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So You Want to be a K-12 Dance Teacher?

Whether you're a college student looking to go into K-12 dance education, or someone who is looking to make a change, there is a path for you!

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If you are a High School or College Students Looking to Study Toward and Start your Career...

If you are a Teacher, Professional, University Professor, or Non-Dance Teacher Looking to Make a Change...

If you are a High School or College Students Looking to Study Toward and Start your Career...

A black woman posing with her hand on her head and leaning to the right, wearing an absract colorful top and black pants against a red back round.

If you are a current high school or undergraduate student interested in becoming a K-12 dance educator, you might be wondering just how to make that career path possible. The exact steps to become a dance educator in a K-12 school will vary depending on the state in which you want to teach, which grade levels you want to teach, and the kind of school in which you want to teach. Generally, those steps will include pursuing a bachelor’s degree in dance education or a dual major in dance and education, completing courses toward state teaching certification, fulfilling a student teaching requirement, and taking a Praxis test.

However, the degree and certification requirements will differ, depending on your state certification requirements and whether you want to teach at the elementary, middle, or high school levels. Additionally, charter and private schools may have different requirements.

To learn more about specific requirements for your state, you can view this document created by Education Commission of the States and NDEO, contact your NDEO State Affiliate Organization, or connect with a college program offering certification in your state. NDEO’s College Dance Directory can help you find a college program offering programs leading to state certification in dance education.

While specific paths to K-12 dance education will be different based on your state and what grade level you want to teach, there are some things that you can do to help you discern and prepare for your future career as a K-12 dance educator:

Photo of hannah jones, a woman with dark brown hair, smiling wearing a black short sleeve shirt.
  • Learn about dance in K-12 education, particularly if you did not attend a school with a dance program. Reach out to local K-12 dance programs in your area. Ask if you can talk with the teacher, observe their classes, or even volunteer in the program. Hannah Jones (pictured right), Dance Director at Richlands High School, a public high school in North Carolina, emphasizes the importance of this: “Gather as much classroom observation and hands-on experience as you can; so much that you will learn in a dance education program is useful but nothing beats the opportunity to see what current k-12 students are learning and facing.”
  • Research dance in K-12 schools in the area in which you want to teach. What kind of schools offer dance? What grade levels have access to dance classes? What are the dance programs like? What degrees, certifications, and experience levels are required of dance teachers in these schools? Leslie Williams, Director of Dance at Liberty High School, a public high school in Colorado, advises prospective K-12 dance educators to, “Research universities with a dance education program, if you graduate with your teaching license it makes applying to jobs so much easier, and you will hopefully make some great connections as part of your education.”
  • Connect with as many K-12 dance educators as you can, working in different kinds of schools and with different grade levels. Making these connections will not only help you learn more about the field, but they can also be advantageous when you are applying for jobs. Alicia Wilbanks, Teacher at Hoover High School, a public high school in Alabama, puts it this way: “Make connections any way you can. I basically “fell” into every dance job I’ve had by connecting with people who thought of me when they heard of job opportunities.”
  • Discern which undergraduate or graduate dance education college programs might be a good fit for you and your career ambitions. Talk with faculty, alumni, and current students to see if the experience offered by the school will help you achieve your goals as an educator.
  • Get as much experience working with students as you can, while you are still in school. You can be a teaching assistant at a studio or in your college program, teach your own classes at a studio or college program, volunteer as a teaching artist, or take advantage of outreach programs that your school might offer. Any experience that you have working with students in different sectors will be helpful to you as you prepare for a career in K-12 dance education.
  • Join NDEO as an Undergraduate or Graduate Student Member to take advantage of the resources that we offer, including a Jobs Board, National Conference, and other professional development and networking opportunities.

Here is some advice from NDEO members for high school or college students looking to study toward and starting their career as a dance educator in the K-12 setting:

Headshot of Stephanie, a woman with dark from hair, smiling, wearing a purple tank top, standing against a brick wall.

