Archive for May 20th, 2014


Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Amy Cousins

May 20, 2014

This is the eighth 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.

Screen shot 2014-05-10 at 10.24.31 PMAmy Cousins has been teaching in one form or another since she was 19 years old. She has been in public education, as an art teacher, for 17 years. Amy teaches Middle Level Art and Alternative Education (Integrated Arts and Outdoor Education) at Gorham Middle School. She teaches approximately 300 Art Students and 15 Alternative Education students.

What do you like best about being an arts educator?

I LOVE the creative part of lesson planning and figuring out how to engage all students. Teaching art is about observation. Who are my students? What do they respond to and what engages them to be creative problem solvers? It’s wonderful to watch students wrestle with ideas and concepts and come up with their own solutions.

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

1.) Exploration – The freedom to explore.
2.) Ingenuity – To foster ingenuity.
3.) Challenge  – The ability to challenge in unique, individual ways.

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

Assessment is the key to validating what we do as art teachers. It helps students recognize their strengths and what they need to work on. A good assessment tool guides students through the process of making, analyzing and interpreting their  art work. As a teacher it helps me to craft lessons that meet the standards, but still embrace artistic license.

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

The benefits have been plentiful but the biggest gift I have received from the MAAI is camaraderie. It has been an absolute pleasure to meet and be energized by individuals from all over the state! They have given me new ideas, helped problem solve the old ones  and have revitalized my desire to teach.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Not sure yet, ask me when I am 94!

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

Time. There is never enough time to get it all done! We only get a brief glimpse of our students during the course of a year. In some cases as few as 35 hours. That doesn’t allow students enough time to fully explore all the endless avenues of art, nor does it allow for retention of concepts, techniques or processes from year to year. I consistently feel like I am taking 1 step forward and 4 backwards.

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

Think that’s another one you are going to have to ask when I am 94.

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

Remember your job is to not only to educate students but to engage them in manner that leaves them craving for more.

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

Right know I would do just about anything for about 20,000.00 to buy a classroom set of iPads. So I am going to take this opportunity to shamelessly advocate for my cause. Anybody want to make a donation????

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

I have made a gazzilion mistakes in my life and I don’t regret any of them.  Mistakes are how we learn. If you regret them, you haven’t learned anything.

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