WILMETTE, Ill. — From ballet to modern and hip hop, our October Teacher of the Month helps her students find the joy of movement at a high school in Wilmette.

Students say Mrs. Ally Valadez, or “Mrs. V” is encouraging, positive and passionate about dance. And she’s helping them move in the right direction.

Valadez is the dance teacher at Regina Dominican High School in Wilmette.

“You start the program with dance foundations. So you learn the basics of ballet, jazz, modern and hip hop,” she said. “From there you can take a whole semester of modern, a whole semester of jazz and dance composition, which is one of my personal favorites because its more student led and the students learn to choreograph dances on their own.”

She also runs their dance company Orchesis. Since she started six years ago, the program has stretched tremendously and now includes 70 students. That’s a third of the school. 

“We see all levels in Orchesis,” she said. “We have some advanced dancers that have been dancing since they were 3  in a studio competitively. Then we have students that started dancing their freshman year here in Dance Foundations and there’s a place for everyone.”

Most of Mrs. V’s students don’t leap into professional dance careers but there’s one thing she wants them to take with them:

“Confidence,” she said. “My goal for all of my students, no matter what class, my biggest goal for them is to walk away from my class with confidence.”

Award sponsor Ankin Law stopped by the dance studio to award Mrs. V with the honor and delivered a check for $1,000.

And Mrs. V still makes space for her own dance career. Outside the school, she performs with Outlet Dance Company.

She says she’s always put her whole heart into dance and she loves making it accessible to students.

“I just feel free. I feel at home at peace,” she said. “I can be myself.”