"My advice for high school or college students who are considering a career as a K-12 dance educator would be: do it! Our children need the arts, they need dance, and they need dance educators who are passionate about their craft. I can only imagine the positive impact dance in my K-12 school would have had on me as a child. Seeing my students learn, grow, and express themselves through movement is immensely rewarding!" - Stephanie Bergen (pictured left), Dance Educator, NYCDOE - PS/IS 48R, a public elementary school in New York City

"Yes, it's going to be challenging! I've been teaching for 36 years, and it hasn't gotten any easier. Every year is different, but that's the beauty of it; this job never gets boring or predictable. If you enjoy working with people and have a passion to teach and share what you love, it's a very rewarding profession." - Angela Criscimagna, Dance Director at Great Oak High School, a public high school in California

"Do it! Be a Teaching Artist first if that option is available in your area. This is a great way to learn about teaching in a school setting and how it is different from a studio or community class setting. Even if you aren't sure about teaching in K-12, get your teaching license while you are in school. Once you get it, keep it renewed. You never know when the right position will come along." - Elisa Foshay, Dance Educator at Jones College Prep, a charter or magnet high school in Illinois

photo of Valerie, a black woman with short hair, wearing a black suit jacket, smiling in front of a light brown back drop.

"My best advice for college or high school students that are considering a career in teaching dance would be to make sure that you observe several teachers that teach different levels - Elementary, Middle School and High School. This is so important so that you can see what you might be interested in. Once you’ve done several observations, I would make sure to get plenty of field experience teaching at the level you’re interested in to make sure that is what you want to do." - Valery Nesby (pictured right), Dance Teacher at Frank Black Middle School, a public middle school in Texas

“My advice would include double-majoring in an academic subject and dance. One may get hired to teach social studies, for example, but may also have the opportunity to teach a dance class. To be versed in an academic discipline has proved beneficial to our teachers who have either been given a dance class to teach in addition to their other subject, or get paid to teach after-school dance which later turned into a dance teaching opportunity during the day.” - Kathleen Dominiak Treasure, Dance Director at Hammond Arts and Performance Academy, a public high school in Indiana

"Getting my masters degree in dance education right after undergrad made me standout as a candidate when I applied to schools. Schools are looking for teachers who can design innovative dance curriculum for their students and have an understanding of equitable assessment for graded courses." - Cara Lavallee, Middle & Upper Learning Dance Teacher at The Galloway School, a private PreK-12 school in Georgia

“You need to know your subject - dance - better than you ever thought possible, you also need to understand education in the K-12 system. Double major in dance and education, and if possible find a program that also includes a certification/license upon graduation. Take an extra year if you need to get a Master's Degree now- it will earn more money for you later! All teaching experience is worthwhile- if you can teach a few hours at a studio it will allow you to continue to practice the techniques you are learning in school.” - Heather Nelson, Dance Teacher at North Port High School, a performing arts magnet high school in Florida

If you are a Teacher, Professional, University Professor, or Non-Dance Teacher Looking to Make a Change...

Some dance educators enter the K-12 environment after a career in other areas of the field, such as:

  • professional dancer or choreographer
  • university professor
  • dance teacher in the independent sector, such as dance studios, teaching artist programs, or freelance
  • dance teacher in the performing arts organization sector, such as in community centers, cultural organizations, or the education arm of a dance company

There are many reasons that teachers may be interested in making this kind of career change, including the salary and benefits offered, the hours and schedule, and the chance to build their own curriculum and program. Gina Spears, Dance Educator at Portage Park Elementary, a public elementary school in Illinois, says, “Teaching in the K-12 setting is amazing and so rewarding, not to mention it comes with health insurance, a full- time living, a retirement plan, and other benefits.” However, dance educators making a career transition into the K-12 sector should be prepared for differences in class structure and content, assessment, and student population as outlined above. Spears continues, “Learn how to teach creative movement and how to facilitate lessons in making choreography. Often teachers only know the studio methods of teaching dance and public school teachers need to be able to do more than teach tap, ballet, or other genres of dance.” Every school and program is different, but in general, teachers should not expect to walk into a K-12 dance classroom and expect to teach exactly the same way they would in other settings.

The path to certification and employment as a K-12 dance teacher might look very different for these educators. They may be able to participate in accelerated degree programs or alternate pathways to certification. Moreover, some employers may accept professional experience and/or content-area degrees in dance as an entry point, allowing the educator to work toward certification during their first few years of teaching. Gina Statile, Dance Educator at Garfield Public Schools, who teaches in public middle and high schools in New Jersey, took an alternate route to certification. “After many years of performing in musical theatre and a long-running contract on Broadway, I was pivoted into the classroom. I discovered National Dance Institute, an in-school residency in NYC, and began training as a teacher/choreographer. At the same time I pursued my teaching certificate through the alternate route program. After 6 years with NDI, I took a full-time teaching position at a high school in New Jersey.”

