What does The Purchase PAC do other than present world-class performing arts? Plenty! In this new feature that we are calling Community Partner Stories you will get to know some of the extraordinary individuals and organizations in our community – schools, artists, teachers, not-for-profits – that we have had the great fortune of partnering with on a broad range of initiatives throughout the years. Today we bring you a brief interview with Team5, a.k.a. 5th grade teachers Tiffany Soares and Christ Fontenova, at Paideia School 15, Yonkers Public Schools.

Describe in a few lines what you do and what your typical day looks like:
We are 5th grade teachers who along with our students make up Team5. Our days involve teaching all subjects to a team of 60. Our philosophy of teaching is strongly rooted in making learning an interactive journey where students are challenged to think outside of the box. We encourage creativity, collaboration and the confidence to think independently while remaining open-minded.

What quote(s) do you live by?
“Learn from your mistakes.” We encourage students to be courageous risk-taking learners. Mistakes are a stepping stone to acquiring knowledge– if they take time to analyze their mistakes.

“Spread sunshine.” We remind the kids they have the power to make someone’s day brighter by showing acts of kindness, and likewise have the power to ruin someone’s day with unkind thoughts or actions. Use your power for good.

“Use or lose it.” Students are reminded to use their new found knowledge so that it becomes a regular part of their life. If you don’t use the knowledge, you may lose it.

Or, what/who inspires you the most and why?
Kids, colleagues, nature, the Arts, and The PAC!

Have you ever been an artist or performer?
We are curators of a daily show for students. It is an artistic process to weave together a learning experience that will hold the focus and interest of young minds. While teachers are not trained stage performers, our theatrical presentation is an essential part of the learning process for young minds.

When did you first become involved with The Performing Arts Center, or Purchase College?
I began my journey with The PAC almost 2 decades ago when my students first participated in the fabulous Children’s Shakespeare Festivals. It was then that Ian Driver (Education and Engagement Manager) introduced me to The PAC and the magical learning it would inspire within me and the students in my class.

Several years after the Children’s Shakespeare Festival, The PAC piloted the Neighborhood Bridges Dramatic Literacy program in my classroom. Then, much to our delight, because the program was so well-received, it was expanded and has included all Team5 students and teachers.

Ian Driver presents Neighborhood Bridges to parents in Yonkers

The PAC’s Ian Driver presents Neighborhood Bridges to parents in Yonkers.

What surprised you the most about the partnership?
The consistent commitment to quality programs for both educators and students. We have never felt so supported by any other outside program at all. They take time to develop real working relationships with their partners. The present themselves as both something to give us, while also encouraging a back and forth exchange of ideas. They are interested in growing while helping others grow too.

Their personal enthusiasm in what they are presenting is inspiring and motivating. They invest so much time and energy into developing meaningful experiences and relationships. There is a real commitment to the evolution, adaptation and expansion of ideas and programs.

It is also mind-blowing that they genuinely seek out teacher and student consideration in an effort to ensure a positive experience for all audience members.

The unwavering financial support for bringing the arts to our students, and our students to the arts, continues to be a most incredible surprise.

How does your work tie into The PAC’s mission to discover, enlighten, and engage?
We love The PAC so much because their approach to learning and teaching very much aligns with ours. There is a true belief between us that learning should be playful and joyous no matter what your age. Our Team5 experiences with The PAC have always been engaging discoveries that leave us all enlightened.


Photos © Mark Liflander