Studio owner/instructor, Neisha’s Dance & Music Academy, Chula Vista, California
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.”
YEARS TEACHING: 26
GENRES TAUGHT: Ballet and the Paula Morgan Technique
AGES TAUGHT: 7 to 14
MOST IMPORTANT THING A TEACHER TAUGHT HER: If opportunity doesn’t knock, build your own door.
WHY SHE CHOSE TEACHING AS A CAREER: I was called to dance from the start. It was never a choice, always a given. Dance is like breathing—it’s been the center of my life.
WHAT MAKES HER A GOOD TEACHER: My goal is to encourage kids to lead inspired lives. I strive to ensure that every student receives positive reinforcement in every class. Whether a child is outgoing or timid, naturally gifted or struggling through class, they are all gifts, and all deserve to feel loved. Every student receives a compliment and at least one thing to work on in each class.
ADVICE FOR STUDENTS: Dance training is a process, not an outcome.
HOW STUDENTS WOULD DESCRIBE HER: Loving, funny, and demanding. I would hope they would say, “Ms. Neisha believes in me.”
SUCCESSFUL TEACHING METHODS: Vaganova, adapted to the American classroom. I love a syllabus that allows for teaching continuity within a classroom.
CLASSROOM RULES SHE HAS ESTABLISHED: Each classroom has a poster with all the standard rules. The last rule is my favorite: “When you go to sleep at night, review your classroom compliments. Then review your corrections and imagine your body applying the corrections.” This way the students’ minds are working on corrections while they sleep.
FONDEST TEACHING MEMORIES: I asked a former student, who is now an ER nurse, how she managed working in such a high-stress environment, and she said, “I apply the lesson you taught me in dance: ‘Bring your best self to what you do; then no matter the outcome, you can feel good about your part in it.’ ”
I had a brand-new student—a little boy who was dropped off for ballet and cried without participating for three weeks. Three months later, he leapt off the stage with a huge smile after performing the party scene in Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker. He hugged me saying, “I want to do that again!”
ADVICE FOR TEACHERS: Love your students. Every child wants to feel important and worthy of you.
TOUGHEST ASPECT OF TEACHING TODAY: In a technology-driven society, kids are used to getting quick results. Dance takes patience, and we need to help them to understand and appreciate that.
MOST EXCITING THING IN DANCE EDUCATION TODAY: The Paula Morgan Technique. I have been studying with Paula for about a year and a half and she is an incredible inspiration—not only to me, but also to my students and the teachers at my school.
FAVORITE DANCER: American Ballet Theatre’s Paloma Herrera. I flew to New York City to watch her dance. Her technical ability was breathtaking, but her artistic interpretation pulled me into the narrative—I wasn’t thinking about ballet technique; I was in the story with her!
FAVORITE CHOREOGRAPHER: Mia Michaels. I appreciate that she is vulnerable with her choreography. Her works are inspiring to the dancers and to the audiences.
DO YOU KNOW A DANCE TEACHER WHO DESERVES TO BE IN THE SPOTLIGHT? Email your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include why you think this teacher should be featured, along with his or her contact information.