A photo of Tova, a woman smiling in front of greenery, wearing red lip stick and a white tshirt.f

While there is no right or wrong way to go about teaching in the K-12 setting, starting your career as a professional or in another setting can sometimes be a benefit. Tovah Bodner Muro (pictured left), Dance Educator and Department Chair at Jacqueline M Walsh High School for the Arts, a public high school in Rhode Island, elaborates, “Work in the professional setting first! I think having experience as a dancer or choreographer first is very helpful, especially as you can be a better advisor to your older students when they come to you asking for career advice.”

This sentiment is reiterated by Tabatha Robinson, Performing Arts Department Chair at Lick-Wilmerding High School, a private high school in California, who encourages prospective K-12 educators to, “Be a teacher with diverse capacities as an artist. You should be able to think outside of the box. The more experiences you have as a dancer, performer, choreographer, and teacher help you cultivate the many ways in which you can approach teaching students.”

If you are interested in making a career transition into the K-12 setting, you might want to consider the following steps to help you prepare to successfully enter the field:

  • Consider how your professional experience and teaching in other dance education sectors can benefit you as a K-12 educator. Making clear connections between your previous experience and your goals in K-12 education can help in your interview process.
  • Learn as much as you can about K-12 dance programs in your area or the area in which you hope to teach. Attend their concerts and events, volunteer in the school, follow the program on social media, and network with teachers and alumni from the program.
  • Seek out mentors to learn from. Connect with K-12 other dance teachers and ask if you can observe or shadow them, check out their. teaching materials, or just discuss K-12 teaching with them. Liz Osborn, Dance Director at a public high school in Georgia, advises prospective teachers to “Build a network of dance friends and colleagues that you can work with and reach out to. Being the only dance teacher in a school or district can feel very isolated.” Consider joining NDEO's PK-12 Mentorship Program.
  • Research paths to degree and certification in the state in which you want to teach. Find a program that can help you meet your needs and reach your career goals. See if they offer an accelerated program or other alternate path to certification that might make your transition easier and quicker.
  • Join NDEO to take advantage of the resources that we offer, including a Jobs Board, National Conference, and other professional development and networking opportunities.

It is important to recognize that the process of a career transition is never easy, and making the leap into the K-12 dance education sector can be especially challenging for some educators. Ultimately, however, many teachers who made this career change have found it to be very rewarding. Kristin Blatzheim, Dance Teacher at ISD 196, a public high school in Minnesota, affirms this: “Making the career change to teaching in K-12 education was the best decision for me! I wanted to do more with dance than just technique and recitals and I wanted to work with students in different ways. It was challenging, time consuming, and expensive to get my teaching license but I am super glad I did it. It took a while to find a permanent placement, full time job but I learned so much teaching in different environments with different students and staff.”

Thinking about this kind of career change? Here are some stories from NDEO members who transitioned into the K-12 dance education sector later in their careers:

headshot of Michelle, a woman with brown hair and dark eyes, wearing a blue t-shit standing and smiling against a brown backround.

“I got my dance education degree in Utah, where there is a clear path to teacher licensure. I always encourage my dancers who want to teach in the public sector to seek out a program in a state where there is an easy path to licensure. Performers who are looking to be public education teachers should look into getting a Master of Education, or find out if their state has an option for performers to get a Business and Industry license where they can teach while taking classes to get the required courses and take the Praxis tests required to get a teaching license. Nevada offers this kind of option” - Michelle Dunn (pictured right), Dance Educator at Centennial High School, a public high school in Nevada

“I came from a professional dance world, and I wanted to make the career change for my own children. I wanted a regular schedule that would be similar to their own school calendar so I could be home as much as I could with them. If you are used to performing, you should be advised that it does take you out of connection with dancers. It makes you less available to do outside dance work.” -Heather Almanza, Dance Teacher, Mission Hills High School in California

“I earned a BFA in dance performance. I took no teaching courses in my undergraduate program. After college I was most interested in pursuing a career in Choreography, but I taught at a private studio and at a preschool. I heard that they were opening a public arts high school and I applied, without having the required teaching certificate. The goal of this school was that each arts teacher would be an "Artist in Residence," so my working artist status helped and they hired me. The state granted me an emergency certificate and I went back to school to earn my Certificate of Dance PreK-12. I earned my full certification and was teaching while also choreographing and performing in the professional dance world - all while raising 2 small children.” - Tovah Bodner Muro, Dance Educator/Department Chair, Jacqueline M Walsh High School for the Art, a public high school in Rhode Island

“I was teaching general subjects in an elementary school, and at the same time teaching dance at the local community college. A dance teacher at a high school was looking for a credentialed teacher to take her place when she retired. The Commission on California Teacher Credentialing checked my credentials, and stated that I needed to add in a dance authorization. I received the authorization to teach in high school setting due to my BA in dance and coursework post-undergrad.” - Rhonda Chan, Teacher, Yerba Buena High School, a public high school in California

“I taught in private studios and as a teaching artist for 20 years prior to working in K-12. The school district hired me with a provisional license and I had to complete 4 college courses, specified by the district, during my first 3 years to obtain my license.” - Amber Corriston, Director of Dance at Harrisonburg High School, a public high school in Virginia

Heashot of Shayna, a white woman with short blonde hair and light eyes.  Wearing a gray sweater and against a white backround.

