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Wheeling dance teacher receives Ruth Page Award

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For 30 years, Diane Rawlinson has taught students at Wheeling High School much more than dance techniques and choreography.

Rawlinson, the school's long-time Orchesis director and dance teacher, is this year's recipient of the prestigious Ruth Page Award. She is being recognized for her dedication to both teaching and philanthropy.

The Ruth Page Award is given out each year by the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, a Chicago not-for-profit organization founded by its namesake Ruth Page, the iconic 20th century ballerina and choreographer.

This is the first time a dance educator has been honored with the award, which often is given to choreographers or artistic directors.

"It's incredibly humbling," said Rawlinson. "It's neat to know that (teaching dance) does make a difference in the arts community."

Rawlinson founded the "Next Generation" concert that benefits two charities, Dance for Life and The Children's Place Association. Since she started the concert in 1994, the event has raised more than $170,000. Dance for Life's mission is to raise awareness and funds for HIV/AIDS care, prevention and education. The Children's Place Association provides services to help low-income families and children affected by HIV/AIDS.

"Diane has dedicated herself to teaching dance in a unique way," said Venetia Stifler, the executive and artistic director of the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, in a press release. "As professionals, we all know that dance teaches discipline and self-esteem. But Diane extends that teaching to the next generation of young dancers in a real-world manner, imparting understanding of how each of us is connected and the vital importance of community, philanthropy and citizenship."

Lazaro Lopez, the associate superintendent for Township High School Dist. 214, said that Rawlinson is very deserving of the award. He said Rawlinson's yoga class for children who have difficulty regulating their emotions has had a very positive impact on the students.

Rawlinson said dancers who participate in Orchesis at Wheeling produce their own shows and sometimes make their own costumes. She added that she enjoys keeping in touch with students after they graduate.

"Hearing that she won the award is wonderful," said Wheeling alumni David Acevedo of Chicago, who was part of Orchesis his senior year and who now owns a Polynesisan dance company in Chicago with his wife. "She was always a great person to reach out to. She is always so connected and makes herself available to the alumni."

Acevedo said he never danced as a child, but Rawlinson followed him around the halls at Wheeling High School and encouraged him to join Orchesis.

"Finally my senior year I gave it a shot and it changed my life," said Acevedo. "After that, all these doors opened."

Acevedo said Rawlinson is a teacher who thinks "outside of the box," which he appreciated greatly.

Tegan Reschke, a current member of Orchesis at Wheeling High School, said her teacher is the perfect person to receive the award.

"I've been able to work with guest artists from the city and perform in the city," Tegan said. "She gives us so many opportunities."

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