Major Grants and Partnerships

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

Lincoln Center Scholars Alternative Teacher Certification Program

In 2014, Lincoln Center Education (LCE), the NYC Department of Education (NYC DOE), and Hunter College (Hunter) created the Lincoln Center Scholars Program to reduce disparities in access to arts education in NYC public schools. The Illumination Fund was the major funder.

LC Scholars was designed to address the limited availability of high-quality arts education for New York City public school students by fast-tracking new arts teachers’ eligibility for hiring by under-resourced schools seeking to expand their arts programming. Through the Scholars program, qualified artists working toward their teaching certification were able to enter the classroom immediately, rather than waiting the two years it took to complete their course work. The program pays for their master’s degree and provides key supports such as mentoring while they teach full-time in the NYC public school system.

Ultimately, LC Scholars seeks to increase the diversity of the field of certified arts educators working in NYC public schools, and to help these schools provide the children they serve with adequate arts education programming, which has been shown to bolster school culture, increase student engagement, and help develop critical thinking and problem solving skills that are vital for success in college and in the workforce.

2018/2019 marked the graduation of the third Scholars class and the final year of the current phase of the program. Since its launch in 2014, LC Scholars has trained 61 new arts teachers. This represents nearly one quarter of the total new arts teachers hired by the NYC DOE between 2014 and 2018.

“Being a part of this program was a life changer. I will forever be grateful for this opportunity and look forward to continuing to share my passion for dance with NYC public school students for years to come.”


“We started a spring fling arts fest that includes all disciplines—it’s the most successful parent engagement event of the year. Every single parent comes out.”


“I definitely plan to stay in the DOE. It just fulfills me in so many ways that I didn’t expect. …I feel all my expertise is at play.”


“I feel like that [DOE-wide network of Scholars] adds to her repertoire because she interacts with arts teachers across the city. That definitely helps inform what she’s willing to try.”

–School Administrator


LCE engaged Public Works Partners in a two-part program evaluation in 2017 and 2018. PWP’s final report identified key indicators of success:

  • Scholars have been successful in increasing their students’ engagement with the arts both during the school day and beyond the classroom.
  • Scholars have remained in the teaching field at higher rates than their peers in comparable programs.
  • When they are working in school settings with supportive administrations, Scholars are able to have a significant positive impact on the way arts are valued overall in their schools.

Specific findings from Public Works Partners revealed that:

Access to Arts Instruction

The Scholars Program introduced over 60 new arts teachers to 91 NYC public schools, expanding access to arts education across the school system.

  • Scholars represented nearly one fourth (22%) of the 269 new NYC DOE full-time arts teachers hired between the 2014-15 and 2017-18 school years.
  • Over 14,000 students were taught by a Scholar in the 2018-19 school year alone. Sixty percent of Scholar schools were in Brooklyn or the Bronx, the areas identified as having the highest need by the 2014 State of the Arts Comptroller’s Report.
  • Racial and economic demographics of Scholar schools are almost identical to that of the NYC public school system, indicating that Scholars sought positions in schools that reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of NYC public school students.
  • Scholars added new disciplines to their schools, which provided students more opportunities to meet graduation requirements. One Scholar reported, “Now [my school has] theater as an option which has helped with the graduation rate. Before they only had two art teachers, so it was hard for students to get the credits they need to graduate on time.”

The Scholars Program was also very successful in certifying teachers:

  • Prospective teachers in New York State are required to take an initial teacher certification assessment. Through this national performance assessment, individuals demonstrate their readiness to teach by planning lessons that support their students’ strengths and needs, teaching the lessons in an educational setting, and assessing their students’ learning. Every Scholar who took the initial teacher certification assessment passed. Scholars passed this assessment on the first try at a higher rate than the national average. This certification enables them to continue teaching for five years in New York State.
  • Sixty-one Scholars—97 percent of those who began the program—earned their master’s degree from Hunter College.

School administrators praised the Scholars Program’s certification component, noting that it can be difficult to find certified arts teachers.

  • One administrator noted, “I don’t see certified music teachers at [DOE] hiring fairs—many of the performing arts people I meet are not certified teachers. While we would want more [teachers of different disciplines], they have to be certified.”

Teacher Retention

Most Scholars continue to teach in the NYC public school system, and the program demonstrates promising retention rates in comparison with other alternative teaching certification programs:

  • Fifty-four Scholars were employed as K-12 arts teacher during the 2018-19 school year. Forty-five of these were employed in NYC public schools.
  • Seventy-nine percent of Scholars continued as public school teachers beyond their two-year commitment, as compared to 60 percent of Teach for America teachers.
  • Scholars cited personal fulfillment and career growth as motivation for remaining in NYC public schools.

School Ecosystem Impact

Scholars created new courses, programs, and opportunities for student performance across the NYC public school system and developed strong relationships with their students, administrations, and communities at large. Scholars developed strong arts programs by:

  • Making space for students of all interest levels, including increasing the number of male students in a previously all-female dance course, bringing in guest artists with a variety of artistic backgrounds, and incorporating technology in the classroom to accommodate all student skill levels.
  • Offering classes progressing from beginner to advanced where students could build skills and watch themselves grow as artists.

Within their schools and communities, Scholars:

  • Incorporated mixed teaching methods to connect their work to other disciplines, including qualitative research and writing to learn history of their disciplines.
  • Contributed to school-wide discussions of instructional methods. One administrator explained, “I’ve seen him pushing other staff to think about instruction differently.”
  • Created arts showcases with other disciplines, including culinary and visual arts programs, and held performances in collaboration with local community-based organizations.

