Karyn Tomczak, director of the Western Carolina University dance program, will receive the 2014 Dance Teacher Award for Higher Education at the Dance Teacher Summit to be held in New York City in August.
Dance Teacher magazine published a feature in July about Tomczak and three other award winners recognized for offering students top-notch training, real-world performing experiences, financial support and an emphasis on academic success.
Tomczak began teaching dance at age 14, when she ran her own dance studio, and taught at three others in the Buffalo, New York, area.
After college, she gained experience working as a professional dancer for more than 15 years. She not only was a Rockette but also performed in the United States and abroad in shows such as “42nd Street,” “Sophisticated Ladies,” “Will Rogers Follies” and “Funny Girl.”
“My performing experience enhanced the teaching package I am now able to offer students,” said Tomczak, who joined the WCU faculty in 2009. “I loved performing and miss it sometimes, but when I see my students on stage, I feel like part of me is still performing.”
Tomczak teaches a full course load in addition to choreographing a range of shows at WCU. For the past two years, she has secured grants and raised money through teaching master classes to take dance students during spring break to New York City. There, they took dance classes, toured theaters, attended shows and performed in The Ziegfield Society’s shows saluting the history of the Rockettes. As part of the experience, Tomczak also arranged for musical theatre students to be able to perform before agents and in a cabaret.
Tomczak said working as a dance teacher sometimes requires long hours but the work is tremendously fulfilling.
“I learn new things about dance every day from my students and through ongoing professional development about my craft,” said Tomczak. “I get to do what I love to do, make a living doing it and share it with my students, all of which makes teaching dance the best job in the world.”