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A Chat with Deb Clancy, UMS’s DTE Energy Foundation Educator of the Year

At the Ford Honors Program Gala Dinner on Saturday night, UMS presented its DTE Energy Foundation Educator of the Year Award to Deb Clancy from the Washtenaw Intermediate School District.

As the former Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) Liaison to our UMS Youth Education Program, Deb Clancy has been a model steward, partner, and leader.  Along with her “bend-over-backwards” brand of support, she provided insightful counsel when making programmatic and strategic decisions.  Though Deb transitioned roles within WISD this season and is no longer the UMS liaison, her spirit of helpfulness and the support beams of her contributions remain embedded in our program and in our partnership with WISD.

Omari Rush, UMS’s Youth Education Manager, caught up with Deb recently to talk about arts education and how the schools are adapting to their new realities.

OR: You’ve worked with UMS for five years as the WISD liaison to the Youth Education Program. What did you particularly enjoy about this partnership?

DC:  I really admire and commend UMS’s commitment to offering diverse programming across the spectrum of the arts: both to K-12 students and to educators in southeast Michigan.  Its willingness to leverage boundary-spanning partnerships to realize creative projects for school communities is a model for what all educators will have to do in the coming years.  As funding sources become less obvious, we’ll all need to work harder to find the opportunities in partnerships to secure additional support or funding for education-related endeavors.

OR:  Tell us what pressing academic issues are facing the schools now.

DV:  At the county level our focuses are on, of course, math and literacy, along with other areas such as early childhood education and personalized learning. While data from the MEAP testing show increases in student achievement in  reading and math, we’re still working on closing achievement gaps between students of different socio-economic levels and between students of different ethnicities. The arts are certainly a factor in achieving these goals. Through our partnership with UMS we’ve been able to bring teaching artists to the area that provide our teachers with an array of creative strategies that help us improve student success and reach students as individual and unique learners. One example of an arts-infused workshop this year was “Math + Dance: Exploring Sequence and Combinations.”

OR:  What do you see as the biggest opportunities in education?

DC:  The national conversation in education is about 21st century skills; those essential skills that our children need to succeed as citizens and workers in the 21st century.  Re-thinking content delivery so that learning goes beyond the traditional school walls and beyond the traditional school textbook is one area of opportunity for the general education community.  The opportunity for the arts is to identify meaningful and proven methods for fitting into this framework.  While we know that an arts-infused education is closely linked to student achievement, development, and engagement, there is ample opportunity to further refine and clarify these arts-related benefits and to create specific techniques for content delivery and integration.

OR: What would you like folks who don’t know UMS to understand about the program?

DC:  UMS searches the world for renowned programs that focus on student involvement in the arts, programs that provide our students with academic and life skills; the programming really brings the arts to life for students of all ages.  As a UMS teacher of the year shared three years ago, “UMS delivers the world, without you ever leaving the county.”  I completely agree! Since 1990,UMS has touched and changed the lives of over two hundred thousand students through arts involvement.  It’s really quite amazing!