In the classroom, administrators cited increased student confidence as a primary benefit of the Scholars’ programs.

  • One administrator commented that after participation in their Scholar’s class, “I’ve seen students advocating for themselves, generating ideas.”
  • Another added, “I think the strongest lesson in the theater classroom is community…They understand how to develop their skills—how to talk to people, how to work in a group, public speaking…students who take theater are more comfortable discussing what they learned.”

Across the NYC public school system, the program created a network of teachers that continue to share best practices after the program’s completion:

  • Alumni remain actively engaged with their cohort members across the NYC public school system, sharing best practices and teaching methods that can be implemented in their schools—in some cases on a weekly basis. One Scholar stated, “we still get together as a professional learning community to this day.”

Scholar profiles:

Delia Alexander

Originally from Guyana, grew up in White Plains, NY

Delia has a BA in psychology from Brown University and a Master of Arts degree in Folklore and Ethnomusicology from Indiana University. She is a trained vocalist and vocalist instructor, specializing in modern popular music as well as being a classically trained cellist, skilled electric bassist, pianist, and percussionist. For over 15 years, Delia has been a voice and strings educator in primary, secondary and post-secondary classrooms and has led performance groups including bands, choirs, orchestras, acapella, and small vocal ensembles. Some of her most recent experience includes working with students ages 6 – 19 through Youth Theater Interactions in Yonkers, New York and students in grades pre-K through 8 through the DreamYard Project in the Bronx.

Delia Alexander, a first cohort music Scholar, helped her school (PS 161, a Title I elementary school in Manhattan) to secure a grant from Lang Lang’s Keys of Inspiration, through which they received 23 keyboards for student use.

Teaching at PS 161M, West Harlem, Manhattan

Jean McLocklin

Originally from Long Island, New York

Jean has a Bachelor of Arts in Dance from the Eugene Lang College/The New School. In 2009, Jean was a first-place recipient for the Artistic Merit, Leadership, Academic Achievement Award, one of two first place recipients of the highest national dance award given by the National Dance Education Organization. She currently works as a dance teacher at the Posey School in Northport, NY. She teaches creative dance to children ages 3 – 6 and intermediate and advanced modern to children ages 11 – 18. Jean has also served as a choreographer and rehearsal assistant for the Posey Dance Repertory Company. Jean’s other professional experiences include being the creative dance teacher for children ages 2 and 3 at The Co-op School Summer Camp in Brooklyn.

Teaching at PS 94K, Sunset Park, Brooklyn

Seán McCluskey

Seán McCluskey grew up in the Greater Boston area. As a jazz pianist, he has traveled to 25 countries and performed in such venues as the Green Mill in Chicago and Symphony Hall in Boston. He’s also performed with the Sean McCluskey Trio. Throughout his performance career, he’s maintained a private lesson studio and also professionally tutored students from diverse backgrounds in New York City in various academic subjects. Sean is a graduate of Northwestern University where he received a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies.

Teaching at Harlem Hebrew language Charter School, Harlem, Manhattan

Assata Barton

Assata Barton is a native of Brooklyn, New York, where she began dancing at the Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy in Flatbush, Brooklyn. She furthered her dance education at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art & The Performing Arts. In 2008 Assata earned her BA in Radio/ TV/ Film from Howard University. In 2010 Assata joined Step Afrika! With Step Afrika! Assata traveled to 30 countries, spanning 5 continents, as a dancer and US Cultural Ambassador. In 2013, as Coordinator for the Ifetayo Youth Ensemble (IYE), Assata led the IYE as they performed at the White House and received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. Assata continues to perform professionally with the Forces of Nature Dance Theatre in Harlem, NY.

Teaching at MS 061 Dr. Gladstone H. Atwell, Crown Heights, Brooklyn

McKenzie Chen

McKenzie Chen is a performer and teaching artist based in New York City. Born and raised in Houston TX, she graduated from the University of North Texas with a BFA in dance. During her time there she performed in a reconstruction of Jose Limon’s “Psalm” and traveled to Jamaica to represent the university at Dance and the Child International Conference. Currently she performs with Lucy Kerr and was a teaching artist for the Coalition for Hispanic Family Services Arts and Literacy Program and New York City Ballet.

Teaching at PS 122, Astoria, Queens

Nicholas R. Gant

Nicholas Ryan Gant hails from Phoenix, Arizona. He received a Bachelor of Music in vocal performance from Howard University in Washington, D.C. He’s been a featured vocalist on several projects internationally and has sung support vocals for recording artists such as Michael McDonald, Mariah Carey, Oleta Adams and Miri Ben-Ari.

Teaching at Brooklyn Institute for Liberal Arts, Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Nir Naaman

Praised for his “robust tone” (New Yorker) and “fresh” compositional style (Jazziz Magazine), Nir Naaman is a multifaceted Israeli Jazz saxophonist, composer and educator in New York. A veteran of the Jazz scene in Israel, Nir has also appeared in noted festivals in Europe, Japan, and the U.S., including Ravinia and the international jazz festivals of Oviedo, Krakow, and Kobe. Nir has participated in high-profile residency programs such as Betty Carter Jazz Ahead at the Kennedy Center for the Arts and Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute. Nir holds a Bachelor of Music from Berklee College of Music, a Master of Music in Jazz Studies from SUNY Purchase and recently finished his Doctorate in Jazz Performance at New England Conservatory.

Teaching at PS 234 Independence School, Tribeca, Manhattan