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Professional Development

Professional development will be critical for your continued success as a dance teacher in the K-12 sector. Continuing education is required for all K-12 educators, and usually provided at the school or district level. However, the professional development offered does not always apply to dance education and the unique needs of dance educators. “PD is tough for our content. I am the only full- time dance faculty in our entire district, and it can really feel as though you are on an island. I am often placed with the music faculty on full district or curriculum PD days. I work hard to seek out my own webinars or short courses-even presenting articles that I could read in place of being at a PD that has absolutely nothing to do with my content area,” says Christy O'Connell-Black, Dance Instructor/Arts Magnet Coordinator at Greeley Central High, a performing arts magnet high school in Colorado.

poster of NDEO's 2023 conference advertisement, a woman jumping weraing a black skirt and purple leo, with the title of the conference "teaching is leading"

Dance teachers must stay abreast of changing trends, new research, and innovations in pedagogy. They may also need to fill in gaps in their previous training and education, in topics like culturally relevant and trauma-informed teaching, social and emotional learning, choreography and creative practice, dance history, and dance and disability. Professional development can play an integral role in helping dance teachers stay current on these important topics in the field. Sonia Kellermann, Dance Teacher at Franklin High School, a public high school in Oregon, puts it this way: “As a teacher, you are a lifelong learner. A fine arts degree will not prepare you for teaching in the public sphere. You must engage with professional development."

Many dance educators in the K-12 setting turn to organizations outside their school or district to access quality, dance-centric professional development. NDEO offers many different PD opportunities for K-12 dance educators, including conferences and online courses. For educators like Ashley Zardus, Dance Director/Teacher at a public high school in the Novi Community School District in Michigan, this professional development has made a difference in their teaching practice: “I have been a part of NDEO for 4 years now and have attended conferences and OPDI courses. Both opportunities have allowed me to network and continue to learn about in-depth topics in the dance world. College courses are very broad, after taking an OPDI course that is one specific topic I understood the topic much better.”

Kaoru Ikeda, dance teacher in a private school in New York, has found the courses offered through NDEO’s Online Professional Development Institute (OPDI) to be especially helpful in her teaching practice and beyond. “Since I became a member in December 2022, I took two online courses: OPDI-M18. Intro to Choreography in Dance Education: A Process to Teach Students How to Create Dances and OPDI-M6 Introduction to Creative Dance in Early Childhood,” Ikeda says. “They were beneficial for my teaching and influenced me very much, the way I teach and even interact with students. Some of the information was eye openings as a dance educator and also as a dancer.”

Teachers taking a session at NDEO's 2023 National Conference, they are in a front attitude position.

Offered annually in the fall, NDEO’s National Conference is our flagship event, attended by hundreds of dance educators across all sectors each year. “I love the conferences each year!,” says Mary Anne Herding, Dance Department Chair and Dance Educator at Xavier College Preparatory, a private high school in Arizona. “I enjoy hearing ideas, sharing thoughts on dance and education, and getting the support of other professionals. This always inspires me and gives me new ideas to bring back to my school, and my work.” The conference offers a unique opportunity for K-12 educators to connect with others from across the country and around the world. Emily Enloe, Dance Teacher at Oakbrook Middle School, a public middle school in South Carolina, speaks to the importance of these connections:

“Attending the NDEO conferences and connecting to dancers outside of one small geographical area is extremely important for understanding and respecting the field of dance. It is also a great way to feed your passion for the area and bring that back to your students.”

NDEO membership also affords other opportunities for learning and connection, such as the Online Forums, journal subscriptions, and Special Interest Groups. Even if you don’t participate in formal professional development like the OPDI courses and Conference, there are many benefits to membership that will be helpful to you as K-12 dance teacher - and it may help you in career advancement, as well! “I get to list NDEO as a professional organization on my Individual Development Plan each year,” says Heather Nelson, Dance Teacher at North Port High School, a performing arts magnet high school in Florida.

Photos from NDEO's 2023 National Conference by Noah Gelfman

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