Maeghan Johnson - 2017 Dance Instructor of the Year Nominee
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Meaghan Johnson and her family have faced numerous life challenges. She does so with grace and dignity. If you only observed Maeghan teaching a class, or in her office, you wouldn't ever suspect that this organized, cheerful, friendly and intelligent woman was battling so many challenges in her daily life - because she finds a way to handle all of that, with grace and dignity.
She might be petite and small, but she is mighty and strong both physically and psychologically. Did you know, she can hold a horizontal plank position for nearly nine consecutive minutes? I take two of her classes - one is a ballet class, and the other is a dance strength and stretch (DSS) class. Planks are just part of the DSS class, and I consider it a 'great' day if I am able to hold a plank position for more than 60 seconds.
Her physical and psychological strength gives her students confidence in her teaching abilities, and also inspiration for working on their own skills and improvement. There is always improvement to be made, and knowing that our teacher can demonstrate and do everything she expects us to do, provides us with inspiration to keep on working harder and harder and becoming better versions of ourselves, physically and emotionally.
Ballet and DSS classes are more than physical fitness classes. They are also opportunities for emotional healing and expression for all of Maeghan's students. She provides a safe, welcoming and challenging environment for all people, regardless of their race, religion, physical abilities, age, or socio-economic status. When you walk into Maeghan's dance studio, you are equal to every other student in that room. It doesn't matter if one student's ballet shoes are the most expensive available, or if another is wearing someone's cast-offs. When we are in the dance studio, we are all equals, working toward the same purpose.
Maeghan is incredibly supportive and encouraging - and also firm in her expectations. She truly believes that every person, no matter what their personal characteristics, is capable of mastering some level of skill in movement.
I have seen some of her school aged students performing like super stars on stage. I have seen children with obvious physical disabilities, and children with obvious physical deformities, dancing on stage before an audience approximating 80 - 100, dancing their hearts out, exhibiting proper dance technique, and the courage to get up in front of others and dance, and dance well.
I am not aware of any other dance studio in our geographic area that is so welcoming and inclusive as Maeghan's, who welcomes students whose families can not afford to pay for classes out of their own pockets, and students of all capabilities.
These are the young people that Maeghan reaches, and whose lives are made better because of her. There is beauty and spiritual awakening in music and dance, and Maeghan provides dance students of all ages, all capabilities, rich or poor, male or female, the nurturing opportunity to master a skill and gain self-confidence and an outlet for self-expression. She provides us with a safe environment to free our souls, even if it's only momentary, from any stress or emotional burdens we might be carrying. For the discreet time period of one of her classes, we can shut out the stress and troubles of our every day lives, and for that one time period, work on physically challenging movements, hear beautiful music, and allow our souls to heal, even if it's only for 60 minutes or so.
Our life's challenges will always be present, and we will always have to deal with them; but for one moment in time, during her class, we are able to forget about those troubles and get some respite.
To say that Maeghan Johnson is a Director of Arts and Humanities, or a former professional ballerina, or former competitive dancer, or now a ballet teacher is far too limiting, and does not do her justice. Through her work with the Neenah-Menasha YMCA, Maeghan makes an important difference in the lives of scores and scores of people on a daily basis, year after year.
She makes our lives better, and in doing so, she makes our world a better place.
Learn more about the 3rd Annual National Dance Instructor of the Year Award and Greatmats National Award Series.
Neenah WI 54956
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