Sharing my Lifelong Passion for Dance with my Students
SCHOOLS | March 7, 2022
Sharing my Lifelong Passion for Dance with my Students

By Ms. Amy Jesionowski, Lead Dance Instructor at Senn High School

When I was teaching dance during the earlier stages of the pandemic, I was doing so from a 750 square foot apartment with two 50-pound dogs. It was difficult, to say the least, to lead a dance class without falling over furniture or having one of my dogs interfere with my moves. 

And my students were right there with me. Some were dancing in hallways. Others were dancing in the corners of their kitchens. Not only did COVID-19 impact the physical spaces where we were dancing, it took away the most important part of my class: the community. 

We call ourselves a dance family. My students have me as a teacher for all four years of high school, and we become very, very close with each other. Now that we’re back together again, we have learned to be so appreciative of the time we have face-to-face in the studio and are even more proud of our performances. 

We don’t care that we’re sweating into our masks. We’re just so grateful and happy to be here. 

I’ve been dancing since I was three years old. Aside from my family, my dance teacher growing up was one of my biggest inspirations who provided me with so much motivation. 

I was initially placed in dance to get over my fear of talking to people. What I found out was there is no feeling in the world like performing. You can make an audience feel something without saying a word. There are millions of different movements that you can do, and there are even movements you can discover that no one has ever seen before. 

There’s no right answer when it comes to dancing, and that’s why it allows you to continue learning, growing, and taking risks. And then you get to share those risks with other people. 

I know my students won’t remember every dance move they mastered in my class, but I want them to always remember how they felt. I remember how my dance teacher made me feel and how those classes made me feel. 

That’s why I want to harness a feeling that each student is in my class for a reason and that they’re wanted and needed in our dance family. I want them to know that I am proud of them, that their classmates are proud of them, and that they can be proud of themselves for working hard.

In my class, I implement a growth-based grading system. Rather than my students’ grades being based on being correct or incorrect, it’s based on their effort and their hard work. They set their own goals, and I check in with them consistently to provide support and make sure they feel capable of reaching them. 

My Senn dancers deserve a lot of credit. I don’t think I would be here without them. They allow me to soar as an educator, and I want to return the favor by sharing my passion with all of them. 

Ms. Jesionowski is one of the District’s 13 finalists for the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. She says she finds joy in being a lifelong learner by continuing to learn alongside her students in the studio.