Teresa Benzwie has always loved working with children. She also has had a long-standing passion for the arts, especially dance.
“I used to dance in front of an imaginary audience in my living room,” she recalls about her childhood.
So it's no surprise that when Benzwie got a job as a kindergarten teacher, she married her two passions and incorporated dance and movement into her curriculum.
“By using movement, we are teaching creative problem solving — there is no one right way to create the letter ‘A,’ for example, with your body,” she said. “We also use movement to reinforce self-esteem and to encourage kids to work cooperatively. They learn how to be nice to each other.”
Benzwie’s work has helped children with learning disabilities and children who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
“Children learn in different ways,” said Benzwie. “They learn cognitively, emotionally, socially and physically. We can cover it all through the arts.”
For several years, Benzwie developed her bold new philosophy independently in her classroom. Then she found out that Temple’s Department of Dance was encouraging the same doctrine. So Benzwie enrolled and began working on her doctorate.
“I got a lot of support from the university and I was able to make connections with other people who shared my passion.”
After obtaining her doctorate, Benzwie became an adjunct professor at Temple. She opened a grant in the dance department, where she mentored students on how to teach using movement in the classroom. She later turned the grant into a course offered to six dance students each semester. Several have taken the class multiple times.
Benzwie also wrote two books for teachers about using movement in their curriculum. But she wanted to put books into the hands of children, so she wrote two children’s books, Alphabet Movers and Numbers on the Move. Both books were published by Temple University Press.
To celebrate her accomplishments, on Oct. 12 at 4 p.m. in the Conwell Dance Theater, several of Benzwie’s students will perform the movements in her children’s books against a projection of the pages. A reception and book signing will follow.
“Everything is now coming together; it’s magical.” said Benzwie. “My books were published by Temple Press and now my students are performing my work.”
For more information about the event, visit the Boyer College of Music and Dance’s website: temple.edu/boyer.