Credit: Credit: Albemarle County Public Schools

Albemarle County Public School Teacher Honored as Southern District Dance Education Teacher of the Year

RESTON, VA, March 20, 2017 — Bette Jean Santos of Murray High School was honored as the Southern District Dance Education Teacher of the Year by SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators during its 132nd National Convention & Expo in Boston this past week, March 14-18.

SHAPE America’s Southern District represents 13 states from Virginia to Texas. The award is given in recognition of outstanding teaching performance and the ability to motivate today’s youth to participate in a lifetime of physical activity through dance.   

Santos, a physical education teacher at Murray High School for the past 16 years, vied with two other district winners for the distinguished honor of National Dance Education Teacher of the Year. At the convention, SHAPE America and Sportime featuring SPARK — innovators of equipment and evidence-based programs for physical educators — celebrated the 28th anniversary of this Teacher of the Year awards collaboration.

The SHAPE America Hall of Fame Banquet is sponsored by Human Kinetics, an employee-owned company committed to serving the physical activity field, and Sportime featuring SPARK. USA Today National Sports Columnist Christine Brennan was also inducted into the SHAPE America Hall of Fame that evening.

“I believe the success of my students has much to do with the relationship they build with me as their dance educator as well as with their peers,” says Santos. “Dance can be very intimidating so I scaffold students’ learning so that there is success at every level.”

Murray High School focuses on project based learning, where all students are required to produce an end of year dance performance to be presented to the community.

For the past few years Santos has collaborated with a classroom English teacher to teach a combined unit revolving around movement, music and word. In her physical education classes, students are exposed to different dance genres with the premise that at some point in their lives they will have the opportunity to dance. She uses heart rate monitors and pedometers to quantify the energy required for dance and they come to understand that dance is a viable form of physical activity.

“Bette Jean teaches at a school that serves at risk kids who are in danger of not graduating or living up to their potential,” says Principal Ashby Kindler. “Bette Jean promotes dance as a way to positively connect students to school to help them find ways to be physically active without necessarily having to be competitive or sporty. They find dance talents that they otherwise wouldn’t know they had.”

For Bette Jean, the most rewarding moments are when she gets to witness first hand the difference dance education has made in her students’ confidence and happiness.

“One of the dancers of our So You Think You Can Dance troupe came to me after a theatre rehearsal and said I probably don’t understand the level of the anxiety she suffers. She couldn’t even go into a coffee shop by herself and that her anxiety has gotten in her way of happiness. She thanked me for giving her the opportunity to learn dance, have fun with friends and perform,” says Santos.

Her professional affiliations include SHAPE America, its Southern District Association and state affiliate, the Virginia Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (VAHPERD), where she served as vice-present of the Dance Division and is currently on the awards committee.

She is also a past member of the National Dance Association and a founding member of the National Dance Society (NDS). She currently serves on the Society’s awards committee.

Santos received her bachelor’s degree in health and physical education from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in kinesiology from James Madison University.

For more information about SHAPE America’s National Convention & Expo, visit the website and follow #SHAPEBoston.

About SHAPE America

SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators is the nation’s largest membership organization of health and physical education professionals. Since its founding in 1885, the organization has defined excellence in physical education, and our National Standards for K-12 Physical Education serve as the foundation for well-designed physical education programs across the country. We provide programs, resources and advocacy to support health and physical educators at every level, from preschool to university graduate programs.