Teacher in the Spotlight

February 2016 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Pamela Caira

NOMINATED BY: Demetra Chastang, office manager/instructor: “I have worked for Pamela for three years. She has not only been an incredible boss but an amazing mentor, teaching me and guiding me through the art of dance. Throughout the 20 years she’s owned her studio, hundreds of dancers have benefited from her passion and life lessons, and she has shown her dance family how to give back through dance.”

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January 2016 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Kristin Kudla

NOMINATED BY: Michelle Loizeaux, former student/team choreographer: “Kristin was my teacher for 10 years and is now my colleague. She helped shape me into the dancer I dreamed I could be, and now, as a teacher myself, I continue to learn from her. Kristin connects emotionally with her students, successfully communicates the technical aspects of her lessons, and develops meaningful and professional friendships with her dancers and their parents.”

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December 2015 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Brynn Weinzirl

NOMINATED BY: Dana Farber, a student’s mother: “Brynn has endless energy for her students. She spends weekends working on choreography, rhinestoning costumes, hand-making accessories, and helping her solo students. She wants the best for her students and encourages them with positive and kind words. What I value most as a dance parent is that Brynn takes class, attends conventions, and looks for performing opportunities to further her own dance experience.”

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November 2015 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Maggie Dennis

NOMINATED BY: Kiana Foster-Mauro, student: “Miss Maggie’s studio is a place where we can be ourselves, have fun, learn dance technique, and create lifelong friendships and memories. Most important, she is an inspirational role model. From time management, to the importance of community service and teamwork, to the true meaning of friendship and family, Miss Maggie leads by example.”

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October 2015 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Lisa Marie Pelton

NOMINATED BY: Kim Wood, mother: “In 2003, Lisa opened her school with 80 students. Since then, it has grown and she is living her dream. She is blessed with a 4-year-old son and also a beautiful daughter born two years ago with cystic fibrosis. When she is tired or has been up all night with a sick child, she lights up when she walks into her studio, sees her students, and gets energized to dance with them once again.”

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September 2015 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Wendy Stein

NOMINATED BY: Elaina DiBenedetto, student: “I am so lucky that more than 10 years ago Wendy Stein walked into my dance studio and my life. She introduced me to modern dance and encouraged me to dance my first solo; her unwavering confidence has pushed me to do things I might otherwise have let pass by. She is the epitome of what a dance teacher should be.”

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August 2015 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Toni Zeakes Copeland

NOMINATED BY: Soozie Zeakes, daughter: “She is 75 and celebrating 60 years of teaching dance this year. She still goes to her studio every day, and she’s never stopped loving what she does. She’s touched too many young lives to count and now even has third-generation students at her studio. I’m proud of her accomplishments and marvel at her endurance.”

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July 2015 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Anna Marie Leo

NOMINATED BY: Gail Skinner and Amelia Kinsolving, Leo’s lifelong friends and fellow teachers: “At the 2013 DanceLife Teacher Conference, we were amazed by the number of people who approached Miss Anna Marie to tell her what a great influence she had on them. At the age of 84—and as her studio enters its 64th year—Anna Marie continues to teach, always willing to share her talents with students and fellow studio owners alike.”

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May-June 2015 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Joan “Ms. Puffy” Lather

NOMINATED BY: Patricia Leigh Dwyer, former student: “At 82, Ms. Puffy continues to make her mark on the dance world by touching young dancers’ lives. Her creativity is endless, her energy is electric, and she has a warm, loving way of drawing you into her world of music, wonder, and movement. I am proud, not only to have studied under her tutelage, but to have carried on her legacy—as thousands of teachers across the country continue to do.”

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March-April 2015 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Ellen Dyer

NOMINATED BY: Sara Carbo, owner, River Oaks Dance: “I own a dance program that caters to children ages 3 to 8, and Ellen has been an integral part from day one. She performs in many theater productions in the Houston area, and brings that energy and animation into class. I know my program wouldn’t be as successful without her dedication.”

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February 2015 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Chauniece Conner Thompson

NOMINATED BY: Joy Sheffield, friend: “Chauniece opened Ballet on Wheels in 2002 to help build a better Memphis community through dance. Chauniece ensures her students are well-prepared for every dance opportunity. She gives her dance staff full discretion in their classrooms and encourages them to come up with innovative ideas to engage students in the classroom and through community-based dance programs. She’s making a positive impact on her students, staff, and community.”

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January 2015 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Lisa Eisemann

NOMINATED BY: Maria Graziano: “Lisa is not only a role model for dancers, but for our entire community. Her studio has strict rules and her classes are full year round. She runs three dance companies, and the studio is home to children with autism and those with handicaps and learning disabilities. I am a stage crew mom, and I have seen and heard Lisa working with students, demanding their best behavior, and encouraging all of them regardless of ability.”

