The sky's the limit - and never say "I can't" in Robyn Mousley-Lujan's dance classes at Hillcrest High School. Her high expectations for the students and for herself have led to her being named Outstanding Secondary Arts Teacher for 1991 by the Utah Alliance for Arts and Humanities Education.
A tiny dynamo who looks as if she'd weigh about 85 pounds soaking wet, Mousley confesses to sometimes falling back on Coke and candy bars for nourishment. But the arts education she gives is strictly blue-ribbon nutrition."A student should never tell me that a thing can't be done, or she can't do it," she said. "I tell the students there's nothing they can't do. I expect them to give 100 percent, I will give back 200 percent, and it works out to a 2,000 percent result! Expectation is vitally important, in arts and in any classroom."
She paused to talk in the few days' valley between two mountainous achievements - acting as executive director of Hillcrest's musical, "Guys and Dolls," which involved 250 students, and getting the dance club's annual "Dance in Concert" on stage.
Mousley, who took a double major in dance and drama at Brigham Young University, finds the two disciplines closely connected. "I like doing the musical; the dance numbers fascinate me," she said. "I see them in my head, then see how they come out in real life. I dream a lot, and if something is troubling me, the answer may come to me in a dream!"
Mousley began teaching drama, then shifted to dance at Jordan High School in 1980, and in 1986 moved to Hillcrest, where her load is enough different to revitalize her, and she enjoys the bigger theater, seating 1,800.
Her achievements since 1976, when she started teaching in the Jordan School District, are astounding.
She has taught drama, directed 52 plays and musicals and advised drill teams and cheerleaders. Incidentally, her Hillcrest cheerleaders recently won a national competition in California - only the latest in a series of nationally winning cheerleading and song-leading squads she's coached.
She's this year's Teacher of the Year at Hillcrest, and she helps widely in the community with musicals and other show biz assignments.
Mousley grew up in Riverton, where her father was an elementary educator, so she has teaching in her blood. "I sang, danced, played an instrument, played piano, a little of everything," she said. Among teachers who turned her on to the arts she mentioned Polly Yates, a speech teacher at West Jordan Junior High School; and at Bingham High School, dance teacher Virginia MacDonald and theater teacher Sondra Green.
Mousley manages a his, hers and ours family, including a 3-year-old, and she's grateful for "a marvelous tender. Without her I couldn't do what I do," she said. Her day begins at 5:30 a.m. and may continue until 9 or 10 at night, plus Saturdays if she's doing a show. "I do all this because I want to," she said, "and my husband understands that I wouldn't be happy if I couldn't teach."
What makes Mousley run? She replied instantly: "Seeing the visions open up before my students, as you puncture the tunnels around them. Opening and widening their viewpoint and seeing them grow motivates me."
"Some students may never be real dancers, they may be too big or too small, or not have the inherent ability. But if they dance in high school, ever after they carry in their mind's eye a vision of themselves as dancers, and they will love dance as spectators. Many of them will prove that they can do anything, if you open up the tunnels around them. They should never be shut down, made to choose one thing over another, they should be encouraged to go for it."Her dance concerts always emphasize modern technique because "I like the creative process of modern dance," she said. "But the kids need to know all kinds of dance, and I have many ballet students in the group." The students do their own choreography, and she will interject and superimpose, but when concert time arrives she keeps a low profile.
Mousley is not the first from Hillcrest High School to win an Arts Alliance award. Her principal, Ted Lovato, won the award in 1990 for Outstanding Arts Principal and went on to win one of seven national/
regional awards from the Kennedy Center.
"Robyn has such high energy, she only touches the ground once in every five or six steps," Lovato laughed. "She's every principal's dream, if he wants to offer the kids a quality, top-flight program.
"My award last year was a reflection of my staff's dedication," he said. "Our goal here is always a strong academic, athletic and artistic program. We say, `There's the sky, go for it,' and a lot of our students do.
"We promote the arts through competitions, a talent show, a tremendous theater program including dinner theater, and a great music program. We aim to offer every creative person (which means every kid) a chance to blossom. Everyone here fulfills the state graduation requirement for one and one-half credits in arts, but many take far more, as electives."Russell Germer, the UAAHE's pick for Outstanding Elementary Education Arts Teacher in Utah, teaches instrumental music in the Salt Lake District, at Bonneville, Wasatch and Uintah elementary schools.
He also teaches band at Bryant Intermediate School in the early morning, through the community school. It doesn't pay much, but the instrumental program at Bryant was dwindling, and he hated to see it go. He hopes to build up enough interest to bring it back eventually. "It's the times we live in, the kids don't have time for music by the time they fulfill their academic requirements," he said.
Germer is tall and lanky and looks serious until his infectious giggle breaks through. He's always been a musician, as was his father before him - Max E. Germer, who was also an artist who taught art in the Ogden schools.
Russell Germer took up trombone for school band and played it through high school. After one year of college he joined the Navy, where he was able to serve his term of enlistment by playing in bands. Later he majored in music at Weber State College, then did graduate studies at North Texas State in Denton. He has wide experience in arranging music for band, including half-time shows at the University of Utah and arrangements for Gene Jelesnik's Days of '47 programs, and he's a member of the National Guard 23rd Army Band. Demands of six growing children led him to recruit private students, and when he heard there was an opening in music in the Salt Lake District, he applied and got the job.
In the three schools, he teaches 14 general music classes (learning about music and singing) a week, and 25 instrumental classes, including orchestra and band.
Germer's merit lies in the special services he provides, and a sprightly attitude toward music. He arranges most of the music he uses, often catchy popular songs and airs. He tailor-makes his curriculum for each class, and makes accompaniment tapes. "If any kid will bring me a tape I'll make him a copy of our tunes so he can practice more enjoyably at home," he said. "The children learn the notes and can read, but they can learn better from hearing the music, too.
"Our classes are geared toward performance, because preparing a program motivates the kids. And children must have fun in music if they are going to stick with it."
At Uintah on a snowy spring morning, about 10 students gathered for instrumental music, six of them clarinetists. (The clarinet is the "in" instrument right now, said Germer.) They meet in an annex building, cluttered with old easy chairs and sofas, overflowing bookcases and file cabinets and a battered piano - a comfortable environment for music making, and they are getting pretty good at carrying the tune for a May 1 program.
Germer takes a smiling but firm approach, stresses good posture, and plays the tape some of the time to help enforce the rhythmic beat. "I like to work to the level of the best, and make the others keep up, so nobody gets bored and drops out," he said.
Shauna Carl, principal at Bonneville Elementary School, nominated Germer, whom she calls "a superb teacher. He's good at what he does. Children love to go to music with him. He's a happy fellow, with a positive outlook on life. That's his nature, and he doesn't put kids down. As you watch him teach, you realize his programs are of high caliber, and that he offers incentive to his students.
"The Salt Lake District has been decreasing its music programs, increasing music teachers' responsibilities. As funds get tighter and tighter, he shows true dedication, he's taken on the new responsibities without complaint. Last year, three people were doing the job he now does alone."