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Video: Dancing to Learn (and Heal) in New York City

Watch NYC alum Kadeem Gill explore dance as socially-conscious art.

By The TFA Editorial Team

February 13, 2015

A Teacher Who Lets You Dance in Class

Kadeem Gill, Special Education Coordinator and Master Teacher at The Equity Project in New York City, creates space for his students to discuss and reflect on social issues through literature and movement.

For Kadeem Gill (NYC ’11), teaching is personal. When he was growing up in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, he was confronted every day with the ways in which school systems had failed his younger brother, who had an individualized education program (IEP) for behavioral and emotional challenges, and the community at large. Gill eventually left New York to attend Princeton University, but during his sophomore year, the unthinkable happened: his older brother was killed.

“I had no idea how to put myself back together,” Gill says, adding that his way of coping with the loss was to give back to others. He started volunteering as a dance instructor in the Princeton community and decided to apply to Teach For America. In 2011, he officially launched his teaching career in the Bronx, just a few miles from his old stomping grounds in Bed Stuy.

Four years later, after deferring grad school, Gill is dedicated to his students. He teaches dance, 7th grade ELA, and 6th and 8th grade math at the School Equity Project in Washington Heights, where he also serves as the school’s special education coordinator.

Dance, Gill says, is an amazing literacy tool—it helps kids translate what they’re reading on the page into physical expression—as well as a way to connect the students with current events and society at large. While some students are more comfortable than others expressing themselves with words, all are willing to explore difficult subjects through movement in whatever form it takes.