By Kim Johnson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s Wednesday and it’s time to surprise this week’s Excellent Educator. Forget textbooks and calculators, this educator has a different tool for teaching.

Kalie Schlick, known to her students by her maiden name Ms. French, teaches dance, an art elective, to sixth through eighth grades at Northeast Middle School in Minneapolis.

She takes a unique approach to her class by using dance to help students process violence in their communities. Thanks to Ms. French, they feel empowered — and that’s why she’s an Excellent Educator.

“We come and we create and we collaborate,” Ms. French said.

Ms. French got her undergraduate degree from Mankato State University in Theater and Advance Education. But her desire to teach dance started long before.

“I started dancing when I was three and then I started teaching dance just to my neighborhood friends as a kid,” she said.

At Northeast Middle School, her students enter her classroom with a lot of natural talent.

“They already come with the skills, I think it’s more just sort of honing their craft and giving them a voice and a way to express themselves,” she said.

But the students also come, with a lot of pain.

“It’s a way for us to get our feelings out because we’re tired of black people getting killed,” one student said.

Their dances are interpretive of the violence in their community, they say specifically police-involved shootings.

“In these students’ neighborhood these things hit really close to home, and so it’s very real for them. So when they’re coming to school every day things need to be processed, and so this is just how we process some of that pain,” Ms. French said.

Through dance, the students have a voice. And through their expression, a teacher makes a difference.

“I’m blessed to be here. I feel like I’m the lucky one to be able to do this,” Ms. French said. “I could be having a bad day but then I come here and everything makes sense here.

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