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Another Arts Teachers’ Story: Alice Sullivan

March 27, 2012

Featuring one teacher’s journey as an arts educator

This is the second in a series of blog posts telling arts teachers’ stories. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to read their stories and to learn from others. This post features Alice Sullivan who has been teaching music for 27 years. Alice is one of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative’s Teacher Leaders, Phase I, and represents the region of Washington County.

Alice is currently teaching, grades K-12, at Woodland Jr. Sr. High School, Woodland Elementary School and Princeton Elementary School. She has been there for 6 years teaching 200 students, band program grades 4-12, some classroom music K-4 and junior high general music, digital arts class and music theory at the high school, and one small elementary chorus.

What do you like best about being a music/art/drama/dance educator?

I really like the opportunity to use my organizational skills in an environment where I can also be creative. The music room is a great place to find a balance between hard and fast standards and finding numerous ways of meeting those standards. Twenty seven years of concerts with no two being the same, but every year I strive to provide every student with the same well rounded music education.

Tell me what you think are three keys to ANY successful arts ed program?

  •  a commitment to stretching the limits (your own and those around you)
  • a belief that what you do is important
  • enough confidence in your skills to take risks

What specific way(s) do your assessment practices tie into the success of your program?

Developing solid assessment practices sends the message to those around you that you believe your program is valuable and worthy of reflection. This instills a sense of importance in your students and as a result they strive to reach higher goals. I often say to my students – “who wants to belong to the good enough club”? An assessment is a tangible way for my students to prove the level they have attained, to themselves and others.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

There have been so many benefits to being part of the arts assessment initiative. The first that comes to mind is the great opportunity to network with other educators. It has also helped to keep assessment practices foremost in my daily teaching. With so many things to do each week, priorities become a necessity. Having weekly connections through the arts initiative wiki has ensured that assessments make my priority list.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I’ve always believed that music is a gift that all students can and should receive. My classes have always been available to all students. I’m most proud of the moments when the reluctant musicians realized they did have musical talent.

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

SLEEP!

Apple or PC?

Both – depends on the job I want to get done.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

Exceptional concerts are a reflection of hard work and determination. A good performance is often attributed to talent or “good” students. I believe even very young and inexperienced performers can present quality programs with hard work and determination.

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

Enjoy what you do. Focus on the positive forces in your environment and link arms with those who also have a positive outlook.

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

I would travel. I want to see the world and share those experiences with the people around me.

This is a link to the wiki that Alice created that includes her marvelous resources: https://meaningfulassessments.wikispaces.com/. If you have comments or questions for Alice please put them in the “comment” section below.

Thank you Alice for telling your story!

3 comments

  1. Alice, I thoroughly enjoyed your energetic interview!
    Suggestion: Go online to DODEA (Department of Defense Education Activities) http://www.dodea.edu and consider teaching at a military base in another country! In the 5 short years that I lived in Japan, I traveled to Thailand, China, Australia, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Austria. Now, in full retirement, I still communicate with friendships that were formed in those places!
    The D of D program needs your qualifications 😉

    For children and for music,
    Iris D. Fields irthie@gmail.com


  2. Thank you for your comment and great suggestion Iris! However, I am not sure encouraging Alice would make her students, colleagues or communities where she teaches very happy. Alice is a wonderful asset to the arts education world in Washington county.


  3. Hi, Argy,
    In making my comment, I was thinking of Alice’s own expressed desire for travel. I waited ’til age 65 to go with the DoDEA, and managed to fulfill an incredible life’s dream in 5 years 😉 And, I surely would not want to have the quality of Maine Arts lessened by her leaving. Yet, I have friends with many more years of DoDEA experience than 5, who have broadened their own professional lives incredibly, and have managed a great retirement nest-egg in the process. It’s exactly Alice’s creativity, discipline and commitment that makes me know she’d be an incredibly right-on match with the DoDEA program 😉



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