UDEO Educator of the Year Awardees
Courtni Giles - Elementary Sector
Courtni Giles received her BA from Southern Utah University in French and Dance and a teaching certificate. Courtni is in her first year of the Masters of Arts Teaching-Fine Arts program at the University of Utah. She has spent the last 24 years teaching dance in both the private and public sectors. She also directed an elementary visual art program for 8 years. She is passionate about the Arts and Learning! She is currently a BTS Arts dance educator for the Washington County School District where she has developed a dance program called Art In Motion (AIM) for the SPED children. She is teaching at 8 different elementary schools. On the side she makes BrainDance, Cardio and Yoga videos for her students.
Courtney Pearce - Secondary Sector
"Courtney has been a highly effective dance teacher for the past 12 years. I have worked with her since her first year of teaching. She has been a district leader for all of the dance teachers in relation to Professional Learning Communities. She has lead the development of district wide GVC's and has been the district Dance team leader for the last 4 years. In addition, her groups have received many Superior Ratings at local, state, and regional competitions including the Utah Shakespeare Festival dance competition, the Southern Utah Performing Arts Festival, the Utah State Dance festival and more. She has also been on the planning committee for the Southern Utah Performing Arts Festival and has ensured there is a high-quality, adjudicated dance festival for high school students in southern Utah. In addition, she recently had a student be selected as the national NDEO winner of the Artistic Merit, Leadership, and Academic Achievement award. She has established a strong dance company at two high schools in St. George. She also works to ensure there is a good relationship between the dance studios in the community and the high school dance company students." Principal
Alexandra Bradshaw-Yerby - Higher Ed. Sector
Alexandra Bradshaw-Yerby is a Canadian American dance artist and Assistant Professor of Dance at Southern Utah University. Informed by her background as a performer, writer, and yogi, her research pertains to embodied writing and experiential anatomy. Alexandra formerly danced with Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company (RWDC), touring annually throughout the United States and abroad. Prior to working with RWDC, Alexandra performed as a freelance dance artist in San Francisco, CA; New York City; and Israel. Alexandra has most recently taught at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington; The Royal Ballet School/Tumbuka Dance Company in Harare, Zimbabwe; the University of Wyoming, Laramie; the University of Mississippi, Hattiesburg; and the University of Georgia, Athens, among many others. Alexandra's recent choreographic projects include Open & True, an evening-length dance work created in collaboration with Nick Blaylock and American desert folk band 3hat-trio; and, Chorus of One, a performance instal-lation collaboration with Seattle-based glass artist Anna Mlasowsky and dance artist Alethea Alexander (awarded the Bellevue Art Museum's Excellence Award). Alexandra holds an M. F. A. in Dance from the University of Washington as well as a B. F. A. in Dance and a B. A. in English from the University of California, Irvine. She has completed additional study at the University of Washington Medical School (Anatomy & Kinesiology, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine); Cambridge University in the U.K. (British Literature); and, The Ailey School (Dance) in New York City.
Lauren Curley - Private/Professional Sector
Lauren began her training in Lowell, Massachusetts at Walker's Dance. She was a scholarship recipient at the University of Hartford's The Hartt School, graduating Summa Cum Laude with her BFA in Dance Performance. In her time at Hartt, Lauren furthered her training at the José Limón Dance Foundation, Martha Graham School, Paul Taylor's American Modern Dance, and Henny Jurrien Stichting (NL). Upon graduating she was offered a contract with Repertory Dance Theatre, where she has performed works by world-renowned choreographers such as José Limón, Doris Humphrey, Donald McKayle, Lar Lubovitch, and Danielle Agami. Lauren is a faculty member at Creative Arts Academy and teaches master classes at studios and University programs throughout the country. She has been a member of the company since 2014.
