Tell us a little bit about what you were doing before you came to Columbia.
Before attending Columbia College Chicago, I studied business, dance and arts management at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. I was heavily involved in student and professional organizations in the area including University Dance Alliance, University Performing Dancers, Sexual Assault Information Network, the YMCA of Greater Toledo, and Open Window Dance Company among others. I graduated from BGSU with a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration in 2008, ready to combine my experiences in dance, arts management and business to build a career for myself.
After graduating I began working in many organizations in the role of arts administration and arts management. I worked for the Toledo Museum of Art’s School of Art and Design as Education Assistant and Registrar, spent a summer in Lewiston, Maine as a dancer and Arts Administration intern at Bates Dance Festival, and worked for local studios as both dance instructor and in office management and administration. While these positions all included dance and arts management, I found more and more of my work aligning with education (although I wouldn’t recognize this for some time).
In 2009 I was offered a position as dance instructor at a public arts-based elementary school in Toledo, Ohio: Imagine Madison Avenue School of Arts. At IMASA I taught dance technique, history and performance in all styles and genres to kindergarten through 5th grade students, most of which had never danced before and had not had much exposure to the arts. I immediately loved the environment of the school, as all of the teachers were helpful and ready to collaborate on lessons and projects, the students were eager to learn, and the teaching environment was much different from what I experienced in dance studios, community organizations and other dance schools before. Within my classes there were many students who considered dance to be their last priority, and often times something they would never do. I had to find ways to connect to my students in other ways. I began integrating academics into my dance lessons (math skills, science concepts, literature and history) and saw students react positively and become more willing to take risks in the dance studio when approaching the art form from a place more comfortable and familiar. I continued working at IMASA for three years, taking on other roles including Title I Teacher Assistant in reading and math, in which I taught small group instruction in reading and language arts to kindergarten through 2nd grade students and math skills to 4th and 5th grade students. In 2012 I was recognized as Imagine Madison Avenue School of Arts’ Teacher of the Year. From my experiences at IMASA, I realized that did not only want to teach dance, but I really loved and wanted to pursue teaching, of all kinds, in my future. I made the decision to attend graduate school to pursue a Masters of Art in Teaching, so that I can continue my journey as an elementary educator.
Why did you choose Columbia for your graduate study?
After making the decision to attend graduate school, I immediately looked at various schools and their program offerings. I knew I wanted to move out-of-state for graduate school to experience something new, and had my heart set on Chicago, Illinois. I had considered Columbia as a choice for my undergraduate studies, but chose to stay close to home at that time. I wouldn’t change that decision for the world, but was eager to experience a new home for graduate school and after. Chicago seemed like the perfect place for me, as it hosts many universities and colleges with excellent education programs and has a vibrant dance scene.
Columbia College Chicago prides itself on being an artistic, collaborative school in every aspect. I found that both the undergraduate Early Childhood Education program and the graduate Elementary Education and Art Education programs fully supported arts integration and constructivist approaches to teaching, something that was of utmost importance to me when looking at graduate programs. The faculty and administration at Columbia were welcoming from the start of my application process, and I already felt like part of the community. Aside from the excellent education department and great faculty and staff, Columbia’s arts programs are a big part of why I chose to attend Columbia. Although I am not pursuing a Masters in Dance Education specifically, I plan to add a Dance Endorsement to my Illinois Type 03 Elementary Education Certificate upon graduation. It was important to me to continue my dance studies at Columbia, to enhance my expertise in the area of dance education, and my abilities to integrate arts into my elementary education classes. Columbia College Chicago seemed like the perfect place to study elementary education while continuing dancing.
Tell us about a project you’re working on that you’re excited about.
When I first started the MAT program at Columbia I also worked for Chicago Public Schools in The Nettelhorst School’s Response to Intervention and Arts Enrichment programs. Here I taught reading and language arts small group intervention to students in kindergarten through 5th grade, and taught a variety of after-school programs to students in elementary and middle school. I also have worked with other education organizations in the area including the Jewish Community Center, Design Dance (an after-school dance education program), and Explore and Much More (an educational play-space providing interactive exhibits and arts classes for early learners).
Recently, I was offered a position for this upcoming school year that I am very excited about. I will be working as a Teaching Artist for Hubbard Street Dance Company, where I will teach dance residencies and arts integration residencies in Chicago Public Schools. I am excited to continue teaching dance as well as excited to collaborate with classroom teachers to create arts integrated lessons combining dance and academic content. I am looking forward to this position and will definitely share my experiences from Hubbard Street Dance Company, Chicago Public Schools, and of course Columbia College Chicago’s Elementary Education MAT program with you on Marginalia!