“Three years later I landed the job that people told me I would never have—public school dance teacher.” – M.K. Victorson
M.K. Victorson’s experience as a dancer-performer to public school dance teacher reflects the skills of tenacity and relationship forming necessary to survive in this career. She is proud to say that she has maintained a career in dance education since the ‘90s. Living in Chicago and working in the public schools since 1998, M.K.started as a teaching artist for Hubbard Street Dance, then pursued education to become a certified elementary school teacher, and finally landed a hard-to-procure job as a public school dance/drama teacher. Presently, she teaches dance full-time to grades K-8 as a Chicago Public Schools teacher at Franklin Fine Arts Magnet Center.
For over 10 years, M.K. worked as a teaching artist at Hubbard Street Dance’s Education and Youth programs in Chicago. Wanting to pursue public education she returned to school to become a certified elementary teacher. At first she imagined, “ I would teach 4th grade and be an interesting, creative, wacky teacher of math and reading and everything.” There were a handful of people teaching dance in public schools but people told her she would never get those jobs because there were so few positions. However, while still in her graduate program and working as a teaching artist, M.K participated in Luna’s 2005 Summer Institute in hopes of shedding light on her next steps.
M.K. came with important questions about education and the arts: “How do I make my dance classes more democratic? I was in school and thinking and questioning all of the traditional constructs of school and wondering how I would challenge them in my own classroom.” This is an area of inquiry she still has today. “I will always have it. As I continue to teach in public school, I think reflecting and critiquing my practice in regards to how I engage all the learners in the room is an ongoing dialogue.”
While at Summer Institute, M.K.came to appreciate a developmentally-appropriate approach to dance education. At that point in her career, M.K. had been teaching early childhood dance classes for years. Her lessons focused on the importance of creative dance, coming up with fun ideas. M.K wasn’t in the practice, at the time, of paying attention to the developmental stages of children and using that awareness to guide her dance classes. By doing so, it helped her formulate an initial scope and sequence for her dance curriculum. “Today, I always return to Body, Mind & Spirit in Action by Patricia Reedy and the emphasis on educating young dancers from a child development perspective. When I find myself struggling with a group of students, I go back to reading about what children are learning, doing and interested in at age 5, at age 8, at 13 and so one.”
The Summer Institute put the pieces of curriculum writing and dance education together, allowing her to bridge dance content knowledge with education. The impact of that summer would shift how she thought about her career and dance education. “I returned thinking about dance as a core subject in elementary education. I no longer saw dance education as an extra but as a vital part of learning. I began to see myself as having a future as a dance educator.” Three years after her graduate program she would land the job that previously seemed inaccessible: public school dance teacher.
In the 20 years of living in Chicago, M.K. has formed relationships as a dance teacher and artist and learned that she is a great connector. In addition, she has leveraged her relationship building skills to connect dance artists with public school students.
“My professional relationships have allowed me to bring quality programming to my school from dance companies, arts organizations, and high schools. Though I am a quiet, introverted person at heart, my ability to connect has given me the confidence to say “you should come to my school and dance on our stage! We would love to have you!””
Seeing this area of strength in herself has helped her to grow beyond what she originally thought were her limitations. Her personal growth has contributed to her growth as a professional, pushing her to explore, learn and be a better teacher, collaborator, and arts advocate.
“Chicago Public School dance teachers are a small and tight knit community. We value our time together to share ideas and ask questions in a safe space.The dance teachers of Chicago will gladly come in on a Saturday to meet with their peers and share ideas or attend a workshop. I was very fortunate to have that at Luna for 10 days and I always treasure when I get those moments here.”
“I am proud to be working in and advocating for quality arts education and public schools in this uncertain age.”
In 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. We’re sharing their stories, about how they continue to positively impact the dance education field, the future, the world.