Annual administrators conference addresses the importance of arts in education, Alex Boyé performs

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Alex Boyé performing at Conference Luncheon. (James Huston, Courtesy of the BYU ARTS Partnership)

Teachers, college professors and librarians gathered at the Marriott Hotel on Center Street for the Learning Edge Annual Administrators Conference hosted by the Center for the Improvement of Teacher Education and Schooling. Beginning at 7:30 a.m., registration and breakfast were held with a musical performance by the Herriman High School Chamber Orchestra, following which, Mary Helen Immordino-Young gave the keynote address based on the conference’s theme: “arts for life, deep learning, deep connections.”

Cindy Helquist, a teacher at Greenwood Elementary in American Fork, shared what she learned from Immordino-Young’s keynote address titled “How the Arts May help Integrate Social, Emotional, and Cognitive Brain Development.”

“She talks about the emotions and how if we’re not emotionally connected to a topic, then we’re not going to want to learn that topic,” Helquist said. “We always need to be aware of our students’ emotions and how they relate and connect to those subjects.”

Breakout sessions allowed educators to choose what they wanted to learn more about art in schools. During a session titled “Art of the Library,” Dawn Ann Bullough talked about the purpose behind why she brings art into her the library.

“We want libraries to be interactive places where students come and love to be there,” Bullough said. Not only does Bullough check out books, but she also allows students to display their art on top of bookshelves and partners with the drama teacher at the school to dramatize literary works.

Taking a different and more scientific approach, Marilee Clark talked about the power of telling stories. During her session, she talked about how the emotional connection created when hearing a story can improve memory of the subject being taught.

“You’ve got the most natural virtual reality and system that you could have,” Clark said, talking about the power of the brain in response to storytelling. “Nearly everybody has it, and it takes no battery, right? That’s a pretty powerful thing. That could potentially be a very powerful thing in the classroom.”

Other breakout sessions included workshops on combining creative and critical thinking, education through music, and building positive school culture through the arts.

After the second breakout sessions, educators filled the Marriott Hotel’s ballroom to eat and talk. The low rumble of talking broke out into cheers as Alex Boyé and his band took the stage. Though reserved at first, teachers soon started to clap and dance to Boyé’s engaging music and stage presence.

As an advocate for the arts in schools, Boyé hosts concerts for schools all around Utah in with the initiative to spread suicide awareness and to give kids hope through music.

In telling his own story, Boyé described how, when he was younger, he almost dropped out of school because it was too expensive. It was at that time that his mother moved to Nigeria so he moved from foster home to foster home. Boyé said that, during that difficult time, music became an important part of his life.

“And so really, arts for me was not necessarily, you know, a cool vocation to do or nice hobby; (it) was literally a lifesaver,” Boyé said. “If anybody wants to talk about how important the arts are, if there’s anyone that can testify to how important that is, that’s definitely me. Because I probably wouldn’t be on this earth if it weren’t for arts.”

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