Celebrating Arts Education Month: Van Wezel Teaching Artists


The month of March is annually recognized as #ArtsEducationMonth. This year, we honored the Van Wezel Teaching Artists that help make our mission a reality every day.

Through a partnership with the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall’s Education department, the Foundation prides itself on providing a variety of arts integration  opportunities to tens of thousands of students, teachers and families across five counties every year.

Much of that content comes from a robust team of Teaching Artists, who are professionally trained by arts educators from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ prestigious Partners in Education program. These individuals visit classrooms and community events both virtually and in-person to share lessons that focus on both arts-integrated curriculum and character-building purpose.

Let’s meet some of those incredible Teaching Artists…

Katelyn McKelley
Specialty: Drama, Visual Arts

Katelyn uses multiple subjects into her arts-based lessons, including literacy, history and science.

Her visits encourage students to explore through both “personal and group discovery, creation and inspiration.”  She incorporates core curriculum values like communication skills, critical thinking, and open-mindedness through lessons infused with mathematics, literacy and cognitive ability. 

To Katelyn, arts education means promotinggrowth in social-emotional learning, connection to community and self, and improv[ing] communication skills, motor skills, risk-taking, and decision-making.”

Stevey Jones
Specialty: Creative Writing, Mindfulness

 “Mr.” Stevey channels meditative practices and reflective expression in his lessons that have an artistic focus. These traits, he says, help students not only sharpen their writing skills, but also teaches them to manage their emotions and build a better understanding of themselves and others.

Stevey’s lessons are “rooted in understanding concepts and ideas on a deeper level” through “different ideas and diverse techniques – all too important skills in these times.”

Recently, Stevey hosted a three-hour mindfulness activity at the Newtown Farmer’s Market in Sarasota, where children and families alike could come together to learn about themselves and each other through creative, concentrated ways.

Freda Williams
Specialty: Visual Arts and Drama

Before becoming a Teaching Artist, Freda was a dedicated participant in the Van Wezel’s Professional Development programming. She was inspired to use her arts integration skills to work with students on connecting Schooltime performances they attend (in person or virtually) with current curriculum standards.

“The academic standards are at the center of the activities I create,” she says. “I also take into account the local district initiatives to support teachers in current educational trends and strategies.”

Freda believes that “Arts Education teaches the Whole Child,” and that her lessons help students build empathy and understand different perspectives in addition to developing an appreciation for the arts in general.

Rachel Kelley
Specialty: Movement and Mindfulness

Rachel Kelley also focuses on mindfulness and incorporates movement and energy into her lessons. She grew up as a dancer and uses improvisation and somatic and authentic movement to inspire students and their teachers.

Using exercises like “Energy Shake” and “Rainbow Waterfall” (explained in the video above), Rachel focuses on Social Emotional Competencies like self-regulation to both inspire and connect with her students.

“Dance helps drive home core curriculum values by addressing all types of learners,” she explains. “By offering a kinesthetic approach to embody education, [it’s] proven to improve memory, develop learning capabilities and new perspectives, and empower students with responsible decision-making, self-awareness and so much more.”

Laura Courter
Specialty: Theatre

Laura utilizes theatrical arts as a way to teach a variety of subjects, from literary and social studies to mathematics and science. Similar to dance, theatre can be a kinesthetic approach to teaching that involves students in lessons in more physically engaged ways.

“The impact of arts education can increase learning ability and presents the students with alternative teaching methods with successful outcomes,” she says. By delivering these types of lessons in a variety of settings, including virtual classroom visits and Family Literacy Nights, arts-based learning has been “kept at the forefront” of education in our community.

Thanks to donors and friends like you, we are able to continue providing this variety of lessons to more than 40,000 students, teachers and families every year. Learn more about how you can be part of this movement.

More virtual lessons for the whole family can be found through Artworks Anywhere.

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