Jana Shumway – Elementary Sector
Jana Shumway received her BA and MA from Brigham Young University in Dance Education. She taught dance at The Waterford School for 10 years; Brigham Young University for 11 years; and has been a Dance Specialist for the Beverley Tay-lor Sorenson Arts Learning Program for 9 years; teaching at William Penn, Calvin Smith and cur-rently Herriman Elementary. During Jana’s time at BYU she was a Visiting Professor for 3 years in which she was the artistic director for the BYU Kinnect Dance Company. Kinnect is an outreach company that performs and teaches at elementary schools in Utah. In 2013 Jana was the recipient of the Sorenson Legacy Award for Excellence in Arts Education. Jana has also written and shared dozens of integrated dance lesson plans while presenting at various art conferences throughout Utah such as: USOE Art Networking Conference, BYU Arts Ex-press, UVU Art Education Conference, SUU’s Arts Fusion, Integrated Art Experiences at USU; several school districts’ Art Conferences, daCi Utah Day of Dance, and UDEO. Jana has a wonderful sup-portive husband, 4 children, 2 daughter in laws, 1 son in law and 1 granddaughter.
Lynne Larsen – Private/Professional Sector
Lynne Larson is a tireless advocate for dance edu-cation in Utah schools and communities. In 2007, she was named Education Director for Repertory Dance Theatre and she spends time in the schools teaching and implementing high caliber dance les-sons for all ages and levels in urban and rural set-tings. Thanks to her efforts, RDT was able to serve over 38,000 students and teachers last year. She partners with the Utah Department of Education's P.E. Department to present movement classes as a means to connect both P.E. and Dance standards in schools. She writes RDT's lesson plans, conducts teacher in-service workshops, and oversees RDT's pre-professional dance education workshops (Sum-merDance, now DanceWest and WinterDance). Colleague Nick Cendese says “[Lynne] is an out-standing teacher, leader, and mentor working each and every day to make dance a vital and important form of communication and expression for Utah's population.” Lynne is the Artistic Associate and Education Director for Repertory Dance Theatre and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Utah in the School of Dance for the Teach-ing Methods/Pedagogy for Elementary Educa-tion classes. Lynne received a BFA in Dance from Western Michigan University and a MFA in Dance from University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.
Bethany Hansen – Higher Ed Sector
Bethany Hansen graduated from Brigham Young University (BA) and Jacksonville University (MFA) and is currently serving as the Assistant Chair of the Dance Department and teaching at Westmin-ster College. She is also the Head of the Dance Department and Dance Conservatory Director at The Salt Lake School of Performing Arts. For al-most 20 years, Bethany has been inspiring young dancers with her passion for dance education. One student said, “Bethany pushes her students to reach further than exceed what they thought was possible”. Her desire to reach out to every student individually makes her an incredible role model to many. “Bethany puts tremendous amounts of energy, care, and excellence into her pedagogical practice”. She is a passionate teacher who always goes beyond.
Jessica Stanley – Secondary Sector
Jessica Stanley graduated from Brigham Young University (BA) and her masters at Western Governors University. She is beginning her 11th year teaching at Lehi Junior High School. She is an inspiring teacher who is always pushing her danc-ers to go beyond the ordinary. In her years at Lehi Jr. High, Jessica has not only run a very successful dance program, but she has designed and integrated a special dance class for students with disabilities called Kaleidoscope where she teaches and provides meaningful performing opportunities for those enrolled. These classes and performances bring her students joy and a sense of accomplishment. In her classes, she creates a safe, exploratory space where her students feel empowered. In addition to inspiring young middle school students, Jessica has had many student teachers and has been a mentor and role model to these young dance educators in the state of Utah.
Jana Monson received her Bachelor's degree in Dance Education and Psychology from Brigham Young University. She performed with BYU's "The Dancer's Company" and toured throughout the United States, Greece, Israel and Turkey. Jana has taught undergraduate courses at BYU in modern, jazz, children's dance and aerobics. She has continued teaching dance throughout Michigan and Utah.
Her vision has been to create a place where children can become technical dancers and artists who learn to use their skills to make a difference in the world. Thus, she began Creative Arts Academy in 2004 and grew it from a basement studio, to one of the top studios in the nation. In 2016, Creative Arts Academy was awarded the honor of being a Top 5 Studio at the Dance Awards in Las Vegas, and in May 2018 Jana, along with two other studio owners from Utah, was featured on the cover of Dance Teacher magazine, discussing the strength of dance education in Utah.