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December 2014 | Teacher in the Spotlight |Nancy Pattison

NOMINATED BY: Cindy Pattison-Rivard, daughter: “My mom, Nancy Pattison, owner and operator of our family-oriented dance school, is celebrating 60 years in dance education. Nancy’s was one of the first studios in the area and continues to offer dance lessons and life lessons, and to inspire dancers of all ages. Many alumni have gone on to pursue dance careers all over the world.”

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November 2014 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Neisha Hernandez

NOMINATED BY: Ericka Aisha Moore, artistic director: “Neisha Hernandez is invested in bringing to students of all levels a world-class experience of studying dance and engaging in enrichment activities and performance opportunities. She hires master teachers and celebrity dancers from across the country to teach master classes. She also organizes biannual teacher workshops with master teachers such as Paula Morgan and Victoria Schneider, and is currently helping instructors become certified in the Paula Morgan Technique. She ensures that dancers are getting the best education to prepare them for the dance world.”

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October 2014 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Susu Hale Prout

NOMINATED BY: Kristen Brister, teacher: “Susu has owned ABJ for 37 years and the studio currently has more than 500 students. She has trained many beautiful dancers who have gone on to colleges around the country or to professional dance careers. Susu has always advocated providing a proper dance foundation for the youngest dancers, while instilling a love of dance.”

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September 2014 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Candice Beatty

Candice Beatty Studio owner/instructor, AV Dance Studio ’81, Lancaster, California   NOMINATED BY: Shawna Foxgrover, parent: “Miss Candice is perky, fun, and creative, and keeps the kids on their toes. My daughter’s love of dance has grown since she began attending Miss Candice’s classes, and she looks forward to dance class all week long. In addition…

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August 2014 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Dana Stone

NOMINATED BY: Jennifer Walker, office administrator: “Dana Stone is an amazing person, mentor, and teacher who can’t help but have everyone love her and love being at Stepping Stone. Dana has danced since the age of 3 at Knecht Dance Academy and under the instruction of Carol Willson at Carol Willson Studio One. When Carol Willson Studio One (under new ownership) closed its doors abruptly in June 2011, Dana took over and made sure the show went on as scheduled; by July she had realized her dream of owning a dance studio. [She renamed it Stepping Stone.] What is amazing in this economy is that we have more than 200 students! I did not grow up around dance, but now I can’t imagine not being at the studio every night.”

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July 2014 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Mary Frangione

NOMINATED BY: Nicole Zivkovic, daughter and dance teacher: “I am always impressed and motivated by the knowledge, talent, experience, and loving care my mother uses to develop beautiful, technically strong dancers. She has been teaching dance for more than 40 years and she continues to seek new information to improve her teaching. She takes a personal interest in all of her students and cares about them as if they were her own children. Perhaps most important, she expects much of her students while remaining calm, positive, and sweet.”

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May-June 2014 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Charlotte Barron-Jones

NOMINATED BY: Marie Barron-Plymail, co-director and daughter: “Miss Charlotte celebrated her 50th year of teaching dance last year. She has taught hundreds of students, some of whom have studied with her for more than 20 years. Her love for her students has no end. She focuses on teaching them self-confidence and self-esteem along with their dance steps.”

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February 2014 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Lauren Kipphut

NOMINATED BY: Maddi Szodfridt, student: “When I was 12, I decided I wanted to have dance as my profession. I told Lauren this. Most teachers would say it was a wonderful idea but never follow up on it. Not Lauren. She increased my training hours and gave me two-hour privates. My private training time was right after school, and my mom found she wasn’t able to get me there that early. Instead of canceling or shortening the sessions, Lauren decided they were important enough that she would pick me up at school and bring me to dance. This is beyond expectations for any dance teacher. Not only is Lauren extremely devoted to her students, she is the fairest individual I know. She is my best friend, my big sister, and the most important person in my life.”

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January 2014 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Jessica Starr

NOMINATED BY: Lee Hunt, dance teacher: “I have known Jessica Starr for more than 13 years. She has always been a trailblazer in dance. When she was 21, Jessica started Muse Dance Company, an in-house convention and choreography company. She holds workshops across the U.S. to give young people access to prominent dancers and teachers, and has expanded this access by offering scholarships. The program has grown to include workshops abroad, with the aim of sowing a positive image of American dance and culture.”

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December 2013 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Staciann Marcucci

NOMINATED BY: Jessica Gibson, co-owner and daughter: “My mother and I have been working together for seven years. She was given the chance to buy an existing studio whose owner had only 57 dancers left. My mother made the decision to rebuild and open Motion N’ Dance. We built the studio around the belief that there is more to dance than competitions, trophies, and medals. We provide students with proper dance education and performance opportunities that will help them grow as dancers. My mother has added more than 300 students to the number enrolled when we took over the school.”

