Q: I have a wonderful instructor who is leaving us to spend more time with her family. We have a great working relationship, so it’s hard to have her go. I have heard horror stories of students and parents being hooked on the teacher, rather than the program, and leaving because of it. I have a new instructor lined up who appears to be great as a replacement. How can I introduce her in a way that will excite the students and their parents and keep them on board?
A: It is normal for students of all ages to become attached to their teachers during their dance education. But there are effective ways to handle faculty changes that build confidence and ease the transition for parents and students, so that there is no negative impact on enrollment or studio culture.
Set up a meeting between the new instructor and the teacher leaving to discuss the syllabus for each age and level. Have them share and compare teaching styles and methods, and review the progress and work done by students.
Communicating with your students in writing is key to reducing any speculation about why a teacher may not be returning or who the replacement will be. Write a welcome letter on behalf of yourself and the teacher leaving to distribute and post at the studio. Maintain a positive attitude and tone; it will demonstrate the enthusiasm you have for providing dance training that includes a diverse faculty. Include the new instructor’s experience, and let them know that she has met with the teacher to learn about dancers’ work thus far.
When possible, build excitement by having the new teacher visit the classroom and personally introduced by the teacher leaving. You can also invite the new teacher to perform in your year-end recital or teach a master class as an opportunity for the students to get to know her better.
Find a way to celebrate the contribution the departing teacher has made to the studio with a group gift, or invite students to make a collage or scrapbook. This provides a constructive outlet to express gratitude and say good-bye. By using some of these practices, you may be surprised by how warmly welcomed your new teacher will be.
Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, NH. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com