Skills/Philosophy

Donna Swift’s Resume

Arts Integration Goals

Arts Integration allows us to build chefs who make choices — not cooks who merely follow the recipe.”  I first posted a copy of this quote by Susan Riley of Education Closet on my face book page five years ago. The arts integration certification program didn’t exist then, but I was drawn to this approach to teaching and learning where the content is taught and assessed equitably in and through the arts. I have always believed that the arts are an integral part of a child’s education. I see children live in their authentic selves when they work with the arts. Now, as a certified arts integration specialist, I am excited to lead schools in arts integration so students can acquire those important twenty-first century skills in tangible, meaningful ways.

I started teaching in classrooms fifteen years ago when I was invited to share improv in a middle school enrichment class. While teaching a story-telling improv game, I realized to play the game, the students needed to know the difference between first person and third person. I had an epiphany that improv could work in classrooms as a teaching tool. That’s when I created IMP for Kids and began designing and teaching residencies in the classrooms such as; Page to Stage, Story Theater, Improv in Middle School Classrooms, Improv Character Building in Health Classes. I have seen these programs bring many topics to life in many classrooms, especially for non-traditional learners. I expanded my work to include playwriting so I could direct kids in performing quality, thought provoking material. I have worked with many students in many projects from Improv to Shakespeare. I mentored young artists as actors, teachers, stage managers, playwrights, stage crew, set designers, and producers. I have even had the pleasure of watching several of my students go on to the top theater schools in the country and work professionally. Equally important, I watched thousands of students find a new sense of self they could take with them off the stage and into their lives.

After spending my career as a teaching artist more on the artist side of the continuum than teaching side, I decided to sharpen my teaching skills. I became a certified Massachusetts teacher in both music and theater. Then after years in these positions in several schools, I realized I wanted to pursue a career where the arts are considered an integral part of a child’s education rather than an extra, so I studied Arts Integration in depth. Arts Integration gives me that opportunity to use all my talents as teacher and artist to set up all students for success rather than just the ones who pursue theater and music professionally. I have spent the last year using these new tools to collaborate with my colleagues to co-create engaging lessons and projects where students learn to master those important twenty-first century skills.

Long before it was identified as a twenty-first century skill, my teaching philosophy and curriculum was strongly rooted in the improv principles of ensemble. It is only through the power of collaboration where everyone is valued equally no matter their position in the project, can a project reach success. The improv principle of “ yes and” is practiced in all my work. I set up an atmosphere of respect for students and teachers in my projects. When young artists feel supported by everyone in the room, they are able to take the risks needed to achieve their full creative potential. I believe in collaborating with my students. I strive to hear their creative voices so we can together build meaningful projects and performances. I believe my role as teacher is to guide the collaborative process.

 I am now ready to guide the collaborative process with fellow teachers to create a strong arts integration program. With an atmosphere of collaboration and an eye on the goal of child based education I can:

 ·       Educate the staff on what Arts Integration is and is not.

·       Work through the pain points in establishing an arts integration program.

·       Lead the staff through figuring out where the school falls on the Arts Integration continuum.

·       Lead the staff in creating arts integration lesson seeds, lesson plans, and assessments by using standards.

·       Help the school establish attainable goals for Arts Integration.

·       Co-design or design lesson plans in all content areas.

·       Co-teach lessons in music, theater and dance.

In closing, I am very skilled at creating things from the ground up. As a theater teaching artist, I help students create an entire play from nothing by - establishing the message of a play, writing the play, designing the set, becoming actors, and sharing their creations with an audience. Before IMP for Kids, arts in the classroom programs did not exist on Martha’s Vineyard. My students have been learning how to collaborate and make creative choices years before the need for twenty-first century skills were fully recognized. I know I can help your school create an amazing arts integration program that benefits students and teachers.

 - Donna Swift 

Theater Teacher, Improviser, Playwright, Music Teacher, Arts Integration Specialist 

Donna Swift              508-939-0688             imp4kids@gmail.com                  © IMP for Kids 2018