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Trinity students explore their creative side

Dr. Jeffrey Burkart, center, knows how to get the most out of these student performers at Trinity Academy as they rehearse for a performance last weekend. From left are sixth-graders Taylor Hermansen, Elizabeth Hamill, Wade Cudd, Emily Thorsheim, Alex Kela, Gabrielle Nelsen, Sarah Jenderjack, Samantha Grube, Danny Munkelwitz and Sarah Grezek. Photo by Meg Heaton

Trinity Academy students got a crash course in all things creative last week with the help of Dr. Jeffrey Burkart, an award-winning educator, author, composer and performer.

Burkart was the artist in residence at the school and worked with every student in every grade. The week was spent on writing exercises, singing and performances of stories authored by Burkart.

The winner of the prestigious Lutheran Education Association's 2012

Christus Magister Award (Teacher of Christ), Burkart's enthusiasm appeared contagious as he coaxed animated performances out of the most reluctant participants.

Burkart calls it the "power of the stranger."

"I come in from 28 miles away and I'm not their teacher and suddenly there is a different feeling and a different attitude. They come out of their comfort zone."

Burkart said the week-long experience not only reinforces the students' creativity but also teaches some important life lessons.

Clearly in charge during all his sessions with students, he says they learn to listen to someone they are unfamiliar with, to focus on specific instructions and to do things they never thought they could.

One of his techniques for overcoming their fears, "Never let them know what they're doing until they've done it. That way they can't say they can't do it."

Burkart says teachers learn right along with the students during his time with students. "They see their students in a different light, watch them as they experience something new and learn to pick up on the cues their kids give them...They learn about teaching the whole child."

Burkart said parents are always surprised by what their sons and daughters do in the performance they give at the week's end. And he has advice for them as well.

"Sports are great but parents should also encourage their kids to do music, drama, write, any of the performing or visual arts. These activities engage both sides of the brain. And when they are 50, they might not be able to pole vault but they will be able to play an instrument, sing, act or write. They are lifelong skills."

The students' week with Burkart culminated in an all-school performance of the "Sure Can Use a Little Good News Revue."

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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