Photo provided by Kristine Calder

CUSD dance teacher to be honored for exceptional leadership and arts instruction

By CUSD Insider

A San Juan Hills High School dance teacher is about to be recognized for a second time by the Orange County Department of Education.

Kristine Calder, the San Juan Capistrano school’s dance program director and choreographer, will be one of 12 arts teachers honored at the 2024 Orange County Music and Arts Administrators (OCMAA) Awards Ceremony on Feb. 27. The annual event recognizes exceptional leadership and arts instruction as well as supportive administrators and community arts advocates.

“I put so much work into my program,” Calder said. “It’s thriving. I have a very low turnover rate. The kids just really enjoy it, and I’m excited the program is getting recognized.”

Calder is in her 24th year at Capistrano Unified, with 16 of those years at San Juan Hills. OCMAA last recognized her in 2005.

“The Orange County Music and Arts Awards is the premier recognition for Orange County’s outstanding arts educators and is highly regarded within the community for its recognition of quality instructional service,” Orange County Department of Education arts coordinator Scott Fitzpatrick stated in a news release.

Photo provided by Kristine Calder

Calder was born in the Philippines, moved the United States at age 13, and grew up in Alhambra. This year, she has about 170 students, and she also manages guest artists and oversees instruction for future choreographers and the senior showcase. Most seniors participate in the showcase before graduation.

The lifelong dancer and Cal State Long Beach alumna enjoys being creative.

“I love forming the relationships with my students, teaching them about dance,” Calder said. “I want them to be as passionate for dance as I am. I try to make it really fun. It’s like learning without knowing that you’re learning.”

San Juan Hills High puts on four shows a year with a variety of genres, from jazz and lyrical to musical theater and hip hop. The school also offers a modern dance conservatory aimed at students who want to pursue dance degrees at universities.

Photo provided by Kristine Calder

Brooke Valderrama, San Juan Hills’ activities director, added that Calder’s artistic vision always tells a story, and its backed by amazing costumes, lighting and music.

“She is her dancers’ biggest fan,” Valderrama said, “and she has made such a positive impact on so many students, whether they are performing on stage or watching from the audience.”

Calder’s students have gone on to prominent dance schools and positions, such as on the Disneyland Resort parades, Laker Girls, Clippers Spirit, and BlazerDancers.

Calder noted that she has seen as many as eight of her students performing at once for Disneyland.

“Kristine is the type of teacher that goes all in,” Valderrama said. “She is truly passionate about dance and has so much pride in her dancers and their abilities. Every show, pep rally and chance to perform, her students wow the audience with their skill and choreography.”

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