Melissa van Wijk
Director of the Tiny Tot Fitness Program
As Director of Gymtime’s innovative Tiny Tot Fitness program, Melissa brings a broad background of skills that makes her uniquely qualified to teach fitness, movement and early development to our youngest group of children. A professional dancer by trade, Melissa offers a depth of experience in both movement instruction and childhood development.
Melissa holds five NYS Teaching Certifications, including Early Childhood, Students With Disabilities Birth – 2nd Grade, Dance K- 12th grade, Theater K – 12th Grade, and Students With Disabilities 7th-12th Grade. She is a SEIT (Special Education Itinerant Teacher) and Early Intervention Specialist, providing one-one-one support to children under the age of 5 with developmental delays or needs.
She has a Master’s degree in Dance Education from NYU, with a focus on Special Education, as well as a B.A. in Dance and a B.F.A. in Theatre from Hofstra University. She is working on her second Master’s degree in Education. She studied at Dansakademie Brabant in The Netherlands, where she grew up. She has a wide range of experience teaching dance and movement to children and students with disabilities, including with New York City Ballet and Young Audiences, programs that place artists in public school classrooms. She volunteered for five years at Mt. Sinai Children’s Hospital, offering play therapy to patients in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.
Melissa is certified in baby sign language instruction and runs Signing Up, teaching families how to use Baby Sign Language successfully with their preverbal infants. She has also developed a series of Baby Sign Language CDs, DVDs, and online Instructional Videos. Her greatest passion is running Born Dancing a tax-exempt nonprofit organization that offers dance education programs to Students With Disabilities and creates original dance performances featuring performers with and without disabilities.
All of these skills are evident in Melissa’s curriculum as director of the Tiny Tot Fitness program, where she works with children as young as seven months old, helping them develop formative motor and movement skills and teaching sign language and other early communication skills.
“Even at this early age, every child has a remarkably different set of needs when it comes to movement and motor skills. Because I’ve studied movement and development for many years, I have developed a sensibility that allows me to offer practical and easy to use modalities that can be helpful in stimulating a child’s development.”