In December, I was able to meet and chat with the lovely Teresa Benzwie. She is a dance legend as far as I am concerned and has a lot of knowledge to share about teaching children. Her student MK reached out to me to tell me about her programs and how Teresa shares dance with the world. I thought I would share her story here. I know you all will love her as much as I do!
Dr. Teresa Benzwie’s love for children and the arts motivated her to teach young children all their subjects through creative movement while teaching kindergarten in Camden NJ. Her philosophy stems from her belief that all children need to move, create and value themselves as respected loving human beings who have something distinctively their own to experience and celebrate.
“Learning through creative movement is always experienced in the classroom using whatever space available. It is more of a philosophy than a new subject. There are so many different learners and it is so important to reach them all. With cuts in the arts, here is another way children can still be immersed in the arts. A creative, supportive and loving environment is created. Instead of saying no, reframe and put into positive terms, or give choices. For example, suggest moving very slowly instead of saying stop running. Or instead of saying, “keep Quiet,” say, “Listen quietly to your friends. If a child does something different than what the teacher is asking for integrate the child’s idea making him or her part of the lesson.”
This method is child centered and process oriented. It is the child that is the most important part of the lesson. Teaching by combining the arts, education and humanistic psychology is shared in Dr Benzwie’s books and video; A Moving Experience and More Moving Experiences for teachers and Alphabet Movers and Numbers on the Move for children. These fully illustrated books, which have been used with children throughout the world, are truly wonderful and easy to use.
She has written many books that I think are just wonderful for using in the classroom.
She has also written books for teachers.
These days at age 78, Teresa is in private practice as a licensed clinical social worker working with children and families as well as mentoring dance students from Temple University. With Dr. Benzwie the Temple University dancers create lessons for children ages three through five in an early childhood Cherry Hill, NJ school. The dancers teach the children their subjects through creative movement while reinforcing friendship, individualization, exploring new ways to move, respecting and supporting each other. Afterwards they write reflection papers.
An example of reflections follow:
“How wonderful is it when you see your children so in love, having such a good time smiling and involved in the learning process. This happens when you are respecting and encouraging their ideas and creativity. ” When children are put into a creative-based learning environment, they are given the chance to shine and succeed in their own right free of judgment.”
William Marble, Principal of the Barclay Early Childhood Center/School in Cherry Hill, NJ“”One of the biggest successes of the entire semester was the responses of the children in the classroom. Even the children who were hesitant to participate at times came a long way from the first lesson we shared together. Each of us dance students brought our own unique voice to the table and we were able to create a positive and trusting environment where we felt as though our creative imaginations could be heard.”
Kristin, Temple University dance student
Isn’t she a gift to the world? If you are interested in this program you can contact her to learn more. Thank you Teresa for sharing your story with us! We are so happy to have you a part of this community!
The Center for Creative Change
401 Kings Highway South
Bld 3 Suite 3D Cherry Hill, NJ 08034