Fees College Prep Takes Performing Arts Program to New Heights
To celebrate National Arts in Education Week, we are spotlighting Fees College Preparatory Academy’s unique performing arts program led by Dance and Theatre Director Helen Buck-Pavlick. Created in 2015, the program has been a perfect opportunity for students who wish to creatively express themselves through art, culture, and dance. The program continues to grow with each year and now includes three levels of dance for Fees College Prep students – National Junior Honor Society of Dance Arts, an aerial dance club, and an afterschool dance club.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Buck-Pavlick to discuss her career, her love of the performing arts, as well as some exciting new programs that students get to look forward to this year! Read our interview below.
What made you choose this career?
I started dancing at the age of two and haven't stopped since. I fell in love with performance touring with a junior Irish Dance company between seventh- and ninth-grade which led me to become involved in my high school's theatre program. My undergraduate degree is in Theatre Performance and my Master in Fine Arts is in Dance. The transition to dance/drama teacher, director, and choreographer seemed natural. It was what I loved to do, and I loved sharing that love with others; especially youth. I worked as a youth dance and theatre director, choreographer, and teaching artist in Chicago for six years before I moved to Arizona to pursue my MFA at ASU. After I finished graduate school I began substitute teaching in TD3, which I thought would be a temporary. However, after the experience of taking over a class of seventh-graders who had recently lost their teacher made me fall in love with classroom teaching and the students. I completed my post-baccalaureate in secondary education through Rio Salado College when the opportunity to create a dance and theatre program at FCPMS became available. I can't imagine myself doing anything else – this is my dream job.
What are some things you love about your job?
I love watching the students grow as artists over the semester and through their three years at FCPMS. Some students come to theatre to overcome their shyness and blossom into outgoing performers. Some students come to dance with no experience and discover a love for a particular style of dance or making their own dances. Middle schoolers are the perfect balance of imaginative and playful and are able to think critically and creatively about topics. I love that I get to share my love of performing arts with my students and how they in turn share their love for the arts with me.
Why do you think teaching the arts in schools is important? How does it benefit the kids?
Arts education is vital, especially in middle school. Arts education recognizes that more than technique and craft is being learned. Confidence, coordination, critical and dynamic thinking, leadership, bodily awareness, social and emotional skills, and creativity are just the beginning of the larger life skills arts education provides. These skills carry beyond the walls of the classroom and into the students' everyday lives. Research shows that the participation in Performing Arts is linked to student achievement, but this benefits kids even further. The arts teach that experimentation fosters invention, individuality, and personal inquiry. It also teaches how the creative process works, how to give and accept quality feedback, how to make mistakes (and be okay with making mistakes), and how to present their best selves to the world.
What are you most excited for this school year in regards to the dance and theatre program?
I am most excited about how many opportunities our students have for performance and community collaborations this year. We will again have Arizona Theatre Company visit for a week long residency and Arizona State University's dance undergraduate and graduate students visit and guest teach. Additionally, we will be collaborating with Marcos de Niza (and many of our graduated Firebird students) in all of the STEAM subjects. In addition to our regular concert season, our students will produce an aerial circus, compete in state choreography competitions, and create original dances and scenes to share at assemblies and pop-up performances. In May, our highest level of students in dance, choir, band, orchestra, and STEM will be participating in workshops at Disneyland. We also are grateful to Mesa Arts Center and Act One for helping us provide field trips for dance and theatre to view professional artist performances, such as Childsplay Theatre and Ballet Arizona.
What are some performances that students will be involved in this year?
The Firebird Flier's Aerial Club will produce their second "Circus Spectacular" event this fall. In November we are producing our first talent show. Our band students will have the opportunity to perform alongside Marcos de Niza's marching band at a football game. In addition to their December concerts, the dance, theatre, and choir classes will be working on our second “Passing Period: The Musical,” a pop-up musical performed in surprise locations throughout the campus in December. The Advanced and Honors dance classes will present a concert of original student choreographies in May. We are excited to show you what our students can do!
Thank you Helen for your commitment to your students and for helping to make art come alive at Fees College Prep!