Riverside-Brookfield High School has been recognized as a school of distinction in arts education by the Illinois Alliance for Arts Education (IAAE). The IAAE will nominate RB for a national award, given to only five schools across the country. Winners of the nationwide awards will be named later in the year by the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education.
RB was the only Illinois high school nominated for this award this year. The school will receive the state award in March.
“It’s only RB High School that will receive the award form the Illinois Alliance for Arts Education,” said Barbara Heimerdinger, the director of the IAAE.
RB was recognized for its thorough education in the fine arts of dance, drama, music and visual arts, Heimerdinger said.
Fine arts is a graduation requirement at RB. All RB students must take a semester-long fine arts survey course and also take another semester course in any area of the fine arts.
The fine arts survey class, which has been offered at RB for 16 years, introduces students to each of the four areas of the fine arts.
“It’s the most innovative class that I have seen or heard of,” said Nick Gehl, the chairman of RB’s Fine Arts Department. Gehl is in his first year at RB, having come from Waubonsie Valley High School to replace Jon Grice, who left RB to take a job as fine arts chairman at Stevenson High School.
In the fine arts survey class, students spend four weeks studying each of the four main areas of the fine arts. They study drama with an English teacher, music with a music teacher, visual art with an art teacher and dance with a dance teacher.
Students not only learn about the fine arts, they actually make art, crafting ceramics and performing dance.
“They learn how to look at art and interpret it, evaluate it analyze it and then come up with their own conclusions about what it means to them,” said RB dance teacher Mindy Haines, who is one of teachers of the survey class. “In the dance rotation they dance. They dance, they choreograph, they perform, they create compositions.”
RB offers about 50 different fine arts classes to RB students, Gehl said.
Gehl said that as a new newcomer to RB he has been amazed at the scope of RB fine arts offerings.
“To see all that is offered to kids and all that the teachers do, I think it’s phenomenal what’s available to these kids,” Gehl said.