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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Danette Kerrigan

May 28, 2013

This is the 33rd 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.

SONY DSCDanette Kerrigan is a Visual Arts Teacher at Sacopee Valley Middle School. She has been teaching in the district for seven years, initially as a traveling elementary teacher in four schools, for two years. Danette then moved into the middle school and currently teaches grades 5-8, approximately 360 students. Her main responsibilities include those grades and she also assists in Response to Intervention (RTI) services in grade six.

What do you like best about being an art educator?

There are moments of such clarity when students gain insight, learn a new skill; experience the joy of success in the shadow of a failure.  It is a privilege to be apart of those moments.

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

  1. The passion and commitment of the teacher.
  2. A well thought curriculum that is multidimensional, interdisciplinary and accountable.
  3. Students!

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

Assessment has been monumental in my ability to provide a rich and individualized experience for students. It has informed my instruction and helped me understand the impact of that instruction.

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

Getting involved with the Arts Assessment Initiative came at a crucial time in my career. That 5-6 year period where the shine has come off a little bit, where the politics of education seems to bite a little harder. I was beginning to languish and was primed for being re-energized as a teacher. Being involved in the initiative has re-ignited my passion for the quality of my students’ experience, a renewed energy to reach beyond the school day and explore the possibilities of things I haven’t even yet thought of. It has informed my learning and supported my work as a National Board candidate. It has pushed me to reach out and network with others so that I can be reminded of all the reasons we do what we do.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of the experiences with my students. Our district is one of the districts working with teacher evaluation and we are constantly reflecting on goals and outcomes. One of the reflections I have been working with this year has been…”What do I want them to learn?”

As a test, I asked a student…”What do you think you learn in this class? ”  She responded, “I learn to think for myself.  I learn to try something I haven’t tried before. I learn that even if something doesn’t work out, I can get something from it.”

It made my day.

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

My inability to say “no”.

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

I have truly put much hard work into creating an environment in my classroom where students can have respite in their day, whether it is during the art class, or recess, or free time. I believe we all need a place to go where the work we do is valued and that we are appreciated. We all need a safe and welcoming space to create, and not simply art; middle school students create friendships, character and sometimes a little chaos. It is work, it isn’t just circumstances or class lists or the luck of the draw that creates an environment that students can grow, I have to facilitate it.

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

Take care of yourself financially. Put 10-15% of your money away every paycheck and after a few months, you’ll never miss it. Plan ahead. Advocate every chance you get.

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

Pay off my daughter’s student loans; they are just starting off in their lives and already in so much debt. Then mine. Set up a charity. Invest the rest.

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

I certainly hope not, I’m working on the bucket list now!

Thank you Danette for telling your story!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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