In addition to her studio work, Jana produces the Utah Dance Festival, which is a noncompetitive event open to all studios to come and take classes from professors and professionals. It is such a great way for younger dancers to start networking and researching where they might want to focus their efforts, and who they might be working with in the future. Providing dancers with opportunity is extremely important to Jana, and it shows in the way she has designed her programs.
Tawna Halbert - Dance Educator at Ben Lomond High School.
"Tawna is the most progressive dance teachers I've ever met. Her classes are seldom the typical, expected, dance class stuff that you would normally see. Though those things are present she is also extremely thoughtful about making the experience inclusive for all of the students involved.
In a school where poverty is the norm and its effects are felt everywhere Tawna works hard to assure that the students are thinking past "dance" and are considering the art form in a deeper sense. As such she has them reading and writing, sharing, debating and moving in higher depths of knowledge than would be normally expected...especially in a highly impacted school. She not only believes her students can perform at a high level she support them so they can and expects it.
Students regularly create, choreograph and narrate their own pieces which other students participate in and are then shared with audiences.
As a school we are working on improving instruction and learning on a regular bases. Tawna always embraces new methods of teaching and is often the first to embrace new ideas and make them her own. I've never heard her says something like "oh, this won't work in dance", in fact she often is the example of how to make things work in any content area.
Tawna's is an amazing young teacher...one that epitomizes the good that educators can have in our society today. " Dale Wilkinson, Principal of Ben Lomond High School
Christina Powers - Secondary Sector
Cristina Powers is an exceptionally professional educator. I've always been impressed with her knowledge and implementation of the core standards. She has done a lot for the Davis School District to help make the standards more clear for her fellow teachers. More importantly, she understands how students learn. She knows how to reach them in a way that gets them excited about dance. When I taught at Layton HS, I occasionally received students transferring from Syracuse HS. They spoke of Mrs. Powers with a twinkle in their eyes and an excited smile on their faces. She is doing a great job at teaching curriculum and reaching her students at the same time. I often hear educators speak about straying from curriculum to do "fun things" so the kids like the class. Cristina has found a way to have fun and teach curriculum at the same time!
Ashley Mott - Secondary Sector
Ashley is more than "just" a dance teacher. She is an educator in the truest sense of the word. Not only does she teach the 18 girls on the PCHS Dance Company, the Junior Dance Company, and Dance I, II & III classes technique and the history of dance, but she also choreographs at least one dance a season herself. More importantly, she requires all of the dancers on the Dance Company to choreograph at least one piece themselves during the school year so that they can learn the art of choreography by actually creating it themselves. As a result, the majority of dances performed at the year-end concert showcase the dancers own, unique choreography. Ashley works tirelessly to make sure that the girls in her classes have multiple performance opportunities, in addition to creative fundraising programs such as a men's "beauty pageant" where high school senior boys vie for the title of Mr. Miner. She has the dance company run Junior Dance Clinics as part of a community outreach, a program that exposes over 200 girls a year to dance with the chance to perform at a high school basketball game. And under her guidance, her students created the PCHS Thirst Club, which raises $7,000 to build a well for clean water in an undeveloped country. Most admirably Ashley is a positive role model for all of her dancers - teaching them to be kind to one another, to be healthy, happy individuals and how to set an example of professional dance behavior and etiquette. The result? A group of dancers with no drama, no mean girl behavior, or as one of her students best describes it - a family.
Nick Cendese - Private Sector
Nick is a wonderful teacher, which I witnessed firsthand when he taught my advanced dance class for eight class days two years ago. He guided them to create a work of choreography for the Repertory Dance Theatre Heritage Project. The students loved working with him, because he was inspiring and had a great sense of humor. He's very patient with the students and brilliant at getting them to solve problems creatively and originally. I have heard wonderful things about his studio, South Valley Creative Dance, which is growing in size and reputation. One parent had this to say about the studio: "You treat each child as an amazing dancer. You make each child feel their worth and value. Each child feels like they are incredibly talented and important." That is every good dance teacher's highest goal. Nick's time spent as an RDT dancer, and as a modern dance major from the University of Utah, gave him a strong background in dance technique and repertoire. He also grew up dancing with Children's Dance Theatre. His varied dance experiences, since childhood, have led him to be one of the best teachers I've observed.