2023 Dance Education Teacher of the Year: Tara Madsen Robbins, Cab Calloway School of the Arts

An essential quality for a dance educator is a genuine desire to be a lifelong learner and lead by example. I develop professionally by reading many books on arts education and listening to podcasts. I immerse myself in this vital work to better understand its many facets. One recent podcast talked about self-regulation and how it is one of the most important things an educator should know. I couldn’t agree more. It’s essential to take a closer look at how we speak to people, in terms of delivery, and sometimes the phrase “It’s not what we say but how we say it” needs to be considered with every interaction with staff, parents, and students. Self-regulation can start with promoting and prioritizing self-care. Leading by example as a dance educator is crucial. I do my best to model this to my students and colleagues each day. It is one of my strengths, and I will continue to make a genuine effort in this area.  

Professionalism is another important quality in a dance teacher. My job is to help foster and create a healthy environment in the studio for all students to thrive. I lead by example in staff, student, and family interactions. Professionalism is discussed in my classroom almost daily, since work ethic and reputation matter in the professional dance world. I instill this idea in my classes, where I set high standards and expectations for my dance students. I love that they enjoy the challenge of meeting those standards in a fast-paced, positive, and supportive environment. One thing I love about directing the dance program at Cab Calloway is the inspiration I get from the dancers and their energy. This is my focus as an educator, and I take this role very seriously. Students will not thrive in an environment where they feel intimidated — they will thrive with encouragement and genuine support. My job is to provide this every day through my artistic direction. 

While a great dance teacher possesses many important qualities, it’s essential for the teacher to be themselves and lead with their strengths, but also reflect on their weaknesses and look at them as an opportunity for growth. I am doing everything possible to gain different experiences and add to my artistic and education toolbox. It’s all about having a positive perspective and growth mindset. I instill this idea in my students daily in my Cab Calloway dance classes. I emphasize that celebrating our uniqueness makes us an even more powerful team. 

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