One of the state’s most highly respected and influential dance educators, who later this month will lead a high profile Gold Coast community event that will see 800 students perform, is a finalist in state teaching awards.
For 30 years Shona Press has worked through her lunch hours, before and after school and on the weekends, as well as teaching throughout the day, to help her students excel on stage and academically. Some have gone on to be professional dancers across the world.
Ms Press, who has been a state panellist for the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) since 2006, and involved in the state’s dance curriculum for more than two decades, is a finalist in the Queensland College of Teachers (QCT) Outstanding Contribution to Teaching Award.
The Marymount College teacher, who has also worked in Bundaberg and Logan, is a passionate advocate for “the unique and powerful role dance can play in the holistic education of our young people” and in society.
“In the general community, and even the education system, people have a lot of misconceptions about dance and about the educational value of dance … that it tends to look pretty but does not necessarily have any deeper meaning behind it,” Ms Press said.
She said dance often played a role in communicating social or political messages, and had an important function in culture, including being used for expression of identity or rituals.
“We do quite a lot about the history of dance and dance analysis, including theories of choreography. We look at the cultural context dance occurs in and how it actually affects the way that dance is constructed and also performed,” Ms Press said. “You have also got the physiological aspect, and we look at anatomy of movement as well.”
Ms Press said Queensland was unique in dance education by ensuring the art form was open to all students, not just those who had performed as a part of private dance schools or companies.
“It is exciting that creative, kinesthetic learning could just be ignited in somebody who has never had the chance to do that before,” Ms Press said.
Under Ms Press, Marymount College was one of the first schools on the Gold Coast to introduce a Certificate III in Dance. She was also a member of the Gold Coast Arts Centre Education Liaison Committee, was chosen by the Queensland Ballet to be a Teacher Ambassador, and is the president of Danc’eD in the Spotlight, a not-for-profit annual event featuring performances by over 800 Gold Coast students.
Mrs Press was also on the QCAA Arts Learning Area Reference Group, is a leader of the Brisbane Catholic Education Arts Expert Teacher Group and says after 30 years, she is still excited to help students achieve at a level beyond that which they thought possible.
The QCT Excellence in Teaching Awards are the only state government awards which recognise registered teachers from all schooling sectors, and the early childhood sector, across all subjects state-wide. Winners will be announced on October 25, on the eve of World Teachers’ Day celebrations in Australia.
Congratulations Shona on being named a finalist.