Celebrating excellence in the arts

School invited to perform March 15 in nation's capital

Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2007

Glacier Valley Elementary School celebrated winning a coveted national award for its Art is Elementary Program on Wednesday.

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Glacier Valley is one of five schools across the nation to win the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network Creative Ticket National Schools of Distinction Award and the only school west of the Appalachian Mountains to receive it.

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To see a video of the celebration, check out www.juneauempire.com.

"Other people will Google Glacier Valley to figure out what you are doing and how you are doing it," said Heather Ridgeway, board member of the Alaska Arts in Education Consortium.

Ridgeway, also a district arts educator, nominated the school for the award.

Glacier Valley has been invited to perform March 15 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The school also was invited to perform at the National Museum of the American Indian while on the East Coast.

Glacier Valley teacher Susan Sielbach said school officials hope to send 33 students to perform a locally written play, "The Tides and the Tempest," at the Kennedy Center.

Like everything else in local arts education, how many students eventually go depends largely on funding. Sielbach said the cost for the trip hovers near $40,000.

"We're hoping for corporate sponsorship," she said. "We don't want to run a bunch of bake sales, but we will if we have too."

Student auditions have begun for the 33 performance roles, she said.

The award came for a program that infuses reading, writing, science and math with art.

"Art is not an after-school activity," Ridgeway said. "It's in the teaching practice."

Children learn math through visual art, grammar through song and science through dance. Glacier Valley is a beacon of hope for other schools that they can afford art too, Ridgeway said.

Before the celebration assembly, former Glacier Valley student Devon West, now at Floyd Dryden Middle School, told people the first art she can remember making came in class at Glacier Valley. She made a quilt. West talked about making books and masks and participating in dance.

"I realized how important the arts are to kids," she said.

The arts-integrated program has been credited with increasing test scores, improving attendance and reducing discipline problems.

Ted Wilson, Glacier Valley principal, said the program's recent success, publicly and with students, has encouraged the district to add a new elementary art teacher. The district now has three art teachers dedicated to its seven elementary schools.

"It confirms the importance," he said. "I'd like to thank the district for the support they've already given us."

The award-winning program also would not have been possible without private funding from local businesses and individual donors who contributed $20,000.

Lorrie Heagy, Glacier Valley arts educator, said that the panel of judges was impressed with the private funding commitment from the Juneau community.

"The private funding was of the utmost importance," Wilson said. "The level we are working at takes quite a bit of funding."

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