Seventeen years ago, Central Florida native Cyndi Litz changed career paths. The former dancer entered the world of education in 1997, and she has emphasized the importance of the arts to her students ever since.
Her transition began at Central Florida Preparatory School where she taught first grade and after-school dance.
“After performing and then having to be responsible for children and what they learn and what they have to do for an entire day, I think the first word I would say would be terrified,” Litz says about how she felt when she began teaching.
Several years into her career, Litz moved to Thornbrooke Elementary School, where she taught first grade for six years. Former student Ally Bross recalls Litz dancing on the tables and teaching in a lively, fun manner. She often introduced song and dance into the lessons.
“That really sticks out, even as a six-year-old,” Bross, who is now a freshman at Florida International University, says. “I remember that to this day – 12 years later.”
Litz eventually moved into an open spot left by the former music teacher at TES. The position helped her grow her career by giving her an opportunity to combine teaching with her life-long passions.
In particular, Litz enjoys teaching the students that she says others struggle with because they don’t fit into any mold or box – the ones she calls the little under dogs.
“I think by doing an arts venue, they are able to build their confidence and sometimes they just need a way to vent and get things out. On a stage they get a chance to do that,” Litz says. “There are a lot of students who are quieter, and we get them on stage and suddenly they are a Bette Midler.”
Bross says it was Litz who was the first person to see she could keep a pitch and hold notes, ultimately giving her a solo in the school play as Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk. The first time she ever sang in front of people was for that role, singing “I’m Gonna Climb that Vine.”
This realization of her talents shaped much of Bross’ later life. She ended up in California to participate in Kidz Star USA, a Kidz Bop singing competition, and later recorded her own extended play album.
Beyond the classroom, Litz has organized affordable after-school clubs, worked with Dr. Phillips High School to integrate dance classes from elementary to high school, and has organized student performances at nursing homes and in competitions. She is also a member of United Arts of Central Florida, a local organization that supports arts education.
Most of all, she is a teacher who loves the arts. “We don’t all learn by looking at a black and white book,” Litz says. “If you ask me to name all the capitals, I couldn’t do it, but if you give me a song, I’ll learn them all.”