TEACHING ARTISTS

Ridgelines' teaching artists are expert language artists—poets, writers, songwriters, journalists, storytellers, and more. What do we mean by “expert”? We mean that our TAs have their own ongoing language arts practices. In their daily lives they write poems, sing songs, perform plays, tell stories, and have firsthand experience of the reflection, honesty, pleasure, and intimacy fostered by the study of language arts.

Our teaching artists work in a variety of community settings and local non-profits to provide language arts instruction to those who are underserved in our region. We work closely with TAs to develop their own dream programs, and often describe ourselves as a “matchmaking” organization—a big part of Ridgelines’ mission is connecting our TAs with the people they want to serve, learn with, and teach. In addition to supporting TAs administratively and financially, Ridgelines facilitates conversations between TAs and the organizations where they teach so that each program is built to fulfill the needs and goals of participants.

 

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Brooklyn Leo is a first-generation, non-binary Cherokee and Sephardic Jew who’s pursuing a dual-title PhD in Philosophy and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Pennsylvania State University. Their research concentrates on abject embodiments, resistant aesthetic practices, and decolonial theory. As a poet and trans activist, they are currently a teaching artist in residence for Ridgelines, providing spoken word poetry workshops for local queer and trans youth in Centre County PA high schools. They are especially passionate about dispelling the myth that queer love and trans life does not exist within rural contexts. Rather, students are exploring themes of radical self-love, queer futures, and trans creativity, offering poetry as a way to bridge the knowledge gap surrounding LGBTQIA+ life in rural spaces.
 

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Robyn Passante is an author, journalist and essayist based in State College. She is editor of Centered Magazine, a quarterly health and wellness publication, and is associate editor of State College Magazine, covering the Centre Region. In addition to working as a freelance writer for varied publications, including The Washington Post, GQ.com and SUCCESS Magazine, she runs a copywriting and editing business at WellPhrased.com. She also has been a college lecturer on writing and interviewing, and has authored two books for the wedding industry. Robyn Passante is an author, journalist and essayist based in State College. She is editor of Centered Magazine, a quarterly health and wellness publication, and is associate editor of State College Magazine, covering the Centre Region.

In addition to working as a freelance writer for varied publications, including The Washington Post, GQ.com and SUCCESS Magazine, she runs a copywriting and editing business at WellPhrased.com. She also has been a college lecturer on writing and interviewing, and has authored two books for the wedding industry.

Carolyne Meehan is a mother to three wild spirited kids, married to a man who loves soccer and maps, who is always up for a spontaneous hike or a contemplative conversation over tea. She is adjunct faculty at The Pennsylvania State University in the College of Education where she works to prepare future secondary level English teachers to be compassionate, present and well-read educators. She co-created Write to Shine, a creative writing company based in State College, to help people of all ages write and tell their own stories and to use writing as a tool to be more mindful and awake in everyday life. From her love of food and farmers, she writes the monthly “Dishing” column for State College Magazine. She works to fill her days with fresh air, deep listening, questioning the status quo and creating intentional connections through language, song, shared meals and gathering.

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Born in State College, Pennsylvania and raised in North Carolina, Eric Ian Farmer has returned to his birthplace sharing his songs about relationships, social awareness, and finding one's path in life while keeping alive classics by artists like Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, and Bob Marley. Eric gives regular live performances in Centre county at restaurants, bars, and concert halls but also schools, churches, and the Centre County Correctional Facility. Additionally, Eric recently released Journey of a Love So Strong (Live), his first live album. Previously, Eric spent nearly ten years as a classroom teacher and  graduating from Penn State University's doctoral program in educational leadership (2016).

Eric gives regular live performances in Centre county at restaurants, bars, and concert halls but also schools, churches, and the Centre County Correctional Facility. Additionally, Eric recently released Journey of a Love So Strong (Live), his first live album. Previously, Eric spent nearly ten years as a classroom teacher and  graduating from Penn State University's doctoral program in educational leadership (2016).

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Abby Minor has taught poetry-writing and storytelling workshops in low-income nursing homes, senior centers, and personal care facilities since 2012. Her award-winning programs honor the voices and imaginations of older adults from all walks of life. Her students have been farmers, dancers, teachers, mothers, fathers, artists, hunters, mowers of graveyards, and more. Abby specializes in working with adults who have physical and cognitive disabilities, including memory loss—her classes meet people where they are at and celebrate each person’s contributions. Each program responds to the specific interests and needs of participants, but the goal is always to learn more about ourselves, each other, and poetry. Through discussions, readings, listening, and sharing, participants gain a deeper sense of who they are and what the world is. Abby is an alumna of Smith College, the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, and the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Penn State.

photo credit: Jennifer Anne Tucker

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Érika Anseloni is an educator and community development specialist, with over 19 years’ experience of work and research in the developing world, with expertise in leadership development, critical education for social change, and engagement. She has lived in State College for 6.5 years and has just finished her PhD at Penn State with focus on those issues. Throughout her professional path, she has applied and researched the use of theater and arts to individual and social transformation, and developed several programs including theater as an educational and transformative tool for youth leadership development, women's empowerment, community and local development, and environmental education. She participated in workshops and presentations of Theatre of the Oppressed and was one of the founders of the Theatre of the Oppressed Group of São Paulo (Brazil), composed by women. Érika is moved by social justice, by building community capacity, by empowering people to take individual collective action to build the positive changes they desire. 

