Archive for May 14th, 2013

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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Pam Ouellette

May 14, 2013

This is the 31st in a series of blog posts telling arts teacher’s stories. The first 19 were told last year by the phase I Maine Arts Assessment Initiative teacher leaders. The series continues with the stories from the phase II teacher leaders. These posts contain a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to read educators stories and to learn from others.

PamPam Ouellette has been teaching visual arts for 24 years. She is presently the art teacher at Lisbon High School, grades 9-12. Pam has 119 students in her courses which include Art Foundations, Studio Art, Photography, AP 2D, 3D, and Drawing. In addition she is the art club advisor and the advocacy advisor where she meets with student groups each day to read, discuss topics, take practice SAT tests and other similar activities.

What do you like best about being an art educator?

I enjoy connecting with students, introducing them to the excitement and benefits of art. I love watching students develop their skills and visual vocabulary and helping them understand the connections between their lives and visual arts. I enjoy creating lessons that will engage students on a meaningful level as well as challenge them to stretch and explore.

As we are gearing up for our Annual Student Art Show, I have to say that is a great event as an art educator. It’s a lot of work to put together, but the students all get involved to make it a big group effort. It’s so great to walk around and see the final show—all the proud students’ hard work, interesting conversations about art and art experiences, involved parents and community members…  It’s the highlight of each school year.

I’m also happy to be a part of a great profession that is caring and supportive and that values people and sharing ideas. All the art educators I know are dedicated, inspiring, and hard working teachers.

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

An art educator who has…

1.  Enthusiasm for the Arts- because it’s contagious

2.  Strong education and preparation to teach in the art

3.  Understanding and creative ideas about how to connect the arts and students to their community and their lives.  Students need to understand the relevance of the arts to them personally as well as the relevance of the arts to their world and community.

 How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?

I have found assessment can be a very useful teaching tool—to inform my teaching more than a tool for grading. It’s helpful to use informal assessments to gauge student understanding and use that information for teaching and lesson planning.

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

Networking with other arts professionals- sharing ideas, energy, and enthusiasm. Helping the arts be at the forefront of national efforts and progress in education.

What are you most proud of in your career?

My students who carry their visual arts experiences with them into their futures—from students who have gone onto careers in visual arts to those that are simply better human beings because of it. I’ve been able to keep in touch with many former students through social media, and I love keeping up with their careers, adventures, and families. Some have become photographers, graphic designers, art teachers, some have traveled and taught overseas, and some have beautiful families and are raising their children with more creativity and art because of their own experiences.

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

Limited time, energy, and money…  This type of work is never “done.” There’s always more that can be improved. There are also external factors such as scheduling, budgets, and various imposed limitations and requirements that hold back teaching and learning.

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

This is a difficult question. I don’t feel that anything I’ve achieved has been without hard work. I feel fortunate that I did my student teaching at Mt. Ararat High School where I connected with some amazing art teachers. My experiences, hard work, and connections there helped lead me to my job as an art educator at Lisbon High School. At LHS I had the pleasure of working for over 20 years with Elaine Cyr who was not only my mentor and professional inspiration, but my friend. I feel very lucky to have made the connections with people that I have, but hard work is key to making those connections worthwhile. You have to work hard to make seemingly lucky opportunities fruitful.

Another area of “luck” that can only be achieved through hard work is trying to maintain a healthy family while also teaching. I’m fortunate that my family has been very understanding and supportive throughout my career.

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

I think most educators understand that learning is a never-ending process. I have never regretted learning more, and I would encourage all teachers to continue to grow and learn. In the arts, in particular, I think it’s vital for educators to grow as artists in their own media. We need to BE artists to teach about art and it’s vital processes. We need to be the examples we want for our students. Learn, explore, create, reflect, stretch, and grow.

I would also say that “The teaching of art is more than the teaching of art” (Eisner, 2001, p. 6).  Art is interconnected to all aspects of life and we need to help students realize and benefit from these connections.

 

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

I would use the money to promote the arts in my school and it’s community. Make sure all students get a quality arts experience through better equipment, supplies, dynamic field trips, scholarships for those wanting to further their arts education and/or pursue arts careers. I’d also like to pay off my sons’ and my own school loans. And I’d really love to travel!!

 

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

I would hope I’d have no regrets… I’m pretty happy with my life to this point.

Thank you Pam for telling your story!

 

 

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