i am the arts enrichment coordinator for propel charter school-homestead, a non-profit, public charter school located in the steel valley school district. we are chartered by the state, not the local district, and we have about 305 kids in grades kindergarten through sixth grade from about ten different school districts near by. i teach all the visual arts classes, but i also bring in visiting artists to work with my kids full time for six weeks. we’ve hosted pittsburgh black dance theater ensemble, nego gato inc., pittsburgh city theater, pittsburgh irish and classical theater, among others – including some great local artists without organizational affiliation. i also hired my best friend from high school, alice lee, to teach music this year. and i coordinate the growing theater partnership with anne mundell that brings cmu school of drama kids to my school every friday to work with a group of fifth and sixth graders.
i have a pretty great job, but it’s about to get even better.
in a planning meeting for next year, where we will be opening up at least two and possibly three additional schools, my superintendent told me that she wants me to continue to coordinate and plan the enrichment program for all the propel schools. this is something that was always potentially in the cards, but to hear it for real is a pretty big deal. i will not be teaching much next year, maybe two days a week, and instead will be coordinating the whole enrichment shebang for all our buildings, a k-7 school (homestead), a k-4 school (mckeesport), and a k-6 school (montour and/or woodland hills).
as the only enrichment teacher, i taught more unified units with the visiting artists. for instance, when pittsburgh black dance theater ensemble came to teach african dance, i focused on african arts – masks, jewelry, textiles, etc. when nego gato came to teach about brazilian music, dance, and capioera, i planned a corresponding south american unit. it was very successful because it reinforced the students’ learning on so many levels. which is not to say that this year isn’t successful, it’s just different since they have art, music, and the visiting artists, and there is hardly any overlap in curricula between the three.
i proposed to dr. wooten that we broaden enrichment into almost a cultural arts class, and that we take the six six-week units and approach them continentally. we already have partnerships with groups that teach european, african, south american, and north american arts. we have also worked with organizations that do indian dance, and asian storytelling. my point is that we have the capability of doing this incredibly cool thing almost already in place.
it will be interesting and exciting to see how this progresses over the coming months and into next year. it’s also so incredibly wonderful to know that this is what i will be doing from here on out, and to know how well that works with other upcoming changes in my life. now i have to negotiate my salary, but that’s another story…