“I know very few theater artists who deeply grasp the potential of arts integration as a way to catalyze learning, transform classroom and workshop settings, and turn schooling into learning. Joan Weber is that rare teaching artist who knows and can use that power of the arts, who can develop it in others (teachers, artists, students), and who can deliver the game-changing effectiveness of the arts to light up learning wherever she goes. Do not walk, run, to work with her in any way you can.” – Eric Booth, international arts learning consultant, author, speaker, bozo
Joan Weber, Director of the Education Division, was raised in rural Carroll County, Maryland where she served as the student representative to the county Board of Education. After college at American University in D.C. and Western Maryland College, Joan settled in Baltimore City.
She has spent the 20 years since working in arts education and education. She was the Coordinator of Student Services and the Operations Manager for the Peabody Preparatory of the Johns Hopkins University. From there, she spent some time being an environmental educator for the Maryland Department of the Environment. It was in this capacity that she discovered her love of teaching. Thanks to Bruce Nelson, Joan began directing teenagers in Shakespeare productions at Rep Stage’s Summer Actor Intensive.
Shakespeare formed the basis of her work for the next four years, including teaching and performing Shakespeare across Maryland, and then assuming the position of Educator Director for the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival. In this position, she designed all of the education programs, including her favorite: Teen Performance Program. As part of the regular season of Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, one slot is given over to a production acted entirely by teenagers. Professional directors and designers help guide the students in the process. Joan’s production of Much Ado About Nothing broke the attendance record for a regular-season performance indoors. Most of the programming that Joan designed is still in use by the company, including touring shows and residencies.
Joan discovered arts integration during this time by creating a residency that taught students about the historic period of Shakespeare’s plays using theater and literature. She discovered that student engagement is very high when theater is used to teach other subjects. Character development, costume design, principles of stage combat and improvisation were all used to increase students’ empathy for the Elizabeth period to prepare them to read Shakespeare’s works. Joan described her process in an article entitled “Teaching History Using Theater to an English Class” in Teaching Artist Journal.
After spending a year programming concerts at the University of Baltimore’s brand new student center recital hall, Joan was chosen to be the first Executive Director for what was then called Baltimore Partners for Enhanced Learning. Baltimore was one of 8 cities across the country chosen to participate in a Ford Foundation Initiative called Arts Integration and School Reform. Joan started from scratch with a new organization to bring more arts education and arts integration to Baltimore City Public School children. Early on, she petitioned the Board of Directors to change the name of the organization to Arts Every Day to reflect the mission. During the three years of her tenure, Joan worked with Baltimore City Schools to include arts education in the reform plan being instituted. As of this writing, every school in Baltimore City is required to show support for the arts by working with arts and cultural organizations, as well as offering sequential arts instruction in the building.
To help schools find appropriate resources from the arts and cultural community, Joan led the construction of a website (www.artseveryday.org) that allows teachers to search programming from providers by using a robust search mechanism for subject and art form. The site was honored with a Webby in the education division. In addition, Joan worked with 6 individual schools across the city to help them become fully arts integrated. This process was designed based on the principles of strategic planning. Roland Park Elementary Middle was honored by the Kennedy Center for its work in arts integration during this time.
Joan served on the Fine Arts Education Advisory Committee for the Maryland State Department of Education and the advisory board for the Teaching Artist Institute. She has presented professional development programs across Baltimore City Public Schools on arts integration in the classroom and how to use the skills of the actor in the classroom.
Currently, Joan serves as adjunct faculty at Howard Community College, where she teaches arts appreciation. She also serves as an adjunct professor with Towson University Arts Integration Institute, a graduate professional certificate program for teachers. Through this program, Joan teaches Drama Integration and is a mentor for graduating students in their Capstone project. She is also the group discussion facilitator for Edutopia’s Arts Discussion group at edutopia.com.
At Creativity & Associates, Joan is responsible for the education division. Creativity & Associates is the culmination of Joan’s path in arts education and reflects her philosophy that students enjoy learning and remember more when they use theater as part of the learning process. Joan brings her accumulated knowledge and experience to this new challenge. The primary focus of her work will be designing residencies, workshops and strategic planning for students, teachers and theater teaching artists.