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Anne Burgevin / Write Outside

Anne Elise Burgevin is a teacher, poet, naturalist and environmentalist. As a Teaching Artist for Ridgelines, Anne works with the Bellefonte Youth Center to provide creative writing programming for young people. Throughout her life Anne has fostered awareness and a sense of wonder in her children and students about the natural world. While growing up in the Finger Lakes of central New York and then raising her children in the Seven Mountains region of central Pennsylvania, she has come to know and love the northeastern deciduous forests, and the lakes and rivers that shape and define these regions. Her haiku are an expression of her passion and concern for every living being, for whom she has deep regard, including weeds. Standing near a clump of seven foot Joe-pye weed in her yard one summer’s day, Anne’s neighbor told her, “Your yard looks wild and untended,” which Anne took as a compliment. Wild and untended are key words in Anne’s world.

Jonathan Bojan / Youth Circle at CCYC

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Jonathan is a freelance musician who has always had a passion for community art therapy. His teaching style is improvisational, heavily influenced by a music education in Philadelphia which included the study of European and Indian Classical music as well as Jazz and Hip Hop. Having taught privately as a multi-instrumentalist since 2010, he fuses the pedagogy of technique with a trauma-informed approach to expressive therapy. Jonathan is also a student of Integral Philosophy via Ken Wilber and 12 Step spirituality, which are key tools that he is currently using to develop his teaching and research methodology. Jonathan’s current project at CCYC focuses on using African drumming and Hip Hop songwriting techniques to teach creative collaboration. The program exercises listening skills, musical technique, creative process and promotes positive interaction and self-image in the participants.

PAST TEACHING ARTISTS

Terri Dennis

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Terri Dennis graduated from Penn State University in 1991 with a B.S. degree in Human Development and Family Studies. She went on to be a family counselor for the Big Brother/Big Sister Program at the Centre County Youth Service Bureau for 5 years. As a counselor, Terri supervised hundreds of adult volunteers and worked directly with children and families to coordinate a number of community services. Currently, Terri works with her daughter in their Spirit Guidance and Healing Practice. Together, they are dedicated to offering healing, guidance, and empowerment through their various services and classes. Terri is also the co-founder of Spirit Junction, a community program that meets monthly with themes centered around personal and spiritual development.

Teresea Hamilton 

Teresa is a storyteller from West Helena, Arkansas, who moved to State College in December 2009. She teaches writing courses in the English Department at Penn State University and serves as a writing coach and advisor for undergraduate and graduate students with the Office of Graduate Educational Equity Programs.  Teresa is co-founder of State of the Story, a moth-styled storytelling group who tell stories in the Attic at the State Theatre. She believes Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "Danger of a Single Story" where humans are extremely complex and cannot be reduced to a single narrative. We need more stories to help make sense of the world.

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Nicole is a wearer of many hats, her personal favorites being artist, geographer, waitress, and cat-whisperer. Originally from Southwest Florida, she grew up at the confluence of the Gulf of Mexico and the Everglades. After migrating 1,000 miles north, she has spent the last decade in central Pennsylvania with her twin domestic long-hair daughters. Nicole graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in Geography Education where her studies focused on social justice, aural landscapes, and climate change. She worked as a high school social studies teacher, encouraging students to engage the world with curiosity and spunk. Though she enjoyed being in the classroom, she now proudly waits tables full-time. Not only does serving allow her to develop unique relationships with a diverse array of people, but it also enables her to pursue musical and other artistic interests.
 


She fulfills her passion for social-justice and education through her work with Ridgelines, where she has worked with young women to explore their identity through music. She believes that immersing ourselves in art, laughter, and the hearing and telling of stories leads to richer experiences and deeper relationships with ourselves, others, and the worlds around us. 

 

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Nico Amador is a poet, community organizer and educator living in Vermont, by way of San Diego and Philadelphia. His poems appear or are forthcoming in Bettering American Poetry, Vol. 3, the Academy of American Poets' Poem-A-Day series, Hypertext Review, Poets Reading the News, Poet Lore, Bedfellows, APIARY Magazine, and elsewhere. His chapbook, Flower Wars, was selected as the winner of the Anzaldúa Poetry Prize and was published by Newfound Press in 2017. He is a recent grant recipient from the Vermont Arts Council, an alumni of the Home School and Lambda Literary Foundation's Writers Retreat, and helped to found the Rogue Writing Workshop of Philadelphia, which provides workshop instruction with accomplished poets to those writing and learning outside of academic institutions.