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Dance Academy

High School North's Dance Academy, led by instructor Mindy O'Connor, front center, endured performance restrictions during the pandemic and will now step up its game, welcoming a modern dance professional to teach O'Connor and her students about the art form.

Jody Parchment
High School North teacher Jody Parchment will work alongside a professional digital artist who will help her take arts instruction to the next level, combining creativity and problem-based learning with foundational technical skills.

Dance Program, Digital Arts Will Host Professional Artists

Aug. 2, 2021-- In March, the district applied for two grants on behalf of High School North to Artists in Education (AIE) and its Residency Grant Program. Each year the cycle, which is presented by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and supported by Young Audiences Arts for Learning, is very competitive, and after applying to host a professional teaching artist for both its dance program and digital arts strand, the school and district were hopeful that AIE would select one.

Earlier this month, the district and High School North received word from AIE that both applications had been selected. Each grant award will support a 20-day artist residency valued at more than $11,000.

For its dance program, lead instructor Mindy O'Connor will welcome an artist to teach her and her students about modern dance.

"This grant means so much for the Toms River North Dance Academy as it grows year by year, and expands its repertoire in dance styles," said O'Connor. "This amazing experience will aid in the knowledge of modern dance that the students will learn. We are very excited and are thankful for this opportunity."

As its dancers are learning a new method that will be integrated into curriculum moving forward, HSN digital arts students will be hosting their own artist residency. Jody Parchment, who teaches Personal Finance and Intro to Python & Computer Applications at HSN and who this coming year will take on Advanced Digital Design for virtual reality gaming using the Unity physics engine and C#, will welcome a professional digital artist to enhance her program, provide professional development, and facilitate unique, hands-on learning experiences for her students.

"This will truly be a great resource as I begin my digital arts journey," said Parchment.

The AIE Residency Grant Program is unique in that it provides both live student instruction as well as professional development for teachers and staff. The residency will include:

  • in-depth, hands-on art making workshops with professional artists
  • professional development for teachers, providing ideas and new skills for using art in their classrooms
  • a community event celebrating students’ work

Dates for the residency's capstone events will be shared with the community during the school year.

The modern dance residency is slated to take place second (Nov. 19 through Feb. 3) and third (Feb. 4 through April 8) semesters, and the digital arts residency is planned for third semester. An AIE partner team will help integrate the residencies, including the recruitment of professional artists for O'Connor, Parchment, and their respective teams to interview. Those interviews are scheduled to take place in the coming months.

The artist residencies will expand and enhance the district's continuous efforts toward arts-infused and arts-integrated education. In fact, Young Audiences has been working with Silver Bay Elementary for the past several years on the school's YA Arts Lab, and YA recently named Supervisor Courtney Norcross its Arts Champion Educator of the Year.

"We are thrilled to receive these generous grants,” said High School North Principal Ed Keller. “Providing quality arts programming to our students has always been a goal at High School North; with the help of the AIE Residency, we can now offer our students inspiring, arts-rich experiences beyond the scope of the classroom activities.”

More about the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and Young Audiences Arts for Learning NJ & Eastern PA

The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, created in 1966, is a division of the NJ Department of State. The Council was established to encourage and foster public interest in the arts; enlarge public and private resources devoted to the arts; promote freedom of expression in the arts; and facilitate the inclusion of art in every public building in New Jersey.  To learn more about the Council, visit

Founded in 1973, Young Audiences Arts for Learning NJ & Eastern PA is the premier arts-in-education resource in the region, providing teaching artist-led performances, workshops, residencies, and teacher professional learning programs to schools in all 21 counties of New Jersey and the 7 easternmost counties of Pennsylvania. Young Audiences’ extensive professional artist roster represents all art forms—from dance and theater to music, language and visual arts. Since its founding, the organization has reached over 15 million children in its nearly 50-year history. To learn more, visit or follow YA on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @YAAFLORG. 


Dance academy

A professional modern dance artist will have access to the dance academy's studio, which was artistically enhanced by the Arts Academy's visual artists a few years ago.

AIE screnshot
Count Basie's Rachel Repole; district Grant Writer Mike Kenny; HSN Assistant Principal Christopher Madigan; teacher Jody Parchment; and district Supervisor of Educational Technology Tiffany Lucey; met virtually July 22 as part of the AIE artist residency grant orientation.

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