Letter to Principal Lautner

Dear Principal Lautner,

I would like to help you find a dance teacher to continue the program at Orson Middle School.  Please let me know whether I can assist you.  I would be very disappointed to see the program I began 5 years ago disappear into the mist.

The issue of certification is a dilemma.  I am willing to post the position on the email listserve of dance educators here in the state of Delaware in hopes of finding a certified teacher, but I cannot predict how much interest it will draw. I know a few individuals in the area who are dedicated to dance education, but are not certified.  It is my opinion that their qualifications would be preferable to a candidate who has little dance experience, but happens to have teaching certification in a related area, such as health or PE.  Dance cannot be taught through DVDs packaged with diagrams and descriptions.  In order to continue a standards-based model K-12 dance program, Orson Middle needs a solid dance professional at the helm.

Our neighboring district of Saddlebrooke has a long-standing dance program with 2 full-time teachers.  Their new hires are qualified individuals: excellent dancers, teachers, and choreographers.  Saddlebrooke is supporting them in earning their emergency certifications.  Six years ago, this is exactly what I did, studying and working full-time to fulfill the requirements of teaching in the public schools.  It is possible to enroll in a teacher preparation program and work as a teacher simultaneously.  This secondary alternative path has been validated by the Arizona Department of Education, and is available for any dance artist who has earned a bachelor’s degree and at least 24 credit hours in dance.

It’s not that we dancers are short-sighted about the importance of dance education in the public schools.  More of us would pursue this field if it was a viable career option. As you know, positions are rarely available in dance, as opposed to art, music, and drama, which have more established programs in the public schools. The other side of this truth is that many of us DO want to push our luck at being successful performers and choreographers.  We may ALSO love teaching, but desire to teach when we have more experience under our belts, and more to offer our students. If dancers arrive at the decision to teach in the public schools, it is probably because a position has actually been advertised.  With this sequence of events, we often find ourselves unprepared to apply for a position unless the school district is able to cater to our needs by sponsoring us for emergency certification.

In my new position as Director of Dance at the local university, I have a goal of expanding dance education in our public schools by training capable young dancers to work in this developing field. My first challenge is recruiting students by tapping into the dance community for talent and helping dancers see how teaching certification can lead to a rewarding career.  The Orson School District already has a mission that supports arts education.  Assisting qualified dance teachers to earn certification would be a move that propels us in the right direction.

We are both aware of the copious research that identifies the value of dance education in K-12 schools.  Our students need more physical activity.  Many students excel in athletics, but others aren’t as excited by sports.  Dance develops self-expression, kinesthetic awareness, and helps students to better appreciate their bodies.  It helps students align their physical and mental skills and maximize achievement in all areas.  Further, our students need more exposure to the arts in order to contribute to ongoing cultural dialogues and unlock their history.  How do students benefit long-term? Careers in the arts are not the dead-end options our parents once may have told us they were. Dance has seen a tremendous expansion in popular culture in recent years and can lead students to successful careers in the arts.  Dance artists are also sought in other fields because of their creativity and discipline. Careers in health, communications, and even business or law, are wide open territory.

Please respond to this letter by letting me know whether any exception can be made to the Orson District’s policy regarding emergency certification, or if you must appeal to the superintendent.  Also, please tell me your general thoughts on the search for a dance candidate at Orson Middle School. I would be happy to assist you however I can.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Sincerely,

Susannah Keita

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