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Released June 3, 2004

SOUTHERN MISS DANCE GRADUATE AWARDED FOR EFFORTS

HATTIESBURG -- Tammy Stanford, a 1991 graduate of the dance program at The University of Southern Mississippi, was named the Thad Cochran Distinguished Arts Educator in dance by the Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education (MAAE). The award was presented at an April 17 awards gala at Mississippi College in Clinton.

With very few dance programs in existence in Mississippi, Stanford was credited, in large part, for being responsible for those that do exist today. She was the first dance teacher to work at Nora Davis Magnet School in Laurel and has taught middle and high school students in Petal and Hattiesburg.

Stanford, on the other hand, credits her early childhood opportunities for her desire to provide dance education to children. "My early classical ballet training was provided via a scholarship from an endowment made possible through the Mississippi Ballet Theatre in Jackson," she said. "From the age of eight, I enjoyed the luxury of six to eight hours per week in extensive training from JoBee Best of Chicago, at no financial expense to my parents."

This rare opportunity instilled a desire to "always give to others what had freely been given to me." For Stanford, dance in public education seemed the quickest and most efficient route to do just that.

Each of her teaching assignments included choreographing student performances, working with guest artists, conducting teacher professional development, and establishing various community partnerships. Stanford also has conducted workshops across the state using a training manual she wrote in cooperation with the Mississippi Department of Education.

Stanford also gives credit for her strong public education philosophy to her university mentor, Patricia Amacker McConnell, a recently retired professor of dance at Southern Miss. McConnell received the MAAE's 2003 Higher Education Award for her contributions to dance in Mississippi.

"She [McConnell] pioneered the way for dance and dance education in Mississippi," Stanford said. "The genius of her teaching lies in her ability to communicate directly to the essence of the person and prepare a safe avenue for the release of direct human expression."

Stanford calls her mentor, the first chair of the dance program at Southern Miss, the "teacher of teachers."

In a statement in the awards gala program, McConnell had the opportunity to reciprocate in accolades. "Tammy has two fundamental elements to her teaching philosophy that embody her career as a teacher: she thinks of the students first, and she focuses on the needs of the individual."

Now directing an after-school classical dance program in Lamar County, Stanford, of Sumrall, teaches classical ballet and modern dance classes for Oak Grove and Sumrall students. The program is made possible through the Links-to-Learning 21st Century, a community-based grant awarded to Lamar County Public Schools.

"Being a recipient of this most prestigious award is both fulfilling and humbling," Stanford admitted. "Fulfilling because a lifetime of work is validated by a most reputable group of arts professionals and humbling because I feel I've simply returned a favor that was done for me. I've 'passed it forward' as they say."

The MAAE, an advocate for higher quality, comprehensive and sequential arts education for all Mississippi students, awarded four Thad Cochran Distinguished Educator awards, one in each arts disciplines-dance, music, theater, and visual art.

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June 4, 2004 4:27 PM

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