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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Suzanne Goulet

April 1, 2014

Waterville Senior High School visual arts teacher

This is the fourth blog post for 2014 and the third phase of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative of this series sharing arts teachers’ stories. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to learn from and about others.

A Visual Art Educator at Waterville Senior High School, her business card reads, “Suzanne Goulet. Art – Traditional, Digital and Emerging Media.” In 1990, after hiking the Appalachian Trail and managing a small ski area, she thought that it was time to begin teaching. In those 24 years she has taught and created classes of all levels; Introductory to AP.

A registered Maine Guide, Suzanne enjoys sharing her love of the outdoors with her students by advising the Outing Club and is a volunteer sign maker with the Maine Appalachian Trail Club and the International Appalachian Trail Club Chapter. She is currently lucky enough to have an eagle’s nest in view of her classroom studio and is eagerly awaiting this year’s clutch.

What do you like about being a visual art educator?

I remember someone telling me that an engineer’s job is different all the time; that it changes every day; and are presented with new problems to solve constantly. Educating has the same benefit. There are no recipes that will be successful with all students, so one must craft an approach and deliver. Lots of medias to explore and creations to be made – before you made it…. it did not exist.

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

  1. Trust – Essential between students and teacher. Creating and performing are personal and strategies for accepting criticism can be taught and nurtured.
  2. Understanding – The Arts have different goals (and benefits) that are a bit more complicated to measure achievement and require patience from students, teachers, administrators and the community.
  3. Quality – A continued quest to perform at a high level and to always be learning and seeking.

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

Assessing is all about taking stock; figuring out where you are and then making a plan for where you want to go and how to get there. Striving for a culture of self-starters with initiative and the confidence to ask for help and collaborate, I have found quality assessments are great ways to scaffold students to meet these goals (which sometimes are shifted).

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

Have been provided the opportunity to meet and work closely with colleagues that are striving for quality – personal and statewide. My perspective of our rural state with lots of nooks and crannies is now transformed to a layout of creativity and excellence.

What are you most proud of in your career?

How divergent the careers and paths of my students are: Industrial designers, film makers, public relations experts, attorneys, environmental engineers, botanists, ornithologists and parents…of children that I am now teaching!  Usually the above statement is enough, but I have been blessed with having some pretty amazing teachers throughout my own learning experience. Honoring these educators, remembering what they did for us – for me – by striving to do the same for my students is a goal I strive for…to make a difference.

A number of years ago, Waterville SHS started a Renaissance Award program to recognize student achievement and growth. At the end of the first year, an inaugural educator award was given…I was truly surprised to be the first recipient. The greatest honor of that award is that the nomination came from a very quiet student that took the time to let others know that she truly appreciated the work that we do. It was at that moment that I realized the overwhelming power of quality relationships…and the legacy to my teachers.

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

            The need for sleep.

Seriously, there is always something more that can be done. Instruction, curricular and support services are best when unique for each student…and requires time…and the need for sleep gets in the way.

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

Envisioning, imagining and striving for quality. Building strong foundations takes time and a lot of calculus is employed to improve the timing of converging forces.  Here is one of my favorite movie quotes to help illustrate, (From Star Trek (2009))

Scotty: [back to Spock Prime] The notion of transwarp beaming is like trying to hit a bullet with a smaller bullet wearing a blindfold whilst riding a horse.

Everything is possible…..want something to happen…..just tell me that it is not possible (does this make me sound stubborn…..or optimistic?)

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

You don’t have to be a “Teacher Leader” to be a Teacher Leader. A rose by any other name…….

Take the time to develop quality relationships with your students. Consider a three minute “talk in the hall”, a random can of “Moxie” or nominating and taking the time to recognize quality in students – academic and personal.

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

Education – I have five nieces filled with wonder and energy and have always dreamed of a school (education) experience on a bus (even got my Class B license for this). Drive west to study the history of US expansion and its’ impacts, calculate travel approximations, recreate with region specific adventure, enjoy cultural music, play, write, write, draw, draw, photograph and dance. Would love to do this with students and nieces!

Nurturing a Spark – Some know that I “go west” each summer for rejuvenating wanderings. I have challenged former students to find me….the award is a dinner of their choosing – none have yet succeeded….though three came close (less than one mile away) in a remote section of Montana……would use the funds to offer a week in a remote lodge with ranch cooking!

Creating the Space – An addition to my current studio classroom. About 30 feet out….three stories high (so my upstairs colleagues could look down in to our atrium). Did I mention that the roof would be a clear dome so we can watch the eagles? An integrated ramp would be a part of the space so that all students would have access to the fruit tree that is also growing here. If this could not happen….then I would settle for a direct door to the outside in my current studio classroom…a nice set of French doors!

Time Travel – How much is a helicopter?…..this would give me more time (here’s the sleep thing again). Quick trips to Lewiston and Smithfield. Love it!

            Space Travel – Yeah…I’d go.

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

No big ones……just little ones. Still have lots of plans and dreams. Continuing to suck the marrow out of life – why wait?

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