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Desert Companion

All things education: The art of learning


It’s typical for kids to sing songs in kindergarten classrooms to help the learning process along. You already know this well — can you recite the alphabet without getting the “ABC” song in your head?

Kim Glover knows this particularly well. After all, in addition to being a teacher, Kim Glover is also an actor (most recently, she played Nurse Ratched in a spring production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). She regularly incorporates the arts into her lesson plans, but this year Glover is taking music, dance and even finger-painting to a whole new level in her classroom. That’s because this year, Glover, a longtime Clark County School District teacher, is one of 39 instructors teaching at the newly opened Doral Academy. It’s a kindergarten to seventh-grade charter school, and Las Vegas’ first fully arts-integrated program. It opened last month, and it’s already popular: This summer, Doral ( fielded 1,800 applicants for only 750 spots; selections were determined via lottery.

“By incorporating dancing, singing, movement, acting, I can better get my students to learn basic concepts faster and with ease,” says Glover, who is also the mother of two CCSD graduates, a high school student and a first-grader at Doral.

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Doral is not a school for the performing arts — say, like Las Vegas Academy. An arts-integrated school doesn’t teach just the arts, but rather teaches traditional school subjects through the arts. For instance, a fifth-grade teacher instructing on spatial relationships might work with a visual arts teacher. Together they would plan and teach the lessons, which, in an arts-integrated curriculum are often project-intense, focusing on both the art and math objective. Students not only explore spatial relationships, but gain an appreciation for the arts. 

“It’s very purposeful, and the students are very much part of that process,” says Doral Academy Principal Bridget Phillips, since the goal is “to get children up, engaged, moving, using their bodies, creating.” She adds, “Children really learn better when they’re using all of the different modalities.”

To meet objectives, the school has hired some specially licensed teachers, such as its media productions teacher, formerly with Channel 13, and a dance teacher from the Nevada Ballet Theatre. Beyond core subjects and the basics such as art, music and P.E., Doral elementary students receive instruction in media production, violin, theater and dance.

“Art is in my blood,” says Joanie B. Zibert Williams, Doral Academy’s board president and one of the founders. Williams says that she and other southwest community parents had been offering art classes from their homes to compensate for the lack of arts in public schools. This and her dissatisfaction with large class sizes led to conversations, which led to research and planning, and eventually the charter school, where her third- and fourth-grade children attend. Her four-year-old son will join them when Doral’s pre-kindergarten program opens in January.

“I want my youngest to become a learner. I want him to love learning and to not think of it as a chore but as something fun,” says kindergarten teacher Glover. “It is not about, ‘Read this book and answer the questions.’ Using the arts in education fires different synapses in their brains that are not stimulated through regular pen and paper work.”