fine arts division, instead of awarding the students a PE credit, and this makes it popular with many of our athletes, who would rather move than sit down to fulfill their arts requirement.

Students in the Movement & Dance Company class study ballet in the fall and then modern, jazz and tap in the spring. Our dance classes have grown to include about 25 percent male students, and we had half the starting lineup from the football team in our Nutcracker, plus the school's quarterback starring as Romeo in one of our storybook ballets. Our girls also spent a session in the weight room with a female school security officer. She helped to demystify their fear of going in there with all the male athletes around and trained them to use the equipment.

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