Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Gail Pansini, courtesy of Julia Lee Taylor

Diane Smagatz-Rawlinson has spent 26 of her 33 years in dance education at Wheeling High School in Illinois. She has mentored a number of dance-certified alumni and, this past spring, she welcomed her seventh student teacher to her classroom. Here's her advice for empowering student teachers.

At Wheeling High School in the Chicago area where I teach, more than 85 percent of the students are taking their first dance class. My advice to any new student teacher is: Avoid assuming that students already know how to count music, travel in lines, recognize terminology or even understand basic classroom etiquette.

Student teachers here lead four or five classes every day in dance and/or physical education for 8 to 15 weeks, depending on university requirements. Here are some of the ways I help prepare them for success.

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Special needs dance educator Ann Kathleen Shea passed away on October 10 at the age of 67, after a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease. One of Shea’s many recognitions for her tireless advocacy for dance education in public schools was the 2009 Dance Teacher K–12 national award.

A lifelong dance educator, Shea knew her calling from the very first time she took dance class at the age of 7. “From the first minute of my first summer dance class,” she said, “I knew that I wanted to be a dance teacher—it was that immediate.”

Shea founded and directed the Orange Grove Dancers, a dance troupe for adults and children with developmental disabilities, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She also choreographed more than 50 pieces for organizations including the Chattanooga Ballet and Dance Theater Workshop, as well as several local high school dance programs.

She devoted herself to bringing dance to K–12 students—especially those in inner-city schools—by instituting grant-funded workshops and dance literacy outreach projects. “I like sharing with anyone who wants to learn about dance,” she said. “I want dance education to be accessible, viable and visible.”

Photo by Nisian Hughes

It may seem that the stork dropped Wendy Whelan at New York City Ballet's doorstep--but she was actually born in the small city of Louisville, Kentucky. Though she never got the chance to meet Balanchine, she was familiar with his neoclassical style when she arrived at the School of American Ballet. She credits Robbie Dicello at the University of Louisville Dance Academy for instilling in her a working knowledge and love of the famous ballet-maker.

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