Effective educators see their students potential and help to draw it out. I once had a mentor who had the ability to draw greatness out of individuals considered as the underdog. It is important for you to see people because it makes them feel like they matter. When people feel like they matter, they achieve more and they feel good about it.
As a part of my interview series about “5 Things You Need To Know To Be A Highly Effective Educator”, I had the pleasure to interview Jadell Lee.
Preparing dancers for the center stage of life, Mental Health Advocate Jadell Lee is a professional dance educator, touring adjudicator, published author, and speaker who brings a fresh perspective of life to audiences across the country. He is represented by Go 2 Talent Agency, Assistant Director of CRU Dance Competition, touring faculty with Thrive Dance Experience, and guest master instructor for Abby Lee Dance Company. He is the author of Your First Position: A Simple Guide to Self-Discovery, Activation & Breakthrough, a book written to help his readers shine a light on their own journey through social-emotional learning.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory”behind what brought you to this particular career path?
I began dancing at the age of 15, and I remember it so clearly — being in the audition room, and there were dancers everywhere. Now, all of these dancers knew what they were doing because they had their ballet buns, leotards, and jazz shoes all ready to go. These guys were ready, and I’m standing there in jeans, a button up T-shirt, and sneakers. I’m a mess. And, then all of a sudden, we start dancing and going through the audition choreography across the floor. Again — I knew nothing. All of this was brand new, but what I remember from that day that I still hold with me today is that I was inspired. For me, it was the very first time I felt motivated — personally connected to something. I knew nothing about this world of dance, but I felt inspired. From there, I had the opportunity to train under some phenomenal people, and when I was 16, I competed in a national competition in New York City. This competition was hosted by the NAACP and so when I got there, I was introduced to all of this amazing talent from around the country. These were dancers from the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Alvin Ailey, and the School of American Ballet. These were amazing dancers, and I had the opportunity to not only compete, as I placed in the top 17, but perform live with the other finalists. For the very first time I got to see what dance inspired, cultivated, and created on a national scale and I realized right then and there, this little kid from Sacramento, California could go anywhere with his gifts. I would later become a professional dancer and soon after, a professional dance educator — holding a BA in Dance from the University of California, Riverside. I teach because I love helping people. It gives me great joy to see others learn, grow, and develop into greater versions of themselves. And, I always appreciate the opportunity to be a part of someone else’s journey as a supporter, encourager, and mentor.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your teaching career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The most interesting thing I discovered is that I add value to my students through my experience as a professional dancer. In speaking with one of my students, I learned I am the only professor with professional dance experience. This was significant to me because I realized I add academic value as well as street credibility to my students lives. As a young professional, sometimes we feel like we are not qualified to teach academically, but from this experience I learned my past experiences help me to be more effective as an educator. I discovered that all of my experiences work for me. I have both professional and academic experience and I can marry them to influence the lives of my students.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
As far as exciting projects, I recently set a full-length piece for The New Ballet’s studio company located in San Jose, CA for the showcase called Fast Forward. It’s important to bring arts into the world to connect the community. I’m also setting a full-length piece for the dance department for Seton Hill University. This will help my students experience a professional show atmosphere, helping them learn about themselves and what their career path could really look like. This show will not only impact the dancers, but the spectators as well by providing a great opportunity for people to come together and experience the emotional and social closeness we’ve all been missing — in a pandemic safe way of course.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. From your point of view, how would you rate the results of the US education system?
I may be biased due to my specialty being under the art category, but I do believe that we need to value the impact and significance of studying the arts. Being creative isn’t only for those of us in the arts world, it’s a significant skill to have among all lines of work. The arts is a form of education that supports and helps to cultivate human engineering. We need to encourage the study of the arts and implement more of it into our curriculums highlighting their significance in our lives and culture.
Can you identify 5 areas of the US education system that are going really great?
- Promotion of Literacy.
- Recognizing Socioeconomic Influences.
- Diversity and inclusion.
- Flexibility of education.
- Focus on Higher Education.
Can you identify the 5 key areas of the US education system that should be prioritized for improvement? Can you explain why those are so critical?
- Overcrowded Schools: Overcrowded schools should be prioritized for improvement because it affects teacher-to-student ratios, academic success, and quality of education. It is important because teachers cannot effectively teach their students, and when students are not engaged, they lack motivation and their grades decline.
- Recognizing Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) as a fundamental part of education and personal development: SEL is important and should be prioritized for improvement because it helps to develop interpersonal skills, human engineering, and emotional intelligence.
- Additional Funding: Additional funding for schools is important and should be prioritized for improvement because it helps to maintain essential needs such as air, heat, and clean running water. Also, funding affects the quality of food and food distribution. In addition, programs such as art, music and dance would be able to have the funding to take place year-round.
- Diverse Home Economic Courses: Diverse home economic courses are important and should be prioritized because learning life skills are an essential component to becoming a high-functioning and well-adjusted member of society. In learning life skills, students gain independence, maturity, and perspective on adulthood.
- Project Based Learning: Incorporating project-based learning is important and should be prioritized for improvement because it allows students to engage and retain information more effectively, encourages student collaboration, and promotes creativity.
Super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Know To Be A Highly Effective Educator?” Please share a story or example for each.
First, effective educators see their students potential and help to draw it out. I once had a mentor who had the ability to draw greatness out of individuals considered as the underdog. It is important for you to see people because it makes them feel like they matter. When people feel like they matter, they achieve more and they feel good about it.
Effective educators promote resilience within their students. Because I know frustration can cause my students to stop and give up, I help them to talk out their frustrations and encourage them not to give up on themselves.
Effective educators respond to the needs of their students through listening. In listening to my students, I discover their needs, encourage their development, and learn how I can improve.
Effective educators participate in collaborative leadership. In participating in collaborative leadership, it allows me to see things from a new perspective and change my direction if needed. It helps me to constantly grow and develop.
Effective leaders cultivate open communication. By engaging in dialogue with my students, I cultivate open communication. This type of communication allows you to get to know your students, helps them to get to know you and promotes confidence within them.
As you know, teachers play such a huge role in shaping young lives. What would you suggest needs to be done to attract top talent to the education field?
In attracting top talent to the education field, it’s important to appeal to the desires of the individual. With Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, he expresses that every person has different needs or desires. This would mean we need to be flexible and tailor job offering to needs of the individual. For example, if a person is concerned with work-life balance, we would need to adjust the job offering to include work-life balance options. Even for candidates who may be younger, like myself, who are money motivated, we would adjust a pay scale to make it comparable for both parties.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes — then learn how to do it later!”
― Richard Branson
This quote is one of my favorite life lesson quotes because it encourages me to keep trying new things and continue to progress. For example, when I began dancing, I had an opportunity to compete nationally in New York City. At this point, I had never even been on a plane. In my decision to go, I did not want to be afraid of trying something new. So, I decided to go and encourage myself to soak in the experience. This quote reminds of that experience which was the first of of many other “yes’s.”
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Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!