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Behind the Curtain Blog

NDEO's "Behind the Curtain" Blog features articles written by NDEO members about dance and dance education topics as well as periodic updates on NDEO programs and services. This is a FREE resource available to ALL.

22Feb

The Value of Mentoring: A Necessity for Dance Educators

NDEO’s Guest Blog Series features posts written by our members about their experiences in the fields of dance and dance education. We continue this series with a post by Abigail Agresta-Stratton and Lynn Monson, NDEO Mentorship Committee Chairs. Guest posts reflect the experiences, opinions, and viewpoints of the author and are printed here with their permission. NDEO does not endorse any business, product, or service mentioned in guest blog posts. If you are interested in learning more about the guest blogger program or submitting an article for consideration, please click here.

As dance educators in the K-12 setting, we are often the only teacher at the school, and could be the only dance educator in the district. This isolation can lead to frustration, burnout, and eventually leaving the teaching profession. Every teacher needs support - someone who will listen, and offer suggestions, ideas, and guidance. Having such a support person can not only prevent burnout, but also further our learning and growth as teachers.

One of my favorite relationships at work is that of the dance educator and the student teacher. As a student teacher, I was so fortunate to work with two amazing dance educators who were also fantastic human beings and role models to me. The work I do every day in the classroom with my students is supported by these kinds of professional relationships, and by having partnerships with other dance educators. Such relationships allow me to go outside of my comfort zone and try new things. Unfortunately, not every dance educator has access to those kinds of relationships in their school or district, especially after their student teaching experience is over.

In 2017, NDEO established a PreK-12 Mentorship Program, in response to member interest as expressed on our Online Forums and in yearly K-12 SIG meetings at the Annual Conference. The program is coordinated by a member committee in collaboration with NDEO staff. Dance educators working in PreK-12 schools with less than 5 years of experience can apply to be a mentee, receiving support from a dedicated mentor for two years. Dance educators with more than five years of experience teaching in a PreK-12 school can apply to be a mentor, which is a great way to give back to the field and support the next generation of dance educators. Applicants are matched in mentor-mentee pairs, based on criteria such as similar job attributes, disposition, philosophical outlook, and needs. The pairs participate in a guided program for a two year period.

NDEO’s Mentorship Program provides teachers with support, a safety net of sorts, helping build their knowledge as they work with a partner to share ideas, curriculum, successes and challenges and find solutions to challenges. As members of the Mentorship Committee, we want you to climb high. We want you to “go out on a limb,” and we will be here to support you as you do. We want you to succeed, and we will do everything we can to help you to achieve your goals. With the support and learning provided through this program, you can’t help but build your knowledge and leadership skills, and expand your network of educators who are your “go to” people when you need an idea or a solution.

The goals of NDEO’s Mentorship Program are:

- To provide a support system for dance educators with fewer than 5 years of experience.

- To provide dance educators with 5 or more years of experience the opportunity to assist new dance educators and examine their own teaching strategies and perspectives.

- To lower the overall attrition of PK-12 dance educators and teaching positions to increase the stability and sustainability of dance education and provide equity of dance education to every child.

As a mentorship program, we are here for every dance educator so that they can go into school every day and be champions for their students. Our mentorship partners have created reciprocal, respectful, and supportive relationships that promote success for all involved. We have witnessed true partnerships form that have continued beyond the formal two year program. We have seen the power of these partnerships and the growth of both mentors and mentees. See for yourself what past participants have shared about their experience in the following comments and Vlog post.

“I have learned so much from my mentor. I have learned ways to better myself as well as my students. The resources and information given has been invaluable. I would not have been interested or applied to graduate school. I wouldn’t have the proper knowledge of lesson plans or ways to plan. Lastly, I wouldn’t feel confident without the courage given.” - Susan C.

“This program has helped me continue to refine my own practice as I have been encouraged to reflect upon my experience and knowledge to provide guidance to my mentee.” - Rachel V.

Click Here to see Videos - Vlog by Allison B.

Applications for the next cohort will be open in Spring 2022. For questions and more detail go to ndeo.org/mentorship or contact Abigail Agresta-Stratton at abigailflorence0103@gmail.com.

Abigail F. Agresta-Stratton earned a MA in Dance Education from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education and is a Registered Dance Educator. Abigail has taught dance in many public and private schools and studios for over twenty years and has created and implemented multi-faceted dance curriculums. Abigail is a graduate of the Dance Education Laboratory and has been a member of the New York City Department of Education Blueprint Writing Committee, Project Manager of the NYCDOE Dance Curriculum Planning Committee, a scorer for the New York State Dance Content Specialty Test, Chair of the NYC Dance Educators /UFT, and President and Secretary of the New York State Dance Education Association. Abigail also serves as the moderator of the National Dance Education Organization’s K-12 Forum and is the Chair of NDEO’s PK-12 Mentorship Program. In October 2012, she was awarded the Presidential Service Award by NYSDEA for her dedication to the advancement of dance education. In August 2013, Abigail was honored at the Dance Teacher Magazine Summit as the 2013 K-12 Awardee and was recognized for her commitment and accomplishments in both dance education and advocacy for dance.

Lynn Monson completed Hartford Ballet’s Teacher Training Certificate Program in 1975, and began her teaching career co-directing a branch school for Hartford Ballet. Over the years, she has taught dance to all ages at a variety of organizations. She studied Labanotation at the Dance Notation Bureau and is a certified Labanotation teacher. She completed a BA in Dance at ASU and performed with the Thursday in the Dark Dance Co. At Carmel Community Arts & Technology Charter School, Lynn worked as the Director of Arts Education and Community Performance, Operations Manager and Executive Director. At Carmel, Lynn was able to connect and expand her dance expertise to the other arts and K-12 education. She briefly worked as a trainer for the City of Phoenix’s Artspace program. Lynn was a member of the team that wrote the Performance Objectives for the Arizona Dance Standards in 1997 and a member of the planning/writing team to revise the Arizona Dance Standards in 2005-06 and in 2015. She is a member of the Dance Notation Bureau, International Council of Kinetography Laban, National Dance Education Organization, former board member of the Arizona Alliance for Arts Education, and served on the board of the Arizona Dance Arts Alliance. Lynn was instrumental in the formation of the Arizona Dance Education Organization (AzDEO), and served as Secretary and President.

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