Anne McNamee-KeelsThe Oak Park Education Foundation announces the hire of Anne McNamee-Keels in the role of Spoken Word Coordinator. Spoken Word — performance-based poetry that builds literacy and communication skills while cultivating students’ unique voices — was the outcome of OPEF’s Call for Ideas process earlier this year. It is the nonprofit’s first new program in six years.

“We are so pleased to have Anne leading the development of this program,” said Executive Director Deb Abrahamson. “She has deep academic and practical experience with using the dramatic arts to build community and transform the lives of young people.”

Anne McNamee-Keels is well qualified for her new role. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Performance Studies from Northwestern University and an MFA in Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities from the University of Texas at Austin.  Anne has worked as an applied theatre artist in a variety of settings locally and globally, from small-town Texas to rural India, and has served as a teaching artist in over 20 Chicago Public Schools.  Much of Anne’s work invites participants to explore their relationships to the places and spaces they inhabit.  In 2012, Chicago Artists Resource highlighted Anne as a Chicago Artists Month Featured Artist.  In addition to her role at OPEF, Anne is also an ensemble member at Adventure Stage Chicago.  She lives in Oak Park with her husband and her son.

“I am very excited to help launch the Oak Park Education Foundation’s new middle school Spoken Word program,” said McNamee-Keels. “I am familiar with the stellar slam poetry program at OPRF High School, and I look forward to bringing complementary programming to District 97’s middle school students, who are at an age when self-expression and a sense of belonging are of such critical importance.”

McNamee-Keels is currently in the planning process for OPEF’s program, working closely District 97 administration and teachers to develop a roll-out plan for the 2015-16 school year.