The Art of Teaching

By By Paige Fieldsted

By Paige Fieldsted

In 1991, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts formed the Partners in Education Program, “In order to build professional development for teachers,” said Barbra Shepard, director of National Partnerships at the Kennedy Center.

And this year, the Kennedy Center selected 14 new teams to join the 92 teams already participating in the program.

Kingsbury Hall, Salt Lake City School District and Youth Theatre at the U have been selected as one of the 14 teams from across the nation to take part in the program, to be held this spring in Washington D.C.

The program, designed to provide teachers with new teaching methods, will include several workshops over a three-day period.

Robin Wilks-Dunn, education and outreach coordinator for Kingsbury Hall; Rosanne Henderson, arts coordinator for the Salt Lake City School District; and Penelope Caywood, artistic director of Youth Theatre at the U will be attending the institute this May and other conferences and training through 2009. They will in turn pass along what they learn to the teachers and professors of the U and Salt Lake City School District.

“We want to help teachers learn about art strategies to teach other areas,” Shepard said.

Arts education is becoming increasingly scarce–a precious commodity that Wilks-Dunn believes is too valuable to lose.

“Arts can help teach basic academics. Music and dance can be used to teach math and theater can be used to teach history and language. They help bridge cultural and economic divides. For example, students don’t have to speak the same language or have the same economic background to enjoy music and dance,” Wilks-Dunn said.

Nicole Simper, a freshman art major, agreed. “I think (art) helps you be more open-minded. It opens you up to different thoughts and ideas that you may have never been exposed too,” she said.

Application for the program is very competitive. Shepard said the Utah team was chosen because of the well thought-out application, Kingsbury Hall’s strong resources and the other strong art resources in the area.

Wilks-Dunn said Salt Lake City was chosen for the diversity. “Salt Lake City School District serves over 24,000 students with over 80 languages spoken in 36 schools. Economically, there are areas with multi-million dollar homes while others have over 90 percent poverty. I believe this diversity contributed greatly to us receiving the Partners in Education.”

With Utah and 13 other new teams from around the country participating, the program will be reaching over 100 communities across the nation.

Wilks-Dunn said, “With this partnership, the number of students participating (in the arts) will increase significantly. By the end of the 2006-2007 school year, more than 10,000 students will have been impacted by our free or low-cost performances and classes.”