Four Outstanding Plymouth Area Arts Teachers

Four outstanding teachers are sharing their love of the arts in Plymouth.
Nancy Hanily-Dolan.

Behind every great artist is a great teacher. In schools throughout the community, local arts teachers provide mentorship and inspiration to thousands of students. As skilled artists in addition to teachers, they know first-hand the benefits of creative expression and are dedicated to helping their students learn and grow. Pottery teacher Nancy Hanily-Dolan explains that creating pottery helps her students develop critical thinking skills while solving problems associated with their work. They also gain self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment. Music teacher Greg Baures points out that arts classes bring together students all ages, and give high school freshmen and seniors opportunities to interact with and learn from each other.

As teachers inspire students, students inspire their teachers. In their own words, four outstanding local arts teachers share why they love what they do and how the arts impact their students.

Greg Baures | West Lutheran High School

Previously a music minister, Greg Baures has been teaching band, choir, art and drama at West Lutheran High School for four years. “There are several teachers in my extended family,” Baures says. “One of my grandmothers was a big inspiration because of her love for teaching and music. I also had some very influential teachers throughout grade school and high school. Now in the teaching field myself, I draw inspiration from seeing my students grow in their knowledge and enthusiasm for the arts over the years. Music allows them to use math, science and deductive reasoning skills in very kinesthetic and individualized ways.”

Sandy Brown | Plymouth Middle School

Sandy Brown has been teaching for 19 years in the Robbinsdale School District, the last four at Plymouth Middle School, where more than 500 students are enrolled in choir. She is also part of a choral subcommittee that will develop and revise arts standards for the National Association for Music Education. “I enjoy the creative process—moving from ideas and concepts to performance,” Brown says. “Music ensembles are not about the individual; they’re about working together to achieve a common goal, despite individual differences. Choir helps my students express themselves in healthy, unique ways. I appreciate their energy, enthusiasm and willingness to try new things. It’s amazing what they’re capable of achieving, especially if you set the bar high.” 

Nancy Hanily-Dolan | Wayzata High School

Founder of the student-driven Wayzata High School Empty Bowls fundraiser for Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners (the first in Minnesota), Nancy Hanily-Dolan has been teaching for 35 years. She credits “seeing students working together, creating art for their community” as one of her greatest teaching accomplishments. “I majored in art in college and concentrated my studies in ceramics, design and art education,” she says. “The more I learned, the more I wanted to work with clay and teach others about this magical material and process. As I look back, I realize my students are much more knowledgeable than I was at their age. They have accomplished so much that they should be proud of. And all that hard work and dedication can be fun!”

Christopher Santer | Providence Academy

Christopher Santer is celebrating his tenth year teaching at Providence Academy. After recently completing a large commissioned project for the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity, he is currently working on a series of drawings and paintings of his native Appalachian Mountains. “Teaching has been a great outlet for sharing art, beauty and life with other people—students and colleagues alike,” Santer says. “Hopefully I can inspire my students as much as they inspire me with their energy, ideas and relentless spirits. They may not realize how much art will enrich their lives and minds, regardless of what vocation or career they pursue. Everyone is capable of creating beauty.”