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DancExcel director teaches outside the box

Dionne Nicole Champion

Dionne Nicole Champion

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Gary native Dionne Nicole Champion is artistic director of DancExcel, 2345 Grant St., and in a few weeks will excel in a program that will take dance and academics to soaring heights.

On Sept. 27 Champion will begin pursuing her Ph.D. in learning sciences in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University. It will be a funded five-year program that will enhance her abilities to use two subjects she is very passionate about … education and dance.

Champion’s outside-the-box teaching is nothing new to her; she was already using choreography and algebra to help her students solve equations.

“My other passion is engineering, so a lot of students were having problems with algebra and were approaching me to help them. It got to the point where I put together a class that allowed the students to solve math problems through dance as opposed to pencils and paper.”

Champion added that she choreographed dance steps according to algebra problems and noticed that when her students used the steps, it was something they could relate to and they improved on their work.

“The bottom line is, you can take anything children can relate to and weave it into their school work — whether it’s math, science, English — and they will understand and work harder to improve their work,” she said.

Champion said it took nearly two years to apply for the program and she was recently accepted via email.

Another Gary native, Nichelle Y. Smith is features editor at USA Today/Gannett.

On June 23, at the National Association of Black Journalists annual convention and career fair in New Orleans, Smith won the NABJ’s Salute to Excellence Award in the category of Best Digital Online Features Project for coverage of the opening and dedication of the King Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Smith is the site manager and creator of the “Civil Rights in America: Connections to a Movement,” website (topics.gannett.com/civil+rights/?template=clarionledger).

A 1985 Horace Mann High School graduate and former copy editor/page designer for the Post-Tribune, Smith joined Gannett News Service nearly 10 years ago.

Smith said the website was a labor of love among her fellow researchers in working to gather stories from people who’ve lived history, from Jim Crow to sit-ins and marches.

“My entire team and I are so grateful for the recognition and so humbled. We hope that we’ve done honor to those who were pioneers in the civil rights movement, and helped others appreciate, as we do, the enormity of their sacrifices,” Smith said.



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