Studio Owners

4 Ways to Cultivate a Loyal (and Happy) Faculty

Studio owner Jill Athridge with her employees at a staff member's wedding. Photo courtesy of Athridge

Support your faculty with these suggestions – so they'll continue supporting you.


Pay more than you have to "When I was first hiring teachers, I read that if you pay people what they're due, they will stick with you," says Karen Daggett Austin. "So I've always paid way over the top, especially for our community in Oregon—it's double what they would make anywhere else. It makes them feel valued, respected and honored."

Team-build When Jennifer Jarnot noticed that her faculty members were operating more as independent contractors than members of the same education team, she created a monthly theme to unify them. "This month, we're focusing on building enrollment," she says. "They're responsible for coming back in a couple of weeks to say what they're doing to spice up their classes—like asking the kids to bring a friend." Jarnot thinks the monthly theme creates solidarity and gets everyone on the same page.

Predict their needs Chip and Melissa Morris provide every resource their faculty members might need, from a steady roster of student assistants to a large CD library to a sizable, well-organized costume closet full of tutus for ballet variations classes.

Offer flexibility Forty percent of the Morrises' faculty members still perform professionally, so Chip and Melissa do their best to honor occasional requests for substitute teachers so that they can perform. "It's tricky—obviously we don't want them gone a ton—but having faculty who are serious about their performing lives gives our students a good model," says Melissa.

Teaching Tips
Justin Boccitto teaches a hybrid class. Photo courtesy Boccitto

Just as teachers were getting comfortable with teaching virtual classes, many studios are adding an extra challenge into the mix: in-person students learning alongside virtual students. Such hybrid classes are meant to keep class sizes down and to give students options to take class however they're comfortable.

But dividing your attention between virtual students and masked and socially distant in-person students—and giving them each a class that meets their needs—is no easy feat.

Dance Teacher asked four teachers what they've learned so far.

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All photos by Ryan Heffington

"Annnnnnnd—we're back!"

Ryan Heffington is kneeling in front of his iPhone, looking directly into the camera, smiling behind his bushy mustache. He's in his house in the desert near Joshua Tree, California, phone propped on the floor so it stays steady, his bright shorty shorts, tank top and multiple necklaces in full view. Music is already playing—imagine you're at a club—and soon he's swaying and bouncing from side to side, the beat infusing his bones.

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Evelyn Cisneros-Legate. Photo by Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West

Evelyn Cisneros-Legate is bringing her hard-earned expertise to Ballet West. The former San Francisco Ballet star is taking over all four campuses of The Frederick Quinney Lawson Ballet West Academy as the school's new director.

Cisneros-Legate, whose mother put her in ballet classes in an attempt to help her overcome her shyness, trained at the San Francisco Ballet School and School of American Ballet before joining San Francisco Ballet as a full company member in 1977. She danced with the company for 23 years, breaking barriers as the first Mexican American to become a principal dancer in the U.S., and has graced the cover of Dance Magazine no fewer than three times.

As an educator, Cisneros-Legate has served as ballet coordinator at San Francisco Ballet, principal of Boston Ballet School's North Shore Studio and artistic director of after-school programming at the National Dance Institute (NDI). Dance Teacher spoke with her about her new position, her plans for the academy and leading in the time of COVID-19.

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