Linden High School’s Barbara Brady has been honored as Dance Teacher of the Year for the Eastern District of the United States, making her one of just six finalists to be SHAPE America’s 2018 National Dance Teacher of the Year.

By Gary Miller

Barbara Brady has been down this road before, but that doesn’t mean her latest honor is any less exciting for the longtime Linden High School dance and physical education teacher.

Brady was recently chosen as the Dance Teacher of the Year for 2018 for the Eastern District of the United States — a region stretching from Maine to Maryland. The selection by SHAPE America (Society of Health and Physical Educators) means she is one of six finalists for National Dance Teacher of the Year.

“It’s a mix of emotions: nervous, excited and elated,” Brady said. “I’m so happy to represent New Jersey and the Eastern District. The energy is definitely flowing from so many different emotions on being here again, but mostly proud and excited that they thought so highly of me to put me in that forum again.”

She says “again” because these laurels are not new for Brady. She was runner-up for National Dance Teacher of the Year in 2013, as well as state Dance Teacher of the Year in 2012 and 2016, as selected by the New Jersey Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

With the latest honor comes the chance to present dance workshops throughout New Jersey and the Eastern District, which also includes Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Brady will also be required to submit a video along with her application for National Teacher of the Year. It will be her opportunity to show what makes her a great teacher. The national winner will be chosen at SHAPE America’s national convention in Tennessee from March 20 to 24.

Brady is personally thrilled by the award, but says the honor goes far beyond just herself.

“My winning an award in not just about me, it’s about them, the kids I’ve been teaching for 20 years here in Linden,” she said. “It’s been neat to see the program grow over the years.

Principal Yelena Horre credits that growth to Brady’s hard work and talents.

“I can honestly say that the dance program at LHS is unparalleled because of Barb’s leadership,” she said. “She inspires her students to be dancers, to be performers and, most importantly, to believe in themselves. She has always been our Dance Teacher of the Year!”

Brady said she was in class with her elite Linden Dance Company when she got the good news about her award, and the students “went crazy” when she told them. It’s that excitement that drives her.

“The look on their faces when they perform, and they have that energy and that excitement, that’s what fuels me,” she said. “I guess that’s any teacher, but in a performance aspect, I get to see that when they’re onstage and the audience applauds them.”

Horre said the hours of hard work and the professional atmosphere of Brady’s dance class is what brings all that applause.

“It’s run like a dance studio,” the principal said. “Students lead the warm up. Students break into groups to perfect routines. Barb consistently encourages and fine tunes their learning. She is really incredible.”

Steven Viana, director of health and physical education for Linden Public Schools, said Brady is an invaluable resource to his department.

“Her knowledge, expertise, and versatility are evident from the minute you walk in her classroom or speak to her peers,” Viana said. “Mrs. Brady has displayed nothing but pure dedication, desire and unprecedented work ethic throughout her tenure in the Linden Public Schools. We are privileged to have her as a part of her staff.”

Brady said the program’s success is that much sweeter to her because it’s in Linden.

“I was born and raised in Linden, so it’s not just the place where I work, it’s my hometown,” she said. “They didn’t have this when we were growing up, so it’s nice to be a part of that.”