Teaching Tips

Ask the Experts: How Do I Move Into Teaching in K–12?


Q: I've taught in the private sector for years and want to move into K–12. How can I do it?

A: Most public-school systems require a certification or license to be on faculty. If you'd like to work in the public-school system but don't have the necessary license, you can become a teaching artist at a school. This means you are booked to teach for a specified duration as a specialist. I can attest to this being a good way to begin—it's how I got my start.

In New York City there are arts education organizations that contract with public schools to provide residencies for teaching artists. These organizations are cleared by the Department of Education and vet artists for the schools. If you don't have these in your area, you'll need to look into other ways to approach your school system. This could be as easy as reaching out to administrations to see if they have some discretionary funds for special projects.

If this is a long-term career focus for you, I would recommend taking some courses on pedagogy. A master's degree in dance education would certainly prepare you to pass the exams required for your teaching certification, but there are other professional development opportunities to get you started before fully committing. The Dance Education Laboratory of the 92nd Street Y in New York City (where I teach) has great programs both during the year and in the summer. Luna Dance Institute in Berkeley, California, is a good option for West Coast teachers, or if you want to learn online, I recommend the NDEO Online Professional Development Institute.

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Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

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Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

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