South River High school dance director Mattie Fenton includes all students in her classes

Posted at 12:11 PM, Jan 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-27 18:10:39-05

Whether her students have two left feet or are the next Misty Copeland, Mattie Fenton has a dance class for them.

Fenton is the dance director at South River High School in Edgewater. She teaches a variety of classes, including one for athletes. And in each class, you'll find special needs students included in the mix. They also participate in the school's dance recitals.

"Our students with special needs, they're up on stage, they're performing next to their peers and the audience is supporting them," said Fenton. "It's a big thing at this school."

Fenton has been at South River High School for five years and has overseen then growth of the inclusion program within the dance department. She says it gives all of her students a boost in confidence when they walk into her dance studio.

"They get a different experience in the dance classroom then they do in a regular classroom," she said.

Fenton also has a class designed for athletes, to improve their flexibility and performance on the field.

"They enjoy it and I think get a lot out of it. Their coaches are always telling me how beneficial this class really is for them," she said.

She has students who compete in local and state-wide competitions and go on to take dance in college. Fenton has danced all her life and feels strongly that the arts are a need, not a want, in schools.

She says the skills her students learn in her class, like creativity and collaboration, are ones they can take with them anywhere.

"These are the skills in the workforce they're looking for," she said. "This is the place where the students learn to feel confident with themselves."

"She's a genuine person who comes to work everyday and looks for the best interest and the best side of every child," said William Myers, principal at South River High School. "She helps them grow in the field of dance but also in social skills, character and academics."

Fenton says she couldn't imagine doing another job, and as long as she's able, she'll be teaching dance to every student who wants to learn.

"This is what I love, this is what I've always known I love and this is what I want to do."