A Park Slope resident is keeping arts education alive.
Christina Fuentes, the principal of P.S. 24 in Sunset Park, has received a Janklow Award, which is presented by ArtsConnection, a not-for-profit organization supporting art instruction in public schools.
Fuentes was given the award for implementing several art, dance and theater programs in her school with the assistance of ArtsConnection.
“I’m very proud,” Fuentes said. “It’s really an award for the school. We have a fabulous staff, fabulous teachers, fabulous assistant principal.”
Through a partnership with ArtsConnection, established artists are sent to Fuentes’ school, as well as many others in New York City, to instruct students.
“We have a very comprehensive arts program that ensures that each class has experience with an artist in residency in every school year,” Fuentes said. “Children have a very high-quality arts experience with the teaching artist – visual arts, theater, movement, music, it’s about all the arts across the spectrum.”
One program links performance artists with English Language Learners (ELL) by having the students participate in dance and theater workshops to foster their mastery of the English language.
“Almost half of our students are English Language Learners. This is a real boost for them to learn to communicate what they know whether they can speak English or not. Also it is a big, big thing for developing language [mastery],” Fuentes explained.
Parents at P.S. 24, which is located at 427 38th Street, applauded the presence of significant arts instruction, especially in light of the city Department of Education’s (DOE) continued emphasis on core academic subjects and standardized testing.
“It’s something that parents have said that they want,” Fuentes said. “I know that parents like for their children to be exposed to the arts and teachers think it’s a beneficial thing. It helps their children become motivated to enjoy school more and it helps children express themselves.”
Fuentes agreed that arts education is just as important as reading and math.
“Our kids need more than just drilling for standardized tests,” she said.
“We need well-rounded children who are not just prepped to be test-taking machines. We need to educate the whole person. Ultimately, if you want children to do well on tests, you have to have them be educated in a variety of ways,” she added. “[Art] is not a frill, it’s not an extra. It’s really the basics.”
For more about ArtsConnection, log onto www.artsco