Walden and Russell Wright Winners Again!

July 19, 2012

For the fourth consecutive year Walden drama and movement teacher Russell Wright has won the honor of being voted Best K–12 Teacher in the 2012 East Bay Express Best of the East Bay poll. Congratulations Russell! And for the third time Walden Center & School has won for Best Progressive Arts and Academics Program!

This fourth win for Russell is a continuing acknowledgement of the impact Russell has had on the hundreds of children who have played, danced, and acted in Walden’s studio under Russell’s guidance for the past 20 years. Because he teaches each Walden student from Kindergarten through sixth grade, Russell knows them all extremely well. He combines that knowledge with a talent for discovering and developing each child’s strength, masterfully providing challenges that stretch each student. The result is children who are more confident, capable, and courageous.

The award is also continuing acknowledgement of Russell’s involvement in teaching young people beyond Walden’s gates, including his associations with the Marsh Youth Theater in San Francisco and Berkeley’s Youth Musical Theater Company. Walden students’ experience leads them to try the stage outside of Walden. Current or alumni Walden students can be seen on stage this summer in productions of the Berkeley Playhouse’s The Little Mermaid, YMTC’s West Side Story, and StageDoor Conservatory’s Sweeney Todd.

During his 20 years at Walden, Russell has developed the drama and movement program into a rich experience of physical development, cultural learning, and social-emotional growth. African, Indian, European, and American dance traditions are taught side-by-side with their cultural underpinnings. Children are given the opportunity to literally feel what it is like to be another person in their dramatic roles—they learn to be empathetic critical thinkers.

In 1994 Russell brought the Upper Group Play to Walden for our fourth through sixth grade students and it has been going strong since then. Ten through twelve year olds begin learning dances and songs in September and dance, sing, and act their way through a musical theater piece in Live Oak Theatre every June. Among other things, students learn the value of sustained effort over what is for them a long time. The play is a magnet for the extended Walden family, an important part of Walden’s cohesive community. Russell, like all the arts teachers, has the challenge of teaching to all developmental stages. His 20 years of experience doing so shows in his skillful teaching. Bravo, Russell. Walden appreciates you!

Walden’s third award recognizes its group of superb, dedicated teachers who all have the same core method of teaching—developmental, relational, and kinesthetic. The award also recognizes its unique educational program. Walden’s educational philosophy, which puts children at the center and integrates the arts and academics, and its collective model of governance have stood the test of time! Well done.

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