Cohort Selected for the Arts Professional Learning Institute (APLI)!

Photo Caption: Heidi Latsky and company lead APLI cohort members in a seated warm-up at the United We Discover event, February 2020.

Photo Caption: Heidi Latsky and company lead APLI cohort members in a seated warm-up at the United We Discover event, February 2020.


Cohort Selected for the Arts Professional Learning Institute (APLI)

Innovative Arts Professional Learning Initiative Announces its Second Year

Trenton, NJ. January 11, 2021: The New Jersey State Council on the Arts and Young Audiences Arts for Learning NJ & Eastern PA (YA) are pleased to announce the cohort for the second year of the Arts Professional Learning Institute (APLI).

APLI’s mission is to provide professional learning opportunities to New Jersey’s teaching artists, classroom educators, and school administrators. APLI aims to engage the arts educator in inclusive, progressive, arts-based professional learning experiences so that the whole student can be reached, inclusive of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, and perceived ability.

The Arts Professional Learning Institute is a co-sponsored project of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and Young Audiences Arts for Learning New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania. It is generously supported by the Grunin Foundation and Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

“The relationship between the teaching artist and the educator is the unique factor within this program,” says Porché Hardy, Arts Education Program Manager with the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. “This intentional partnership provides space for new ideas and techniques to develop learning plans for arts classrooms that are peer reviewed, student tested, and built on the tenets of equity that can be shared and adapted into school and youth environments. The Council is proud to be a partner in the development of such important and impactful arts education work.”

“The expertise and skill of our arts educators, whether they are full time teachers, teaching artists, or administrators, is critical to impacting student learning in meaningful ways,” shared Jeremy Grunin, President of Grunin Foundation. “We are thrilled to support this project.”

This year APLI will feature virtual professional learning workshops and workshop debriefs addressing critical topics that improve teaching and learning, including “English Language Learners and the Arts Classroom” (presented by Count Basie Center for the Arts), “Creating Safe Spaces for LGBTQ+ Voices” (presented by Garden State Equality), “Arts Equity for Disabled Students” (presented by YA), and “Creation as Celebration!” (presented by Appel Farm Arts & Music Campus). APLI will also partner with arts education organizations across the state in the New Jersey Arts Education Collective to present “Connect,” the statewide teaching artist professional learning conference in June.

“APLI offers us the opportunity to learn from and work beside each other as we engage with educational experts to expand and deepen the range of our practice,” says first-year APLI Fellow Patricia Flynn. “We cannot help our children to grow if we do not pursue our own professional growth throughout our careers. APLI is a program designed to assist us in doing just that.”

Danielle Mondi, a first year APLI Fellow and school educator writes, “The APLI program has helped me grow as a teacher and artist. I was able to connect with others in the field such as administrators, teaching artists, general education teachers, and special area teachers to collaborate on ideas and on how to incorporate arts in schools. I am using what I learned and creating ways to incorporate this into the remote/hybrid setting.”

Applicants were invited to apply as individuals or as part of a two-person teaching artist/school educator team. Seeking a diverse range of experiences, APLI welcomed candidates with a minimum of one to five (1 – 5) years of experience in the field of education or arts education in any arts discipline, who teach in all geographic areas of New Jersey.

Out of sixty-eight (68) applications, twenty-eight (28) were selected to join this year’s cohort. Cohort members will participate in all virtual sessions and will design and deliver 3-day in-school residencies with a team member. The 2021 cohort members are:

  • Anna Gichan (Team: Teaching Artist, Dance)
  • Annice Benamy (School Educator, Elizabeth Public Schools)
  • April Zay (Teaching Artist, Visual Arts)
  • Barbara Prestridge (School Educator, Scotch Plains-Fanwood School District)
  • Benjamin Grinberg (Teaching Artist, Performing Arts)
  • Brittany Rhodie (Teaching Artist, Theatre and Dance)
  • Carola Fernandez (School Educator, Freehold Township Elementary Schools)
  • Darien Hampton and Veronica Barahona (Team: School Educators, Newark Public Schools)
  • Doriane Swain (Teaching Artist, Theatre and Dance)
  • Dr. Anne Marie Pai (School Educator, Broad Street School)
  • Elena Vizcarrondo and Nanette Hernandez (Team: School Educator, Jersey City Public Schools; Teaching Artist, Puerto Rican Dance and Drums)
  • Eric Parra (Teaching Artist, Dance)
  • Erica Parra (Teaching Artist, Afro-Colombian and Latin Percussion)
  • Gail Scuderi (Teaching Artist, Visual Arts)
  • Gina Cesaro (School Educator, Roselle Park School District)
  • Hakim Smith (School Educator, Newark Public Schools)
  • Isabel Speronza (School Educator, Roxbury Public Schools)
  • Karen Biederman (School Educator, Middle Township High School)
  • Kristin Titus DiAmore (Teaching Artist, Music)
  • Kristy Whilden (Teaching Artist, ASL Theatre)
  • Marck Flaco Best (Teaching Artist, Latin Dance)
  • Maria Gallagher (School Educator, Roxbury Public Schools)
  • Summer Reyes (Teaching Artist, Theatre)
  • StacieDawn Williams (School Educator, Creativity CoLaboratory Charter School)
  • Virginia Nichols (Teaching Artist, Visual Arts)

Congratulations to all those who have been accepted into this year’s APLI cohort.

To learn more about professional learning opportunities at YA, visit us at

To learn more about APLI, follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@NJAPLI).

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About the New Jersey State Council on the Arts

The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, created in 1966, is a division of the NJ Department of State. The Council was established to encourage and foster public interest in the arts; enlarge public and private resources devoted to the arts; promote freedom of expression in the arts; and facilitate the inclusion of art in every public building in New Jersey. The Council receives direct appropriations from the State of New Jersey through a dedicated, renewable Hotel/Motel Occupancy fee, as well as competitive grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. To learn more about the Council, please visit

About Young Audiences Arts for Learning New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania

Founded in 1973, Young Audiences Arts for Learning NJ & Eastern PA is the premier arts-in-education resource in the region, providing teaching artist-led performances, workshops, residencies, and teacher professional learning programs to schools in all 21 counties of New Jersey and the 7 easternmost counties of Pennsylvania. Young Audiences’ extensive professional artist roster represents all art forms—from dance and theater to music, language and visual arts. Since its founding, the organization has reached over 15 million children in its nearly 50-year history.

A not-for-profit organization, Young Audiences’ mission is to inspire young people and expand their learning through the arts. Students are the center of our work. Our vision is that every child will have rich and meaningful arts experiences as part of their education. YA continually strives to create spaces that are diverse, equitable, and inclusive to all students and is committed to providing students of all identities, backgrounds, and experiences with arts education in which their creativity, cultures, abilities, and identities are validated, included, and nurtured.

YA’s programs are accessible to all socio-economic, ethnic, cultural, and geographic communities, and are designed to strengthen the arts in schools, meet local and state curriculum standards, and enrich cultural life in New Jersey and Pennsylvania communities.

Young Audiences is the first arts education organization designated as a major service organization by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and, as part of the national network of Young Audiences, Inc., was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton. Young Audiences programs are made possible in part through a grant from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State and Pennsylvania Council of the Arts. Additional funding comes from foundations, corporations and generous individuals. To learn more, visit To be “social” with us, join us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram, and Twitter @YAAFLORG.


Samantha Clarke

AIE Manager


[email protected]