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Belleview Elementary instructor named state dance teacher of the year Rock Hill educator has all the right moves

Bellview Elementary School dance teacher Michelle Crissinger illustrates body shapes to her first-grade students Tuesday. Crissinger was recently named the state's dance teacher of the year. Below, first-grader Rashida Yekeh bends her body during an exercise in Crissinger's class.
Bellview Elementary School dance teacher Michelle Crissinger illustrates body shapes to her first-grade students Tuesday. Crissinger was recently named the state's dance teacher of the year. Below, first-grader Rashida Yekeh bends her body during an exercise in Crissinger's class.

There aren't many jobs where sweat pants, T-shirts and socks are considered appropriate work attire. But for Michelle Crissinger, a dance teacher who spends her days in a studio at Belleview Elementary School, it's perfectly normal.

Crissinger recently was selected as dance teacher of the year by the South Carolina Dance Association. She will be honored at a luncheon Nov. 10.

Children hop, leap, bend and roll during their dance classes with Crissinger, all the while beaming with smiles and panting from their hard work. The classes focus on creative movement but incorporate more routines and choreography as the students get older.

"She is just an amazing teacher," said Wrenn Cook, chairwoman of the dance department at Columbia College and director of the South Carolina Center for Dance Education.

Cook nominated Crissinger for the honor. "She has really kind of brought the passion and love for dance into the classroom," she said.

Crissinger has been dancing since she was 3 years old. She spends about 40 minutes a week with each class.

Every student at Belleview takes dance.

Crissinger said dance class gives students a chance to get their energy out, in addition to getting their creative juices flowing,

"Dance is definitely extremely physical," she said. "The kids do get their heart rates up in every class, and they do get serious exercise."

Dance can be used to fulfill 25 percent of the state's physical education requirement. In 2005 that requirement was increased to ensure that elementary school students get at least 150 minutes per week of physical activity.

Belleview is the only elementary school in the district with a full-time dance teacher. Finley Road and Independence share a dance teacher and Northside School of the Arts has a part-time dance teacher.

"To staff all the schools would be really difficult because most dance majors want to perform," said Rich Melzer, director of elementary education. "That makes it more difficult to recruit someone to go into education."

Although she, too, once dreamed of performing, it wasn't hard convincing Crissinger to teach. Crissinger, who majored in dance at Winthrop University, said she loves her job.

She enjoys watching the students explore their creativity and improve from year to year.

"The older we get, the more stifled we become," she said. "When they're this age, they are not afraid to do anything, and I just love that."

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