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November 2013 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Whitney Teyf

NOMINATED BY: Nicole Kedaroe, marketing associate: “After graduating from East Carolina University with a BFA in dance education, Whitney moved to Georgia to take on a position as full-time dance instructor at Vanderlyn Elementary School in Dunwoody, Georgia—a job she created for herself—while there, she came up with the idea for Expressions In Motion (EIM).

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October 2013 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Thelma Goldberg

NOMINATED BY: Ryan P. Casey, tap teacher: “I spent 13 years at her school, participating in her Legacy Dance Company for seven of them, eventually moving to New York City to pursue a career as a professional tap dancer. I always remember three tenets of her philosophy on dance: Dance belongs in the community. Share the joy of dance with others. Be the best dancer you can be.

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August 2013 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Dierdre Miles Burger

NOMINATED BY: CeCe Wilck, parent: “Dede Miles Burger is a strong but accessible leader. She encourages team mentality among her teachers and faculty, all of whom are passionate about developing well-rounded and technically superior dancers. Dede works directly with her students at all levels—her door is always open to discuss students’ dance-related and personal questions. Dede is not only a mentor to her students, but a guiding force in their lives.

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July 2013 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Michelle Freiburger Nicholson

NOMINATED BY: Candace Occhiuto, parent: “Michelle is one of the most amazing dance teachers I have ever met. She treats all of her students, both recreational and competitive, with the utmost respect. She teaches technique and choreographs with skill. She brings the best out of all of her dancers. My daughter is blessed to have met Michelle and to have joined her dance team. She is going to learn so much in the wonderful years to come.”

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May-June 2013 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Diane Moore Abraham & Susan Moore Edson

NOMINATED BY: Casey Castine, former student: “It’s hard for me to call the studio a business because it really doesn’t seem like one. Diane and Susan use their knowledge and partnership to transform their business into a second home for hundreds of boys and girls. Their work ethic and love can be seen in their dancers. Each student embraces what Diane and Susan offer. I majored in dance performance and choreography at Elon University, graduated with a BFA, and I am now a professional performer on Carnival Cruise Lines. I can proudly say that Diane and Susan had a huge part in making me the person I am today.”

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March-April 2013 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Lisa Swenton-Eppard

NOMINATED BY: Lisa Johnson, parent: “I love how Mrs. Lisa not only keeps the dancers grounded and informed but includes the parents as well. I find myself intrigued with the tap history lessons and videos she uses and references for the students. My daughter has been with the company for two years and during that short time Mrs. Lisa has analyzed my daughter’s strengths and weaknesses perfectly in terms of her dancing and even more deeply in molding her into a young person in society.”

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January 2013 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Aradia of Las Vegas

Teacher, performer, choreographer, director of Aradia and The Ra Dancers; teacher at Las Vegas School of Dance and Music, Nevada NOMINATED BY: Noami, former student: “For Aradia it’s not about the money. She cares about your passion and care for the dance form. I live in Suriname, South America, and I send my dancing videos…

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December 2012 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Sandra Balestracci

“Sandra is recognized as a classical ballerina who appeared on major stages worldwide. She has been teaching since age 16. Many of her [former] students dance on Broadway or in major ballet companies, and she has produced many classical ballet records and CDs over the years for Roper Records. She won the Outstanding Teacher award at the Youth American Grand Prix in 2002, 2005, and 2008.”

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November 2012 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Rachel Good

My children have learned to embrace dance and how to put it to use in their everyday life. The studio is their second home. I am happy knowing that is where they want to be in their free time; that is all because of her. She is dramatic—aren’t all dance teachers?—but at the same time she recognizes when a child needs to be given a hug because maybe her day did not go so well. She knows each and every child and all of their quirks.”

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October 2012 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Thelma Showman

NOMINATED BY: Paula Showman Bridges, daughter: “I would like to nominate Thelma Showman. An extraordinary woman and teacher, she has touched thousands of lives. She officially retired two years ago but, at 96, still teaches her Showman Showoffs class for adult ladies and classes in tap and ballet.”

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May-June 2012 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Katie Petronio

I am consistently amazed at the enthusiasm and determination Katie brings to every goal she envisions for the dance program. Her approach is student-centered, but with a keen understanding of the importance of the entire school community with regard to advancement of the arts.

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January 2011 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Carolyn Dutra

Miss Carolyn has been my mentor; she is like a second mother and has helped shape the teacher and person I am today. She truly loves what she does, and does what she loves like no other. She acts as a role model for all her dancers, instilling the characteristics of what a true young dancer should strive to be.

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