How it all began…
Amber J. Merrick’s love for teaching began when she was a student herself. As an only child she would “teach” imaginary students. In elementary school, it was settled that she would go to college to become a teacher. In high school, she would even come home and re-teach lessons she found interesting to her mother. However, when Merrick was a Sophomore at the Baltimore School for the Arts, she discovered not only her true love for performing but that she wanted to be a professional dancer.
As a college Sophomore, an unfortunate scholarship mix up prevented Amber from being able to transfer to a rigorous dance conservatory. Discouraged, she returned to her home town of Baltimore to work for a semester with hopes of going to back to the university the following semester. As a precaution, Amber applied to a local university just in case things once again didn’t go as planned. That local school was Towson University; she applied to major in Elementary Education. Her mother was able to persuade her to audition for the Dance Department and the professors encouraged her to change her major to Dance Performance and Education. She would eventually drop the Education portion of her major but Merrick graduated from Towson University with a BFA in Dance Performance in 2010.
A Brief Reintroduction…
During her second season as a company member with Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Merrick joined the faculty of their academy as a ballet and jazz teacher. Initially the job was just for extra money but with each class, she grew to love teaching more and more. She loved watching the growth in her students, both children and adults. She was able to teach fundamental skills that students could take with them as their dance training evolved. Most importantly, she was able to connect with students. She found a balance between productivity and having a good time in the studio. Her students were comfortable with her and because of that she was able to get them to work hard.
Merrick left the company after 3 seasons and joined a touring company where teaching engagements were hard to find because of scheduling and constant relocation. Though her time as a dance teacher had been brief, it left a lasting impression.
After 7 years of performing full time, she found herself content with the path that her career as a professional dancer had taken. Amber had performed in ballet and modern dance companies, in a touring Cirque du Soleil show and a Cirque Du Soleil show on Broadway. Having accomplished all of her performing aspirations, Merrick decided it was time to head back to Towson University and pick up the Education certification she had dropped a decade prior.
Back in the studio…
Once in Maryland, Amber quickly jumped back into teaching. While pursuing her K-12 Dance Teaching certification, Merrick was on faculty at The Dance Conservatory at St. Paul’s School for Girls, Towson University Community Dance and Supernova Dance Company. She teaches all levels of ballet, pointe and modern and completed the post-Baccalaureate program with a 4.0 grade point average.
The rigorous technical training that Amber received from the Baltimore School for the Arts in her early years as a student in their TWIGS program has always stuck with her. She is dedicated to instilling in her students the importance of having a strong technical base for all styles of dance. Though her expertise lies in Ballet, she is committed to professional development that allows her to grow in her pedagogy in other disciplines and styles of dance.
While teaching in the private studio sector and K-12 curriculum, Merrick focuses on crafting cohesive lesson plans that not only keep students engaged but have clear learning objectives highlighted throughout. She uses her ability to build healthy relationships with her students as a tool to challenge their ideas about learning through tools of inquiry. She aims to equip students with enough knowledge for them to be able to initiate and navigate their own learning. Merrick is a strong believer that 21st century skills can be learned through and in the arts and she believes that even students who have little to no interest can walk away having learned a great deal. When teaching in K-12, Amber relies heavily on the Core Arts Standards; scaffolding lessons and units based on the desired learning objectives. Amber loves finding creative ways to teach dance content to her younger students. In contrast, she uses her experiences in the dance industry to give meaning to learning for more serious dance students. Merrick uses an array of assessment tools because she understands that we all have different learning styles.
With a lifelong interest in education, a wealth of knowledge, and an abundance of professional experiences, Amber J. Merrick would be an asset to any institution focused on providing students with a dance education that values technical proficiency as well as building community in and through dance. Ms. Merrick is aware of the great responsibility she holds as an educator and takes her job very seriously. Her undeniable dedication is fueled by her passion for dance and her love for sharing and caring for the wellbeing and growth of others.
If you would like additional information about Ms. Merrick’s approach to dance education, please feel free to contact her through the contact page for further discussion and/or sample lesson plans.