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Dancing Story Lady livens up PCES

By Nicole Burns

For the FCT

Phil Campbell Elementary sixth grader Alissa Fretwell said she didn’t think the day could have gotten any better until she was invited into the school’s gymnasium for a schoolwide assembly. That’s when the magic happened. “I absolutely, totally loved it,” said Alissa.

“We were so excited to have the Dancing Story Lady,” said PCES Principal Jackie Ergle.

Deborah Adero Ferguson of Foley might have a day job as an English professor at the University of South Alabama, but students across the state know her as the Dancing Story Lady. “They learn so much, and they don’t even realize what they’ve learned. That’s the thing about the arts – if you engage students, you can teach them anything,” Ferguson said.

The Alabama State Council on the Arts funds the rural arts touring program that brought Ferguson to Franklin County. “Our rural arts program brings artists into schools in small areas where students don’t always get live performances,” said Ferguson. “They don’t get to go to the Nutcracker or the Symphony or see live theatre because it’s too far away.”

“She did storytelling and used her drum and music in with it,” said Ergle. “I wish everyone could have seen our children’s faces and how engaged they were. The teachers played instruments with her, and the kids danced and did movements and chants and different things.”

Alissa bubbled with excitement as she talked about the songs and new languages she learned.

Ferguson said she sees Alissa’s reaction in most students who are exposed to learning through arts. “Any time you expose students to the arts, you’re getting the other side of the brain working, and they will remember and retain it,” said Ferguson. “When you just memorize something, you memorize it for a certain reason, and once you’ve achieved that, goal you forget it.”

It’s a lesson PCES students won’t soon forget.