Passion Is Contagious

Written by Barbara Krebs,
Young Audiences volunteer and Sunburst Society member

Recently I toured Ireland, circumnavigating this gorgeous island from the Republic of Ireland, to Northern Ireland before returning to Dublin. If you have half a day, I’ll be happy to tell you about everything I learned there, from Irish history to Irish dancing to Irish food to (ahh) Irish whiskey. But if you have only a few moments, then I’ll just tell you about my biggest takeaway from this trip–passion.

So now you’re thinking, “What does this have to do with Young Audiences?” In the great tradition of Irish storytelling, I will let you know how one starts in Ireland and ends up in Baltimore with passion as the theme.

My story starts with a tour guide in Northern Ireland named Garvin, who told us about his wonderful city, Derry. Following the itinerary map, I had been puzzled since I couldn’t find it. This mystery was quickly cleared up as Garvin explained that Derry is the town’s traditional Irish name but it had become Londonderry during British rule. But he was also quick to explain with a broad grin that what his city actually is, is Legen-Derry (Get it? “Legendary!”).

And thus began his tour of a city that he was obviously totally devoted to and passionate about. Today Derry is a wonderful city, with much to offer tourists–historic 17th fortification walls (the most intact in Ireland), Gothic-style cathedrals, a vibrant waterfront restaurant/bar scene and fascinating museums. But if, like me, you think of Derry during The Troubles, your memories will be very different, with scenes of bombed-out buses and civilian and British troop deaths.

But Garvin used that very history to make his point about his city being a wonderful place. He took us to Bogside, scene of infamous clashes between citizens and British military police, and said, matter-of-factly, “You would not be on a bus going here in the ‘70s, because it would be hijacked, turned on its side and burned out to use as a barricade to block the street against the British.” This, while we looked out the bus windows at calm, clean streets.

I loved the beauty of Derry, its rich and troubled history, and yes, the passion of Garvin. And what struck me most forcefully was how many times he repeated, “I thank you for coming to visit my beautiful city. Please tell your friends and relatives what a wonderful place it is.” And I knew then how deep his passion was for his flawed and scarred, yet fascinating city. And through him, I fell in love with it, too.

So now here’s the connect with Young Audiences. I have witnessed the passion of Young Audiences artists like Femi the DriFish and their teacher partners who, despite challenging situations, work tirelessly to promote learning in their classrooms, using the innovative arts techniques taught by YA. I have seen deep passion in our principals who set aside hard-fought funds to bring the arts into the classrooms when others are choosing to cut these opportunities. I see this passion in the YA board, who includes my husband, who donate their limited time outside of work and family to ensure that more kids have opportunities. It is through them that I fell in love with Young Audiences, too.

I am pleased to announce that Garvin’s passion for his birth city is contagious. With his example, I am happy to tell all who will listen that I am passionate about Young Audiences. I will tell folks about how fantastic Young Audiences is–and that includes you!

Wanna know more? Consider joining CEO Stacie Sanders Evans and a Young Audiences teaching artist on Thursday, December 5, 5:30-6:30 pm for a free, one-hour Meet YA Event. To register, please contact Erin Nolder via email or phone – erin@yamd.org or (410) 837-7577 ext. 105. All I ask is that afterward, like Garvin, you tell all your friends and relatives about the wonderful work that YA does.

Principal Reese uses watercolor to create her wish banner at the Principal's Fellowship dinner

Meet the Principal: Monique Reese

In January 2020, Bay Brook Elementary Middle School will move into a 21st Century school building! Monique B. Reese, Principal of Bay Brook told us that along with the move, her school is adopting an arts integration model. During her first three years at the school, she focused on reducing suspensions and building a positive school climate. Now, Mrs. Reese’s goal is to use the arts to assist with increasing student engagement and higher achievement. That’s what brings her to the Young Audiences Principal Fellowship Program.

Mrs. Reese began her career as an elementary school teacher in various urban school districts. During her time as a teacher, she found a passion for leading others in teaching and learning. This passion for leadership led her to serve for eight years as an Assistant Principal in the District of Columbia Public Schools, and then as a principal at Bay Brook Elementary Middle School. During her first three years at Bay Brook, she focused on reducing suspensions and building a positive school climate. “I am excited about being a part of the Young Audiences Principal Fellowship program because it directly connects to my new school model,” she said. “I can learn new ideas about arts integration that I can directly implement in my school as we begin our new vision.”

“We have seen first-hand the excitement the arts bring to our students.”

Over the course of the program, she’ll receive coaching from experienced educators who have already used arts integration as leverage for school change. “Our students learn in different ways and we need a path that reaches all learners,” Mrs. Reese said. “When given the choice between STEM, project-based learning, and arts integration for their new school model, the staff and community were confident that a larger focus on the arts would bring positive change.”

The school currently has a partnership with Arts Every Day which helps fund artist residencies for classrooms. Already, the school holds monthly arts integration days in which teachers engage students in an art project to teach literacy, math, or science. “We have seen first-hand the excitement the arts bring to our students,” she said. “The staff believe that the arts will give students the opportunity to be more engaged in the content, thus reducing class disruptions and increasing achievement.”

Mrs. Monique Reese, Principal of Bay Brook Elementary Middle School, is one of ten Baltimore City Public Schools principals selected to participate in the Principal Fellowship Program. The year-long fellowship provides principals with the guidance and framework to develop an arts-based action plan in their schools and we are thrilled to have her in the inaugural cohort!