Alumna Olivia Mode Honored as a New Jersey Distinguished Student Teacher of 2012


Olivia Mode, a recent graduate of Rutgers Graduate School of Education, has been named one of New Jersey’s Distinguished Student Teachers of 2012. A graduate of the inaugural class of the Dance Education Masters Degree Program at Rutgers Graduate School of Education (GSE), Mode also received the Nancy Higginson Dorr Student Award from the GSE Alumni Association. This distinguished honor is awarded to Teacher Education students who are nominated by their student teaching supervisors as demonstrating promise to be outstanding teachers.

“Through this program I now understand that teaching dance and performing dance are not separate entities,” said Mode.  “They are just complimentary lenses through which I study my craft.”

In the coming school year, Mode will be designing her own dance program at the Barack Obama Green Charter High School, where she has accepted a position as a full-time teacher. She has also began working as the Educational Programming Intern at Gallim Dance, a Brooklyn-based modern dance company, as well as doing work-study at the Alvin Ailey School in Manhattan.

Mode expressed that the real advantage to this five-year joint-degree program was that she was able to both teach and learn dance simultaneously. She advises current and future students to keep an open mind on their individual opinions towards dance and to trust themselves about the ways in which they will choose to teach dance.

The GSE’s Dance Education Ed.M. program is a five-year joint degree program through the GSE and Mason Gross School of the Arts Department of Dance, resulting in both a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A) and Master of Education Degree (Ed.M.). Rutgers is the only university in the state of New Jersey to offer an Ed.M. degree in Dance Education.

Learn more about Mode in the question and answer section below:

Q: Please comment a little about receiving the honor of being named one of New Jersey’s Distinguished Student Teachers of 2012 – what it means to you, recognition of your hard work, etc.

A.    I feel really honored to have received this award; however, this recognition isn't just acknowledging my accomplishments.  It also celebrates my colleagues in my cohort and the dance community at large.  Dance isn't often validated as an integral part of education.  This award shows that we as the graduates of this program are here to change that misconception and show that dance has an important place in students' lives.

Q. What did you like most about this 5-year joint-degree program?

A. What I loved about this 5-year joint-degree program is that it combined my two passions: teaching and dance.  It fused the two by creating this reciprocal relationship where everyday I was both a dance educator and a dance learner.  Through this program I now understand that teaching dance and performing dance are not separate entities.  They are just complimentary lenses in which to study my craft.

Q. What are your plans now that you’ve graduated?

A.Now that I have graduated I have accepted a full-time teaching job for the 2012-2013 school year at Barack Obama Green Charter High School in which I will be designing my own dance program.  In addition, I have been remaining active in the New York City dance scene by working with Gallim Dance, a Brooklyn-based modern company, as their Educational Programming Intern and doing work-study at the Alvin Ailey School in Manhattan. 

Q. Do you have any advice for future or current students enrolled in the joint-degree program in Dance Education?

A.My advice to current and future students of the 5 year B.F.A./Ed.M. program is to remain open to the fact that your ideas about dance and teaching are going to change.  Your values and inquiries about your craft and your pedagogy at the beginning of your journey will most likely be very different than the ones you end up with.  Trust that by the end of the 5th year you will have a clear perspective on what you think good dance is and how you want to teach it.