Miya Robertson, a drama teacher at Gower Elementary School in Nashville, is Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s 2018 Teacher of the Year.
The award, presented each year by the nonprofit organization, honors an educator who uses the arts to inspire learning, build community, and foster excellence in teaching. Now in its 24th year, TPAC’s Teacher of the Year Award includes a $1,000 grant for the recipient’s school.
In addition to collaborating with TPAC teaching artists in her classroom, Robertson takes her students to performances of the HOT Season for Young People at TPAC and participates in professional development programs for educators.
Producing a musical, plus five grade-level productions annually, Robertson is the coordinator for an after-school musical theatre training program at Gower. She served as the faculty lead for the Disney Musicals in Schools program for three years, after Gower was one of the Metro Nashville Public Schools selected by TPAC for the program.
“I became involved with TPAC when we were chosen to participate in Disney Musicals in Schools four years ago. We have teaching artists come to the school and professional development is offered to the faculty with arts integration workshops,” Robertson said. “I have been involved with the HOT for the past two years and love the lesson plans that the teaching artists help us create.”
Robertson creates curriculum and lesson plans that enhance literacy skills in writing, speaking, reading, listening, and language while seeking to support the work of teachers in general education classes. Each school year, she consults the other teachers to better understand the academic skills that need to be addressed by each grade level.
“Within any given drama lesson, students engage in reading, active listening and speaking skills. They do research on a variety of topics which support learning in history, social studies and other subjects,” Robertson said. “They create original works of creative writing, evaluate the writing of their peers and analyze scripts. These kinds of activities allow students to be self-guided in their learning, practice communication skills and provide opportunities to collaborate and think critically – skills that will serve them outside of the classroom and in the future.”
The difference TPAC has made in the teachers at Gower is astronomical, according to Robertson. Professional development offered by the organization demonstrates lessons from the teaching perspective and from the perspective of how the students will participate. This allows teachers at Gower Elementary to see how the arts can be incorporated into all subjects and how the learning process develops.
“Miya includes every child in her drama classes, regardless of their talent and abilities. She sees their potential, raises the standard and challenges her students to achieve, all while motivating and encouraging them to reach that potential,” said Dajuana Hammonds, the program director for Acting Up, an after school arts program. “She is an excellent team leader who takes initiative, whenever necessary, and brings a great deal of creativity and the ability to problem-solve.”
When asked about the most rewarding part of her job, Robertson quickly answered, saying, “seeing how students develop and find their voice to express themselves creatively.” Her students are able to collaborate with classmates and overcome their fears of public speaking, she added. And she loves when parents come to her saying that they’ve seen a change in their child by incorporating the arts into their classroom.
Born in Memphis, Robertson grew up in Jackson, Tenn., and graduated from North Side High School. She received a bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication and Theatre from Tennessee State University and a master’s degree in Arts in Education from Union University. Robertson is the daughter of Marlin J. Robertson and the late Audfrey Guy Robertson. She is and the granddaughter of Martha Weddle, of Jackson, the late Walter Moore of Chicago, Illinois, and the late Ann and Elvesta Robertson, Sr. of Memphis.