Q&A: Carlee Bennett, Upper School Dance Teacher

Actions is a new editorial feature from Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child. Each month we will spotlight the dedicated faculty and staff across the PK-12 campus who make a difference in the lives of OKS students and the life of the school. This week, we feature:

Carlee Bennett

Upper School Dance Teacher

Q: As a dance teacher in Oak Knoll School’s Upper School, can you talk about why movement and dance is an important part of Oak Knoll’s curriculum?
A: Cornelia Connelly, Holy Child Founder, saw dance as an important part of educating the whole child. Her philosophy allows for the expression of self through movement in a safe environment.

Q: What has been your favorite dance project or performance that you have worked on with your students and why?
A: I have many favorite projects and performances that I look back on. The common thread is that they brought joy to others. Will Cardell (Upper School Creative Arts Director) and I have collaborated several times to bring visual art to life through dance. The arts prompt us all to feel more deeply, think critically and respond more compassionately to our world.

Q: What, in your opinion, does Oak Knoll School do differently that sets us apart from other schools and why is this important?
A: Oak Knoll is set apart from other schools in that we have our Holy Child traditions and goals. We teach the whole child beyond academics through the arts and spiritually. We have Cornelia Connelly to thank, and her philosophy does not change. It is our common thread from which everything else happens. We are current, and yet true, to our traditions.

Q: What’s the most important lesson that you’ve learned throughout your teaching years, and when your students graduate from Oak Knoll, what do you want them to remember?
A: I learn every day that there is power behind dance – the power to change those who dance and the impact on those who watch dance. It is the ultimate release of energy. For graduates, I want them to remember joy!  In dance you have strong faith and take a chance to step out and be brave. The opportunity to be a joyous “you” is allowing yourself to be exactly who you are.

Q: You recently were named this year’s Cornelian Exemplar, which each year recognizes an OKS teacher for their years of service to the school and the Holy Child School network. Congratulations! Can you tell us what this recognition means to you?
A: Being named the Cornelian Exemplar is an honor that I hold dear and with pride. It is important for me to carry on the traditions of our Holy Child School Network. The fact that I can express myself through my faith and through dance at Oak Knoll is an incredible gift that I cherish.

Carlee Bennett graduated cum laude from Mercyhurst University with a bachelor’s degree in dance.  She has been teaching at Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child for 39 years. While at Oak Knoll, she has taught both in the Upper and Lower schools, and most recently teaches in the Upper School as Dance Director and is part of the physical education faculty. She embraces the Oak Knoll Holy Child traditions in her role as Tableaux Director for the Christmas Prayer Concert. Her major creative endeavors each year are the winter and spring dance presentations. When she is not teaching, she loves being with her husband, Lorenzo and son, Giovanni. Carlee sees herself as a professional chef in her next life and spends lots of time exploring recipes. She enjoys gardening, hosting parties, and entertaining drop-in friends.

Natasha Ludlow, English teacher in oak knoll's upper school