Celebrating the 2018 DTE Educators of the Year
The University Musical Society (UMS) and the DTE Energy Foundation are pleased to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. High School Teacher Denise Allen and Thurston Elementary School Teacher Yael Rothfeld as the 2018 DTE Energy Foundation Educators of the Year.
The award recognizes and celebrates excellence in arts education, lifting up the importance of the arts as a way of teaching 21st-century knowledge and skills, including creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and familiarity with local and global cultures. The recipients were nominated through a public nomination process. The DTE Energy Foundation is sponsoring the awards as part of its annual grant support for UMS Youth Education Programs.
A dance educator at Martin Luther King, Jr. High School in Detroit, Denise Allen is a noted champion for the inclusion of the “A for Arts” in STEAM. Ms. Allen runs one of the few performing arts programs that has remained within Detroit Public Schools throughout its years of emergency management and one of just a handful of dance programs offered for credit at high schools throughout Southeast Michigan. She organizes after-school rehearsals, special evening and weekend performances, and master classes with guest artists, as well as student fundraisers that provide students with opportunities to develop leadership skills. Several of Ms. Allen’s students have gone on to study with professional dance companies, but the discipline, confidence, and focus instilled in learning the craft has also led her students to success in academics and other areas of life.
Ms. Allen’s commitment to inclusivity in her program is especially laudable. To allow any student who wishes to participate the opportunity to do so, she arranges transportation, provides healthy snacks, and purchases costumes and supplies for students who are in need. She also invites autistic students to her dance performances at no cost, encouraging the use of the movement, rhythm, and sound embedded in dance as both physical and communicative therapy. She has made a big difference in the lives of young male students, encouraging them to explore and enjoy their interest in dance and to enjoy it without fear of shame from their male peers.
Yael Rothfeld has been a vocal music educator at Thurston Elementary School in Ann Arbor for 15 years. Ms. Rothfeld works with students in Preschool through Fifth Grade, developing her curriculum in a way that demonstrates to her students the importance of music throughout the world, in her students’ own communities, and in the life of their school. She organizes regular performances for her students, giving them an opportunity to set and work toward specific goals, and to use music as a powerful tool to communicate around ideas and issues that are relevant to their everyday lives.
Ms. Rothfeld continuously develops new programs and ideas for her students so they can grow through hands-on experiences with different instruments and techniques. In 2015, she launched a successful fundraiser to purchase ukuleles — an instrument that lends itself particularly well to teaching melody, harmony, singing, improvising, and storytelling — for Thurston to add another layer of music to the school curriculum. She also leverages resources offered by regional arts organizations to further her own professional development, bringing new ideas and techniques back to her classroom and taking students out of the school to experience live performances by professional artists.
The DTE Energy Foundation is sponsoring the awards as part of its annual grant support to UMS Youth Education Programs.