Return to Headlines

“Fairy Godmother” Diane Sheridan A Champion For The Arts

“Fairy Godmother” Diane Sheridan A Champion For The Arts

The 28th annual San Bernardino County Education Medal of Honor Awards once again drew nominations from throughout San Bernardino County.

TThe awards recognize individuals and organizations for significant contributions made to public education in the county. Among those nominated for the Excellence in Education category was Jasper second grade teacher Diane Sheridan.

The Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service awards will be celebrated on April 29.

Sheridan’s nomination stems from her long career as the Alta Loma School District’s leading advocate for the performing arts. So much so that she’s affectionately known as the “Fairy Godmother” at Jasper Elementary School.

Sheridan inherited Jasper’s annual talent show 22 years ago and has transformed it into a major production that, for 21 years, she has created, written and directed. She handles choreography, props, sets, costumes and pretty much everything else that goes into the production.

“The yearly performance that she puts on at Jasper is legendary,” said Judy Bach, assistant principal at Vineyard Junior High School.

“She brings in every type of genre of music she possibly can to expose to these kids,” said her daughter Kelly Kulm, herself a teacher at Vineyard Junior High School who has helped her mother with the show’s choreography for about 17 years.

“She doesn't just teach them the songs; they learn about stage presence, dynamics, projection, body movement and gestures, staging, production both behind the scenes and on stage, musicality, rhythm, beats, fluctuation, confidence and the list goes on. She offers these kids something they can't get in the classroom – a place to shine.”

Sheridan’s annual Academy of the Arts enrichment program show features anywhere from 100 to 120 students on stage for three separate performances over two days. Some sing solo numbers, duets, in groups and other arrangements. Students have the opportunity to perform various forms of dance, including ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, hula, Irish jigs, folk dance and gymnasts. Shows also have included martial arts, drummers, trumpeters, saxophonists, flutists, kids on stilts, magicians, singers and a mime. Children with special needs are as much a part of the fun as others.

Some of Sheridan’s students have gone on to perform in the drama departments in high school, college and at local theaters.

“She spends countless hours putting it together, staying late setting up – some nights past midnight – refining each word to make it perfect for each character,” Kulm said. “She never asks for help, never complains and always does it with a smile. She is ridiculously proud of each one of those kids out on that stage.”

While the annual year-end show at Jasper is Sheridan’s local claim to fame, there is so much more to the longtime second grade teacher. For example, she’s mentored 14 student teachers in her classroom. Four of those are currently teaching at Jasper and two others elsewhere in the district.

Sheridan also is a master teacher for student teachers. Formerly known as the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment program, the effort helps newly credentialed and student teachers develop the skills critical to teaching success.

“Diane is an amazing teacher and such a blessing to Jasper Elementary,” said Catherine Tamayo, principal at Jasper. “She loves our students and wants them to have the best possible school experience. She helps to make that a reality by leading us in our Holiday Sing-Along or planning and practicing for our annual Academy of the Arts performance, which the children and our community look forward to each year.”

She created the “Reading Roundup” and after- school program to help struggling readers.

Every March she serves as the master of ceremonies for the district-wide annual Festival of the Arts, lending her reassuring and loving touch to nervous young performers while simultaneously keeping performances running smoothly and on schedule.

“When you walk through her classroom you feel at home,” Tamayo said. “She may be playing a tune on the piano or serving her students a marshmallow and peanut butter sandwich in a British accent, just like the one they read about in their second grade storybook. She is fantastic.”

Sheridan has served on school site council, curriculum council, PTA, Volunteer Tea Committee and the Sunshine Committee. She also is a member of the Assistance League of the Foothill Communities and has overseen projects collecting clothing for those in need and arranging dental care for children.

She makes it a point to attend student athletic events and performances outside of school, and she is consistently invited to the Alta Loma High School graduation as a teacher attendant for former students.

All the while she is a mother, grandmother and loving wife to her husband of 41 years.