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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Emma Arenstam Campbell

March 17, 2015

MAAI Teacher Leader series

This is the fifth blog post for 2015 on the Phase 4 Maine Arts Assessment Initiative’s (MAAI) Teacher Leaders sharing their stories. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to learn from and about others. You can learn more about MAAI at http://mainearts.maine.gov/Pages/Education/MAAI# and learn more about all 61 of the MAAI Teacher Leaders at http://www.maineartsassessment.com/#!teacher-leaders/c1qxk.

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Emma Arenstam-Campbell

Emma Arenstam-Campbell teaches dance to students in grades 9-12 at Thornton Academy in Saco, Maine. This is Emma’s 4th year working at the school. She has 200 students in 6 classes. She also co-directs the spring musical and is the junior class advisor. She attended Bates College where she studied Dance and Anthropology and is currently a masters degree student at Savannah College of Art and Design in Arts Administration.

What do you like best about being a dance educator?

My favorite part about teaching is the lessons that I am able to share with my students. My main role is to guide students towards a lifelong appreciation for the arts. If they become a talented dancer along the way that’s great but that isn’t my first priority, especially having 200 students from all different backgrounds.

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

  1. Share what you love, what you like, and what you hate. Help students develop their own aesthetic.
  2. Art is not a competition- make sure that your students know that the only person who they should be competing against is themselves.
  3. Be patient! The lesson might not go as planned and that is OK.  Exploration is the lesson as much as the content.

How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?

Assessment has allowed me to validate and advocate for what happens in my classroom.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

The Maine Arts Assessment Initiative has transformed the way in which I think about my personal assessment as well as the assessment for dance classrooms in general. I have always been a lone star in professional development opportunities as the classroom dance teacher is an uncommon profession in Maine. Becoming a part of this group of amazing teachers has allowed me to connect with educators in a similar capacity and share teaching excellence.

What are you most proud of in your career?

The thing that really invokes a sense of accomplishment is when I see a student have an ‘a-ha’ moment- finally understanding something as a result of THEIR hard work. This can happen in many different ways, but these are the moments when I know that I am in the right profession.

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

My number one barrier is time. I am trying to reach a huge group of students as the sole dance teacher in my school. I try my best and often times work with students outside of school in order to try to connect with them on an individual level.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

Growing my program from 75 dancers to over 200. I recruited students who never thought they could dance but were very interested in exploring their creativity through movement. I really try to make dance accessible and not exclusive.

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

Patience and flexibility are the two most important things that I attribute to those days when I feel like I am really ‘on’ as a teacher. As we know the ways in which students learn vary from student to student and day to day to the ability to roll with the punches has saved me from flopping in some more challenging lessons.

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

Open a dance school that offers subsidized tuition to students who could not otherwise afford it. This is a dream of mine.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

I hope nothing! My hope is that I will have a fruitful career advocating for dance in any capacity that I am able.

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