Karen Garcia first thought about teaching when she was at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. She first wanted to teach music theory, but realized that was not the right path for her at this point in her life. Instead, she decided to be a general education classroom teacher, so she pursued a teaching degree…with a minor in dance.
From Greeley, she moved to Fort Morgan and began teaching at Baker Elementary School. During her first year of teaching, Garcia taught fifth-grade social studies. Then, for the next four years, she taught third grade.
During this time, she was eager to incorporate her passions for music, dance, and the arts into her career, so she started an after-school dance club to teach students different dance styles. Garcia’s son Dios, who inherited his love of dancing, even took on the role of his co-teacher.
Also at Baker, she started an after-school art club called The Imagination Club and invited her husband, a papier-mâché expert, to be a guest teacher. What started as a papier-mâché mask-making business has evolved over the years into a full production with lighting and background music.
“To make it more academic, I pushed them to write a story that would go with their masks, and then we took it to a whole new level (when) we decided to play (those stories). We introduced the musical element and at the end of each semester the kids would perform for the parents,” Garcia said.
At the start of the pandemic, however, Garcia transferred to Columbine Elementary, first teaching fourth-grade Spanish to dual language immersion students and now teaching English development to ELL students (English language learners ).
While she had new classes, Garcia missed her extracurricular activities and had an outlet for her artistic spirit. Due to safety concerns caused by COVID-19, after-school activity options were very limited at the time, and she was eager to start another program. Little did she know she would have the opportunity to help bring a new style of dance to Morgan County.
“A year ago this (dance) studio in Boulder called Block 1750 came during Health Awareness Week, and they did a demonstration during recess for the students. They came back the following week to do another demonstration, and while I was waiting outside with all my kids… I taught them a very basic step. And I think that’s when Alex (Milewski) and Kollette (Plummer) saw me and asked me… if there would be anyone interested in helping them run a club. breakdance here in Columbine,” Garcia said.
Although Garcia knew that hip-hop was not her strong suit and she had no personal breakdancing experience, she decided to take up the challenge. The breakdancing club started in September 2021 with Milewski and Plummer, co-founders of Block 1750, making the trip from Boulder every two weeks to help teach new moves to students. On vacation weeks, Garcia helped students review what they had learned the previous week.
“I also started learning on my own because (Milewski and Plummer) have instructional videos from their studio. So in order for me to help students, I decided I needed to learn too I started practicing at home. My son is also a dancer, so he kind of helped me out a bit. And that’s how this journey started. Breakdancing is now something I can’t do. can’t help but think,” she said.
Garcia never planned to learn breakdancing and certainly didn’t expect to compete in her first competition a few months later in March 2022. Yet she did.
On March 26, Fort Morgan’s first-ever breakdance competition was held at the eLc Community Complex, formerly known as Fort Morgan Armory.
“I did it to encourage my students more than anything. As teachers, we are role models… we have to be role models for our students, so I wanted to lead by example and say (to them), “you know, if this old lady can do it, and she’s ready to do it”. , I don’t see why I can’t. Just to motivate maybe those who were shy or reluctant to do it,” Garcia said. “The thing about breakdancing is you expose yourself there. You’re out there, and you’re vulnerable. It’s intense, so I just wanted to make sure the students feel like we’re there to support them… and no matter what, it’s for fun, and it’s the perfect place to go. try and show your skills.
The contest was a success and Garcia was thrilled to see how much her students had learned since they started the club.
In addition to the Columbine Club, which meets every Thursday from 3:15-4:15 p.m., anyone in the community can now learn breakdancing from Milewski and Plummer. They have started holding free weekly classes at eLC from 4:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. Immediately after class, an open session is held until 6:30 p.m. for students to practice their new skills.
“I can’t thank Kollette (Plummer) and Alex (Milewski) enough for bringing this talent and passion to share with us here at Fort Morgan,” Garcia said.
Garcia hopes that other teachers in the district will consider starting their own clubs and that more students in the community will be inspired to step out of their comfort zone and join the encouraging breakdancing community now growing in their own town.