Orlando Family Stage (Orlando REP) has been considered a leader in the realm of arts-integrated professional development programming for educators across all of Central Florida. The Engaged Learning Through the Arts (ELTA) program has provided hundreds of teachers throughout the years with opportunities to learn how to incorporate arts-integration in their classes. One of the many reasons the ELTA program has been so successful is due to its unique partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; this special partnership has allowed teachers to engage, learn, and interact with some of the top teaching artists in the country. The success of the ELTA program, along with Orlando REP’s mission and commitment to providing top-quality professional development, has paved the way for expansion in the area of early childhood programming. 

One branch of this new and exciting expansion of the ELTA program is in the area of early childhood education, known as “One School at a Time” and was generously sponsored by the Pabst-Steinmetz Foundation. This new model allows Orlando Family Stage to adopt a school and focus on professional development tailored to the needs and interest of each institution. This year Hungerford Elementary in Orange County was chosen as the pilot school for this new program; and the model included in-person professional development sessions with teachers, a family literacy night, and special literacy kits filled with books and goodies for children and their families. 

As fate would have it, this new and exciting plan started to unveil itself just about the same time the COVID-19 crisis did. However, Orlando Family Stage decided to continue moving forward with its mission to serve teachers, and with the support of its funders, it transitioned and adapted this project into its very first virtual professional development program. Stacie Perez, the Director of Arts-Based Learning at Orlando Family Stage states that “The idea of an arts-based virtual professional development experience felt like we were venturing into the ‘great unknown,’ but we have found it to be both effective and necessary. We are very excited to see where this new development can lead us in the future.” Without a doubt, this new transition brought about a few challenges, but it has brought about even more opportunities for growth and expansion in the area of arts-integration and professional development. 

This updated model incorporated adding digital videos of previous lessons for teachers to observe and take notes. Another important component included hosting a live virtual meeting which allowed Orlando Family Stage Education staff members to model an interactive example lesson, followed by a Q & A session to help reflect and make curricular connections. Teachers were also given the opportunity to share what some of their needs and interests are in regard to using the arts in their classroom. With this program focusing heavily on pre-literacy skills, it was very important for Orlando Family Stage to understand what the learning objectives and scope and sequence for these teachers included in order to better serve and understand their needs and point of view. Denice Breen, a participating Pre-K teacher in the program states that “The online professional development program was enthusiastically welcomed by the teaching staff. The learning videos were effective in demonstrating how to immerse the students using drama during lessons with daily subject area content.” 

Emily Freeman, Director of Community Partnerships dropped off these Literacy Kits at Hungerford Elementary last week!

Orlando Family Stage has not stopped since the completion of “One School at a Time” – this experience has propelled into other exciting opportunities as well. Orlando Family Stage is already developing and preparing itself for its biggest professional development experience yet, and this time it includes a 48-hour virtual professional development program for 30 Pre-K teachers from various schools across Orange County; an experience that would not be possible without the generous funding from the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation. The development and outcome of these programs during the COVID-19 crisis will play a major factor in determining and shaping future professional development training. Orlando Family Stage is excited to take this time as an opportunity to re-imagine what the future could look like and is even more excited to see where it will lead to! 


The Engaged Learning Through the Arts program is generously supported in 2020 by:

Do you want to learn more about our Engaged Learning through the Arts programs in Arts Integration? Contact [email protected]


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