Christina Richard believes all children deserve time in the spotlight. The New York City special education teacher was named to the International Literacy Association’s 2015 “30 Under 30” list for her innovative work combining literacy with the performing arts. Her students’ productions include The P.S. 8 Choice Awards and Cloudy With a Chance of Music. She particularly focuses on including at-risk students, in one case helping a student labeled as selectively mute progress from being nonverbal in school to taking on leading roles in shows.

The Basics

School: P.S. 8, Staten Island, New York
Career Path: Richard found her passion for teaching when she worked in the children’s room of a public library. She later earned her bachelor’s degree in childhood general and special education, and then her master’s in literacy education. She has co-taught in both kindergarten and second-grade classrooms.
Teaching Philosophy: “I want to give all different types of students equal opportunities to develop a love of learning.”

Cool Project

Dancing With the Kindergarten Stars: Richard writes, directs, and choreographs all of the shows her students perform. She uses her literacy curriculum to develop lessons that serve as rehearsals for the shows. In one performance, called Dancing With the Kindergarten Stars, students memorized and spoke lines to introduce songs before taking to the stage to showcase their rhythmic talents. “It ties in speaking and listening skills and puts a focus on following directions and working together,” Richard says. Parents prepared the sets and costumes. Administrators have been very supportive of her endeavors because “they see what the performing arts bring out in the children.”

Three Lesson-Worthy Pop Songs:

“The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?),” by Ylvis: “This song was perfect because it talks about animals and the sounds they make.”

“Brave,” by Sara Bareilles: “The lyrics are about standing up for yourself.”

“Roar,” by Katy Perry: “This is great for self-confidence, especially for special needs students, who often lack confidence.”

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Photo: Courtesy of Christina Richard