Reaching students through dance
Reaching students through dance
Terra Gallemore Hitchcock’s, ’97, ’00, career has led her to work at Georgia Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Mercer University, Miller Middle School and now Cirrus Academy Charter School as director of the Fine Arts program. But dance had always captivated her.
“Dance has always been my first love,” she said. “It was always calling me.”
Her passion began at the age of five, where she would dance in front of the mirror in her mother’s bedroom, impersonating Janet Jackson, and it grew from there. Shortly after earning her undergraduate degree, Hitchcock pursued dance in Atlanta.
“At the time, I was afraid to tell people I wanted to be a dancer,” she said. “I felt like they wouldn’t think of it as a real career. I thought people would say, ‘She’s not going to make a livelihood with dancing.’ But, that’s exactly what has happened.”
Today, Hitchcock teaches dance at Kali Dance Studio for the Arts and Cirrus Academy. As the owner of the dance studio, she teaches nearly 100 students, ages two to adult. While at the academy, Hitchcock instructs approximately 400 kindergarten-to-eighth grade students in dance and other fine arts. Hitchcock’s hope is for all of her students to embrace dance as a way to express themselves.
“Once my students get into dancing, they may realize, ‘This is my thing,’” Hitchcock said. “I’ve really seen some kids’ lives change. I had a student tell me, ‘You really just don’t know what the studio did for me. Coming here to dance was an escape,’ This gives me chills just thinking about it.”
As a dance teacher and the head of the Fine Arts program, Hitchcock feels she got her start as a leader at Georgia College.
“I learned how to be a leader and how to strive for excellence,” she said. “Just being on campus and the atmosphere at GC, you can’t help but be impacted and motivated by what you see. The professors, the staff—everybody helped me to be a leader. If feel like they played a role in getting me to where I’m at now.”
Hitchcock’s sociology classes helped her understand some of the behaviors and needs of the students in class, which, in turn, helps her in giving them advice,
providing them with resources and ways to reach their desired goals.
“I’ve taught a number of students who all come from different backgrounds, and experience has taught me that no one child is alike,” she said. “As a teacher and role model, I must address the individual needs of my students in order to help them flourish and reach their full potential.”
Her public administration courses at Georgia College encouraged her to set goals and to make a difference with Cirrus Academy’s staff and students.
“My purpose is to expose them to a world that will not only light a fire, but encourage them to dream big,” said Hitchcock. “They will know that their dreams and goals can be obtained with discipline, consistency and hard work.”
Hitchcock wants to dedicate her life to teaching dance as a craft.
“The students inspire me to do it,” she said. “When I see a child come in, they may not be as gifted as another child, but they really want to learn. That lets you know they’re teachable. So, when I see they’re at the beginning stages, then I see the progression of where they are now and where they could be. It just amazes me.”
One such student was Christopher Crawford, whom Hitchcock taught dance to in middle school. She recognized his passion for dance.
“I always knew Christopher had the gift of dance in him,” Hitchcock said. “To see him then battling about whether he was going to do it, and to see him now—it’s incredible. This boy just comes to life when he dances.”
Crawford received a three-year scholarship from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and was featured on the cover of the university’s magazine. He also received the Nutcracker Foundation Scholarship, William Bondurant Scholarship, Brown/Fulton Dance General Scholarship and the Besty Friday Scholarship. In addition, Crawford went on to become the Nutcracker for the play in Macon.
Hitchcock considers herself a nurturer. Through dance, she consistently works hard to develop a connection with all of her students.
“I let them know if they work hard at dance, they can achieve it,” she said. “I feel that by listening to them, I can be someone they can rely on. They’ll confide in me and tell me what they won’t tell their parents, but I’m still able to reach them and still help the parents.”
She inspires her students every day through positive affirmations and encouraging them to be authentic and the best they can be.
“We have a little boy in the Princess and Tots class,” she said. “He is the cutest. I wasn’t feeling good last week, but when Barack came in the class with that smile, it was over. He is loving it. It hasn’t hit him that there’s a lot of girls in here, yet. But his parents want to expose him to everything. And I tell my boys all the time, that there are athletes, like Seattle Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson, who dance. When I say that to them is when I reach them.”
Hitchcock encourages everyone to find their purpose and their passion in whatever they love and to pursue it with everything in them.
Actress Victoria Rowell, who formerly played Drucilla Winters on the daytime drama The Young and the Restless visited Macon. Hitchcock’s students performed for the actress and got to meet her. She is an example of how dance helped her gain success.
“That was particularly rewarding for me,” Hitchcock said. “She was a foster child and got her start dancing, which led her to acting.”
“I, too, am living my purpose,” she said. “Often times when people get to be my age, they don’t have a purpose. They really don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing. But I know what I’m supposed to be doing. And I feel it’s a blessing for me to be able to reach my students and anybody I come in contact with through dance. When I get them in here, I see other things. I feel like it’s bigger than dance sometimes, but dance is the connection.”