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Emma Campbell '04 Named Thornton Academy Teacher of the Year
Jeff Christenbury

Thornton Academy is excited to announce Emma Campbell '04, Interim Arts Department Chair and dance faculty, as the 2021 Teacher of the Year. An outpouring of nominations from her colleagues highlighted her dedication to guiding students of all backgrounds and abilities to promote growth and achieve excellence, commitment to lifelong learning, and ability to develop positive relationships to maximize success. 

One nomination read, “Emma is exceptionally supportive of the larger school community. TA dancers can always be relied upon to contribute their talents to school spirit events; they are up for helping with any activity that adds color and warmth to our community life. Students’ involvement in and positive approach toward service is best built and reinforced by involved, positive teachers. Emma Campbell is such a teacher.”

The words commitment, passion, innovation, positivity, and inclusiveness, created a common theme among all the nominations and truly reflect the teacher and colleague that Emma Campbell strives to be. 

"I cannot begin to express my gratitude towards my colleagues for this very special recognition.  Twenty years ago, my perception of the world changed by signing up for a dance course at Thornton Academy.  All I have ever wanted is to give my students the same opportunity.  I will always be grateful for Thornton's warm embrace of the arts and what these programs contribute to our community and student experience," says Campbell. 

As the Interim Arts Department Chair and a member of the dance faculty, Emma has continued to prioritize the arts as a critical component of TA’s student’s educational experience, despite the challenges that the pandemic has presented during these unprecedented times. 

In a recent TA Blog post penned by Campbell, she writes “We know that students need this critical outlet to move through these dark times.  Our humanity is punctuated with great works of art that were born through chaos and crisis.  It is natural that these creative spaces would continue to bring comfort and positive energy to a students’ experience in school this year.”

Emma is a 2004 Thornton Academy alumna. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Bates College in a self-designed double major in Dance and Anthropology, where she completed a dual thesis on the intersection of technology and dance performance.  She has also received a Master’s degree in Arts Administration from Savannah College of Art and Design. 

Outside of her role at TA, Campbell has been selected as a Teacher Leader with the Maine Arts Commission for their Maine Arts Education Partners in Leadership initiative and serves on the program design team working to plan professional development opportunities for arts educators.  Through her work with the Maine Arts Commission, she has created a dance education grant that has currently funded close to $20,000 in educational dance residencies across Maine.  Emma serves as a board member for the Maine Associate of Health, PE, Recreation and Dance, and is often sought as an expert in dance education, presenting on best practices in Arts Education around the state. 

Since returning to campus in 2011, Emma has turned TA’s dance program into a powerhouse that is often considered the epicenter for dance education in Maine. The four-year program, supported by two full-time faculty members, consists of four classes: Dance 1, Dance 2, Dance 3, and the audition-only repertory group called Dance Company. The program puts on two dance concerts per year, integrates dance into both theatrical and orchestral performances, travels both locally and regionally for performance opportunities, and participates in many community events.  

When asked what she hoped students take away from the program, Campbell says, “I want my students to live a life that is full of joy, authenticity, and altruism. Our world is becoming increasingly complex to navigate, and I want to help kids see the truth and beauty in it. Arts education is so critical in the development of well rounded, compassionate, and vested adults. I want students to take dance so that they will appreciate art and their world for the rest of their lives.”

Thornton Academy is incredibly lucky to have Emma Campbell at the helm of such a dynamic and innovative arts program. The work Campbell does as a teacher and an advocate for a more extensive and cohesive dance community across Maine is so important, and TA is pleased to recognize her and her dedication to those efforts with the 2021 Teacher of the Year award.