“In 2006 I completed my MFA in Choreography and Performance in Dance at Shenandoah University. I accepted an adjunct dance position at the University Of Lynchburg and taught there for six years. During that time, I tried to implement and encourage a dance minor or dance major, but it wasn't well received. That is when I transitioned into secondary education. I was teaching part time at a local dance studio, and the students would mention that there was no theatre or dance classes at their high school. Originally growing up in Miami, Florida and attending dance magnet schools, I eagerly made an appointment with the school principal, and proposed the idea of teaching theatre or dance. Once hired, I obtained a K-12 theatre license, and then was issued my dance endorsement.” - Shayna Crews (pictured left), Theatre and Dance Teacher for combined grades at Bedford County Public Schools and Liberty High School in Virginia

“My path to teaching K-12 started when I was a graduate teaching assistant for Texas Woman's University. There I learned how much I loved to teach and choreograph for students. I entered the workforce as an adjunct professor for 12 years, but sadly was never considered for a full-time position due to funding. However, networking at all levels of education led me to be hired for my current dance position which is full-time at the Hammond Arts and Performance Academy where I teach, engage in curriculum development, and prepare dancers for the professional world or college.” - Kathleen Dominiak Treasure, Dance Director at Hammond Arts and Performance Academy, a public high school in Indiana

“I never planned on being a dance teacher while studying dance in college. I wanted to be Janet Jackson's choreographer! My first teaching job came when I took over for a friend at a local park district. What I quickly learned was that teaching paid better than performing, and was a much more satisfying job than my other gig at a grocery store! So I added more teaching jobs at studios and community centers of various kinds. I started work as a teaching artist in K-12 schools through a company I was dancing for. Teaching dance in public school served my desire to bring dance education to a broader audience, without the financial barrier of studio training. That began my path to grad school for an MFA and K-12 teaching license.” - Elisa Foshay, Dance Educator at Jones College Prep, a charter or magnet high school in Illinois

“I was a double major in Dance and English in college. I danced professionally at the end of college and the start of my teaching career. I taught English exclusively for 17 years and transferred inter-district to a campus that wanted to grow their dance program beyond the hip hop team. In 5 years time, I grew the program to a complete 5 section teaching assignment.” - Carmel Gabriel, Dance Director at La Quinta High School, a public high school in California

A photo of Kaoru, an asian woman wearing a light brown shirt, standing smiling in front of a forest.

“Since I had an opportunity, I devoted myself to building a career as a professional artist after graduating from an MFA program. After becoming a teacher, many things are different between being a professional artist and being a dance teacher, and there is a lot to study again and it could be a tough load. Yet, when I saw my students inspired by my dancing and engaged with the dance class with a deeper understanding of what dance and art can deliver to the other people, I felt that my struggle paid off and keep me going.” - Kaoru Ikeda (pictured right), dance teacher in a private school in New York

“My advice would be to dance, perform, gig, and travel as much as you can while you are young. I was fortunate to do all that I wanted to do as a commercial dancer - well, most of it! I was able to tour, perform in tv and film, and travel all over the U.S. in my prime. I think those experiences bring so much to my teaching as a new educator.” - Monica Noble, Dance Teacher at North Springs High School, a magnet school in Georgia


“I completed my BA in Dance Studies from the University of South Florida. I then moved back into my country, Puerto Rico, and completed 30 credits in education. But, that was not enough. I completed a masters degree in Education in the Arts with a Dance Specialization. Because I was finishing all these credits, I could finally get my teaching certification and teach in a public school in Puerto Rico.” - Rosana Gonzalez, Dance Teacher at CSUSA/Renaissance Charter School at Poinciana, a combined grades charter school in Florida

Photo Credits (in order of appearence): Photo of Monica Noble by John Nalls, headshot courtesy of Stephanie Bergen, headshot courtesy of Valerie Nesby, headshot courtesy of Tovah Bodner Muro, headshot courtesy of Michelle Dunn, headshot courtesy of Shayna Crews, photo of Kaoru Ikeda by Gabrielle Conforti

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