Teaching Artist Residency Spotlight: Blackman High School and Amanda Cantrell Roche

By Michelle Sipes, Arts Learning Specialist –

This fall semester, Amanda Cantrell Roche–an artist on the Tennessee Arts Commission’s Teaching Artist Roster–led the residency “Embodied Storytelling and Writing” at Blackman High School in Rutherford County. In collaboration with Richard Browder, the Drama Teacher at Blackman High School, the students were able to bring storytelling into the classroom by working with writing prompts, oral storytelling, and movement exercises to create original monologues that they performed for each other at the end of the semester.

Working in partnerships, the students learned how to share their own personal stories as well as learned how to listen and respond to their partner’s stories. This provided the opportunity for students to embrace each other’s diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences, helping to build skills in empathy, constructive feedback, creative thinking, problem-solving, and the iterative nature of the creative process. One student reflected on the process saying, “It was really interesting speaking someone else’s story out because you can listen to someone’s story all day and sort of try to understand what it’s like but once you’ve had it in your own mouth it’s completely different–it’s like it is happening to you.”

Roche commented, “After more than a year of remote teaching, it was such a joy to return to the classroom and to collaborate with a teacher! This is among my favorite types of work: a residency custom-designed for a school, co-planned and co-taught with their teacher, and giving agency to the students in the focus of their explorations by allowing them to create some of the Story Exchange prompts.” Mr. Browder reflected that this residency has set them up to step into their next lesson on playwriting.

Check out this residency process video created by Roche (shared with permission from the students and teacher):.

The “Embodied Storytelling and Writing” residency was funded through the Commission’s Student Ticket Subsidy (STS) grant program. The Student Ticket Subsidy grant program provides funds for artist fees, tickets, and transportation fees for students from TN public schools to experience a broad variety of cultural opportunities, arts disciplines, and arts learning from teaching artists and arts organizations on the Tennessee Teaching Artist Roster. This program is open to all PK–12 Tennessee public schools for activities taking place during the school day. Additional information can be found in the grant guidelines. As of 12/16/2021, all Tennessee counties remain open for funding. Questions about the program and how to apply can be sent to Michelle Sipes, Arts Learning Specialist, at

About the teaching artist: Amanda Cantrell Roche divides her time between writing, dance, volunteering, and working as a Teaching Artist.  She has been a dance Teaching Artist for Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Education program since 2000, conducting aesthetic education residencies for grades Pre-K through twelve. Independently and in collaboration with a team of lead teaching artists, she designs and facilitates professional development for teachers and other teaching artists. Community and service-centered, Amanda has collaborated as an organizer, choreographer, or teaching artist with organizations such as Global Education Center, Nashville CARES, Poverty & the Arts, and Vanderbilt University.