Stacie Perez

Professional development has always stood at the core of Orlando REP’s mission to provide teachers with arts-integrated tools and strategies. The idea that any teacher, regardless of background or subject taught could learn an arts-integrated strategy or approach and implement it in their own way to support their classroom curriculum is what makes Orlando REP’s Engaged Learning Through the Arts (ELTA) so unique and successful. Throughout the years the models have evolved and changed to meet the needs of teachers within the community, and in these challenging times, Orlando REP’s flexibility has served as a key factor in maintaining programming, engagement, and relevancy. 

Orlando REPs series of Arts Integration Strategy Workshops and Seminars are designed specifically for Orange County Public School (OCPS) teachers. In fact, since 2012, Orlando Family Stage has partnered with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and OCPS to provide hundreds of teachers with professional development workshops and training through the ELTA program. 

This year, selecting not only the right topics to present to teachers was tricky, but also the method in which it was taught was important too. Orlando Family Stage wanted to ensure that teachers would receive a top notch experience from a top notch teaching artist, and that is why they called in Melanie Rick, co-owner and senior arts integration consultant from Focus Five, Inc.

Melanie Rick; Focus Five, Inc

Melanie has worked in museums, schools, and arts centers across the country. Her extensive experience as a National Board Certified teacher, certified reading specialist, and course leader and instructional arts coast for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts brought a unique perspective and vast amount of knowledge to the participating OCPS teachers.

Melanie’s workshop was titled “The Power of Pictures: Reading Art in Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies”. The purpose of this workshop was to explore how art can be read as visual texts that can communicate information through images as opposed to words. This approach and strategy helps build background knowledge, create personal connections, and inspires inquiry for all learners.

In an effort to give the teachers an opportunity to both learn and apply the concepts and strategies, the workshop was divided into 2 separate sessions. The first session, “Overview and Foundational Lessons: Let’s Learn How to Read Art as Visual Texts” focused on how to instruct and guide students on making observations of people, places, and things using art using a critical lens. The second session, “An Approach to Teaching: Reading Art in Language Arts, Science and Social Studies and Closure/Evaluation” focused on providing and walking teachers through videos and example lesson plans that they could observe and immediately use with their own students. 

“Memphis in May” painted by Emery Franklin

“My Name is Celia: The life of Celia Cruz” by Monica Brown and Illustrated by Rafael Lopez

Each session had both an asynchronous and synchronous portion that allowed teachers to not only work at their own pace using high quality videos and modules, but gave them a great example of how this pattern and flow could be used with their own students. These wonderful online resources were downloadable and easy enough for teachers to begin using immediately in their classes, regardless of whether they taught online or in person. 

Feedback from OCPS workshop participants…

  • This workshop has given me some fabulous tools for teaching multiple subjects and standards. I have started implementing the strategies, and my students are engaged and learning.”
  • “The online course was motivating and so very insightful. I have already seen the results of these strategies, and I’m excited about moving forward with this in my class.”
  • Using art for interpretation and comprehension helps the student learn to observe with a critical eye. This takes practice. This workshop shows how to guide students how to observe and notice all that’s on the written page in an intriguing way.”
  • “I absolutely loved how this connected to the standards we are teaching in ELA currently. I loved the hand movements and engagement. The discussions were great and I can’t wait to incorporate into my classroom!”


Are you or somebody you know interested in learning more about Orlando REP’s professional development programs? If so, contact Orlando Family Stage at [email protected] for more information! 

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