By Angelina Davis
This is the first in a reoccurring series about academic faculty and their connections to the arts. Look for the next piece in December.
Since it was established in 1985, Douglas Anderson’s motto has been ‘Where arts and academics meet in excellence’. Few high schools value the integration of the arts into the curriculum as heavily and intimately as we do. It’s what makes us so unique. From the sculpture gardens to our atrium’s art gallery, there’s inspiration and vision at every corner.
The arts teachers at DA instill the skills their students need to succeed in the creative and professional worlds. Most, if not all, have a personal history with the art form they teach. Many attended DA in their high school years. It’s widely known across the student body how enthusiastic the arts teachers are about what they teach, and even about the arts areas around them. But they’re not the only ones with a love of the creative side of life.
Take, for example, Angel Sletto, the newest school counselor who started work here this year. Sletto didn’t go to DA for high school, instead she attended Hopkinsville High in Kentucky. During her time there Sletto was musically inclined and in college received an instrumental scholarship. In that major she was required to take both instrumental and choir classes. One day while performing for the choir director, she was encouraged to pursue a major in singing. At the time, Sletto agreed because it offered more financial security though she eventually found a passion in singing. Finally, Sletto switched majors entirely, pushing away from her instrument in favor of graduating with a master’s in opera performance.
Sletto was still singing up until around six years ago, when she became a mother and needed to focus on more of a straightforward career. In spite of her passion for singing, Sletto wouldn’t change her current job.
“No, no… I love performing. And I love music. But I don’t love the profession of it.”
Sletto isn’t the only one with a performance history. Kathy Anderson, a familiar face at DA, wasn’t always focused on school counseling. Anderson grew up with a love for the thrill of dance, primarily gymnastics. She was a proficient ballet dancer who moved on pointe in her second year of dancing. She attended lessons for her craft at Barbara Thompson School of Dance alongside a competitive gym called Dance Dynamics.
Though she was practicing ballet during her time at Barbara Thompson, gymnastics was definitely the expression Anderson connected to most.
“With gymnastics, I got to do more with my skills,” she said.
Unfortunately, Anderson was not able to continue her flips of fancy. When it came time for high school, which was Stanton, her parents ultimately made her give up competing. She went back to Barbara Thompson, but her heart remained with the competitive nature of gymnastics practice. It was a place to enjoy something just for herself, not for the sake of friends or family or anyone else.
“It was self-care,” Anderson said.
Once she reached high school and no longer had that source of personal time, she joined the cheerleading squad, which didn’t come close to replacing what she once practiced. In college, Anderson dipped briefly into the more theatrical side of things by participating in a few plays but gymnastics remained her true passion. Anderson continued to take gymnastic classes in college but became less and less involved until she stopped practicing altogether. It was absolutely heartbreaking to Anderson to be away from the gym and given more time she would have kept up with it.
Sletto and Anderson are among many teachers outside the arts departments who have direct connections to various art forms. Even if faculty on campus doesn’t necessarily seem involved with the arts, there’s a good chance they are in some way. Our art is what makes us, us, and draws everyone to DA.