Press Release: Inaugural Cohort Is Selected for the Arts Professional Learning Institute (APLI)



Samantha Clarke

AIE Administrator


[email protected]

Inaugural Cohort Is Selected for the Arts Professional Learning Institute (APLI)

 Innovative Arts Professional Learning Initiative Launches in New Jersey

Trenton, NJ. November 6, 2019. The New Jersey State Council on the Arts and Young Audiences Arts for Learning NJ & Eastern PA (YA) are pleased to announce the inaugural cohort of the Arts Professional Learning Institute (APLI). APLI is the state’s newest arts education professional development program for arts specialists, classroom teachers, teaching artists, and school administrators. The Council on the Arts has worked in collaboration with The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, arts education nonprofits, and allies throughout the state to provide high-quality professional development to the field for over forty (40) years through the Artist Teacher Institute and the NJ Arts Education Collective network. APLI combines the missions of these two, long-standing, impactful initiatives, designed to serve educators and teaching artists delivering arts learning in K-12 education.

“After working closely with the educators, artists, and administrators this program exists to support, we designed what we hope will be a comprehensive resource,” said Allison Tratner, Executive Director for the Council on the Arts. “These exceptional professionals are working to ensure that New Jersey students get the complete education they deserve – one that includes meaningful arts learning and prepares them to take on the world with creativity and skill.”

The pilot year of APLI will feature professional learning workshops and follow up webinars, addressing critical topics that improve teaching and learning, including Social Emotional Learning and the Arts, United We Discover: dis/Ability Arts, Arts Integration, Trauma Informed Instruction, and Culturally Responsive Teaching. APLI programs will be held at various venues around New Jersey and presented by collaborative partners and presenters including The Foundation for Education Administration, NJPAC, ArtsEdNJ, Young Audiences, Arts Ed Newark, and Appel Farm Arts & Music Campus.

In addition to the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the APLI program is generously supported by Jay & Linda Grunin Foundation, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and Autism Speaks.

“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 Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation. “We are thrilled to support this project.”

Applicants were invited to apply as individuals or as part of a two-person creativity 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 (60) applications, sixteen (16) were selected to join the pilot year cohort. Cohort members will participate in all sessions and will offer their input on future program design. The cohort members are:

  • Jonathan (JJ) Aponte (Teaching Artist, Theatre)
  • Kathleen Casper (Teaching Artist, Ceramic and Mosaic Art)
  • Laura Craig (School Administrator, Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District)
  • Molly Gaston Johnson (Teaching Artist, Visual Art, Printmaking, Bookmaking)
  • Lauren MacAllister (Arts Specialist, Dance, Newark Public School District)
  • Ryan McGovern (Teaching Artist, Musical Theatre, Theatre)
  • Danielle Mondi (Arts Specialist, Dance, Franklin Township School District)
  • Erik James Montgomery (Teaching Artist, Photography)
  • Nikkia Neal (Arts Specialist, Dance, Newark Public School District)
  • Carolina Safar (Classroom Teacher, Science, East Windsor Regional School District)
  • Heidi SanFilippo (Teaching Artist, Mixed Media)
  • Jacob Winterstein (Teaching Artist, Poetry, Performance)
  • Josh Campbell and Denise Davis (Team: Teaching Artist, Theatre, Spoken Word; School Administrator, Trenton School District)
  • Erika Gehringerand Caren Izzo (Team: Arts Specialist, Visual Art; Classroom Teacher, Social Studies, Drama Club, Haddonfield School District)

Joining the pilot year cohort will be two lead teaching artists who will attend the workshops with the participants and lead follow up webinars after the completion of the workshops. The Lead Teaching Artists for the pilot year are Patricia Flynn and Alex Shaw.

“How do we better serve the children we teach?” asked Flynn. “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. 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.”

YA teaching artist Patricia Flynn has been a teaching artist for thirty-five (35) years. She is also the director of the theatre program at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark and her work with students has toured internationally. Patricia has worked in professional theatre in NYC, regionally, and in London’s West End. She holds an MFA from Catholic University, a teaching artist certificate from Columbia University Teachers’ College, and is a NJ Governor’s Award in the Arts recipient.

Alex Shaw is a percussionist, composer, cultural producer, YA teaching artist, and arts educator working in the field for nearly twenty (20) years. He has been a founding board member and lead teaching artist for music education nonprofit LiveConnections. Alex is currently a faculty member at University of the Arts, Artistic Director for Intercultural Journeys in Philadelphia, PA, and Director of renowned Brazilian ensemble, Alô Brasil. Alex holds a BA from Swarthmore College and an MFA from the World Percussion program at California Institute of the Arts.

“APLI is a leading-edge initiative that will cultivate vital spaces for collective learning and critical dialogue about key areas in the expanding field of arts education in order to inform and advance the participants’ respective practices,” said Shaw. “I’m deeply honored and excited to support this transformative process in my role as a Lead Teaching Artist.”

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 high-quality performances and artist-in-residence 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 with essential arts education experiences.

A not-for-profit organization, Young Audiences’ mission is to inspire young people and expand their learning through the arts. 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, involve families in arts activities, 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