There’s so much more to dance classes than actual physical technique. Just ask Jacquenette Blaydes, who has been teaching dance at Plain Local Schools for 30 years.
There’s the physical fitness of dancing, for starters, “especially in this day and age where students are basically sitting on their cellphones and computers all the time,” she said.
Creativity is another.
“The different things they do with creativity in dance is enormous,” says Blaydes, who was named Plain Local School’s 2017 Teacher of the Year.
“I really feel our program teaches perseverance. It takes a lot of time to perfect dance steps, and it gives students the ability to keep practicing and never give up.”
At GlenOak High School and Oakwood Middle School, where she teaches, “I really feel our program teaches perseverance. It takes a lot of time to perfect dance steps, and it gives students the ability to keep practicing and never give up.”
Another thing, she noted, “that’s really important is dance gives them the ability to collaborate and communicate. They work on smaller projects, which can be one on one or a trio.”
In her classes, she said, “I try to make learning relevant to my students’ lives by engaging them. When I first started teaching, it was difficult for me to hand over some of the control to the students. But now they can have more of a voice, which sparks interest in what they can accomplish.”
Blaydes started at Plain Local Schools as a teacher at Pleasant View School for the Arts, which closed in 2006.
Blaydes teaches students in grades 7 through 12 at Oakwood and GlenOak, shifting back and forth between the buildings.
“We do ballet pointe, lyrical, tap,” she said. “We don’t really do modern dance. It is focused on the ballet aspect.”
She has about 300-plus students; only about 10 of them are boys.
In addition to her school duties, Blaydes teaches a low-cost dance-enrichment program for kids ages 3 through eighth grade, held at GlenOak.
For the past nine years, she has choreographed a story ballet for dancers ages 3 through 12th grade presented through the Plain Local School Foundation. Past productions have included “Mary Poppins,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Little Mermaid.” This year’s ballet, “Aladdin,” will be November 17 and 18 at GlenOak.
Blayde’s interest in creative movement has been lifelong.
“When I was 3, my mom took me to a YMCA-type ballet class, and it just kind of grew from there,” says Blaydes, who grew up in Mount Vernon, Ohio.
Years later while majoring in dance at the University of Akron, Blaydes found her life’s calling.
“My goal was to become a professional dancer. Then we did an outreach program at a day care center,” she recalled. “I fell in love with teaching at that point. I decided I needed to teach.”