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Teacher in the Spotlight | Jennifer Sue Peterson


Owner and teacher, Northampton School of Dance, Northampton, MA

NOMINATED BY: Andrea Mawson, instructor: “Jen opened Northampton School of Dance in September of 2005. While working a full-time job she managed to teach 12 classes a week as well as run the studio. Twelve classes soon became 15, and then 19, and so on. Through all this, she never misses a day at the studio, never forgets to return a phone call or respond to an email, and never has she given up. I haven’t met anyone with so much passion, dedication, enthusiasm, and determination in my life. She loves dance more than anyone I know and she loves teaching dance even more.”

YEARS TEACHING: More than 10

AGES TAUGHT: 2 1/2 to adult

GENRES TAUGHT: Ballet, pointe, lyrical, tap, jazz

WHY SHE CHOSE TEACHING AS A CAREER: I’ve taken dance lessons since I was 2 and a half. After college I started teaching for one of my former dance teachers who had taken over my old dance school. Each year I kept teaching more and more classes. Three years later, the studio closed and I ran into some of my former students’ parents and they said, “Jen! What are we going to do? Where are our kids going to dance?” I responded with, “Well, I guess I could open a dance school.” Six years later, here I am!

HER GREATEST INSPIRATION: My first dance instructor, Carol Butler Watelet. She always called me her “little ballerina” and was very supportive of my decision to transfer from her dance school to a ballet school. She knew how much I loved ballet and how seriously I wanted to study it. I know how hard it is to lose students, but it is important to do what is best for each dancer. Carol taught me that. She is so supportive and inspirational. She still comes to my performances and recitals. It means so much to me that she is still a part of my life.

Jennifer Peterson gets a group hug from her students after their 2011 recital. (Photo by Jessica Marie Photography)

TEACHING PHILOSOPHY: I believe in teaching students proper technique in a fun, loving environment. I understand that some students want to study dance seriously and competitively, but I also know that other students want to dance just for fun. I try to teach each student the way he/she wants to be taught. If they want to be pushed, I will push them. If they just want to have fun, I will teach them how fun dance can be.

WHAT MAKES HER A GOOD TEACHER: I truly care for all of my students. I treat them equally, whether they choose to dance recreationally or competitively. They are all there because they love to dance, so it doesn’t matter to me if they want to dance for fun or if they want to make a career of it.

FONDEST TEACHING MOMENT: Recently I called my husband onstage at the end of our dance recital to thank him for being so supportive. He gave a beautiful speech, which made me tear up. As if that wasn’t enough, when he finished talking, all of my students gave me one huge bear hug. It was a wonderful way to end the school year.

ADVICE TO STUDENTS: Don’t get down on yourself because you didn’t get first place or are having trouble mastering a step. Remember that we dance because we love it and that is what is important.

DO YOU KNOW A DANCE TEACHER WHO DESERVES TO BE IN THE SPOTLIGHT? Email your nominations to or mail them to Arisa White, Dance Studio Life, P.O. Box 2150, Norton, MA 02766. Please include why you think this teacher should be featured, along with his or her contact information.


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