Laura Richey

IMG_1370Physical Education teacher Laura Richey has found a way to bring creativity to all of her teaching. “In traditional PE training 15 years ago that was not the approach. [Luna’s Summer Institute] was almost like a rebirth as a teacher. Or an awakening, gosh, why haven’t I been teaching this way the whole time?” By participating in the Summer Institute (SI) in 2013 she was not only able to learn the language of dance but how to invigorate student learning. Now her teaching approach no longer is just a unit on dance, rather dance is interwoven into all of her curriculum, because she is using a creative lens in which to teach sports concepts. “So many of the dance concepts (pathways, changing directions, levels) you can apply throughout the whole curriculum, whether you are talking about soccer, lacrosse, or a tag-game. The start of the school year is full of Luna, because it is the springboard for some of the other concepts taught.”

Laura has been a PE teacher for a long time. Prior to teaching in Piedmont Unified in 2009, she taught in southern California in public and private schools. She has a long history in the field of Physical Education and has experienced the pedagogical shifts. Thinking about PE from a Creative Dance approach was a mental shift that now shapes her present teaching approach and in many ways she feels is her greatest achievement, bringing creative movement to the physical education setting where students typically are instructed on the “correct” way to move. The goal of physical education is to create lifelong movers with high levels of physical literacy and self-efficacy related to their movement ability.”

Her first challenge was to overcome her feelings of hesitation because she did not identify as a dancer. The act of jumping right in would give her firsthand information on how her students might feel and how to support their learning, and Laura willingly took the plunge, saying: “You are never too old to re-invent or discover a new part of yourself.” As a SI participant she learned how to create a safe environment for students to experiment with movement concepts, develop a teaching progression for introducing dance concepts that bridge the gap between dance instruction and physical education, and embrace the idea that there can be no right/wrong way to move in PE class settings. “This new approach allows all students to experience success without a winning or losing atmosphere. This is important because students perceive success and failure in public and the more skilled sports movers typically dominate.” This creative approach is aligned with her physical education goals. Laura reflects that by giving students the power and responsibility to create movement and “be in charge,” they challenge their mind/body connection, therefore increasing their physical literacy.

Thinking about PE from a creative dance approach also shaped her role as a leader in Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD). In collaboration with her colleagues, she is working to shift instruction in PE in PUSD because she sees how “creative dance concepts weave beautifully into the CA physical education state standards and provide building blocks for movement concepts needed for students to be successful, competent movers.” She works with over 500 students TK-5th grade at Havens and other elementary schools. She shared that many of the PUSD PE team have taken courses through Luna and have adopted a creative dance, integrated approach to teaching. Now, spreading dance instruction throughout the district at all levels is important to them. They have become a support network and advocates for each other in the district. For example, when they heard that the high school dance teacher’s position was in jeopardy, all of the PE teachers lobbied on her behalf. “We have created and become allies and a community to each other.” They are also connecting high school dance teachers to elementary schools to provide opportunities for student showing, allowing elementary students to this is what dance can look like later in their school career. “We take elementary students to HS students’ performances and HS students will teach classes to the elementary.” Presently, PUSD is restructuring the PE department and program and the PE team is working together to advocate for a creative approach to instruction and expand dance. The process has its set of challenges but all of them are committed to shifting the paradigm. On this personal and professional journey into creativity Laura has found meaningful ways to impact those around her.

In our 25 years, Luna has worked with hundreds of teachers who we’re now proud to say are teaching all around the globe. From Emily Blossom to Jakey Toor, our past Professional Learning colleagues are collectively and cumulatively teaching tens of thousands of children. Starting in 2017 we will share their stories, one each week, about how they continue to positively impact the dance education field, the future, the world. To read the growing anthology, please click here.