Danette Kerrigan’s View

June 2, 2014

Going away to understand what is happening right here in Maine arts education

Thank you to Danette Kerrigan for contributing this post and sharing her experience and her ah-ha moments while on a trip to Washington, D.C. earlier this Spring. Danette is an art teacher at Sacopee Valley Middle School.

Danette and her two colleagues in Washington, D.C. at a Chagall mosaic.

Danette (in center) and her two colleagues in Washington, D.C. at a Chagall mosaic.

As part of our district’s participation in the Schools for Excellence Grant, three colleagues and I were chosen to attend the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Teaching and Learning Conference in Washington, D.C. this past April. Our group consisted of an ELL teacher, Special Educator, First Grade teacher and myself (middle school art). We seemed an unlikely bunch, but we share a passion for teaching and learning, so in retrospect it was a pretty fantastic fit.

The amount of professional development available to us during three days was staggering. Plenary speakers ranged from Arnie Duncan and Doris Kearns Goodwin to Bill Gates and Bobby McFerrin.  While a star studded event, the content was serious, meaningful, and frankly, game changing for me and my colleagues.

There was a very clear message throughout……

Teachers are the best resources for educational change and Teacher Leaders can be the conduit for that change.

I attended a number of sessions devoted entirely to leadership. One in particular, Teacherprenuers: Leading teachers that don’t leave was amazing and featured 2013’s Teacher of the Year, Jeff Charbonneau. As I listened to him, he could have been any one of the teacher leaders of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative (MAAI). His passion, innovation and energy have changed his high school and district by enabling students to receive as many as 27 college credits in the sciences. He shared how when he created a hybrid position for himself that splits teaching with coordinating the college interaction within the district he had to give up nine other extra curricular positions do so. Just as so many of us with a passion for change, he had spread himself quite thin.

I also attended a session with Jen Nash, held by the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards for a glimpse of those newly developed National Core Core Standards and the different plans for support of them. I know that many of us have seen and explored their site, as well as taken part in their public review.  What I would like to share with all of you are my observations about the presentation and discussions therein.

As I listened to the speakers present and the audience questions I was struck by a thought. People were speaking in a way that lead me to believe that they are still scared, searching for the thing that is going to cement relevance for the arts in education. In all of the meetings and workshops that I have attended for MAAI, the tone was different. I thought carefully about what was being said and I realized that MAAI and its members have moved on to a more sophisticated advocacy. No longer are we on the convincing side of persuasion. We don’t have to extol the virtues of an arts education. WE PROVE IT.

We do so every day with actions both within our schools, districts and statewide. With the many presentations we have brought to others we are providing a road map to the future of the advocacy of the arts. During the presentation I thought, MAAI is so far beyond this!

Another sneaking thought crept in….we are not fearful.

MAAI is making strides I don’t think others are. I think we are making a presence and setting the stage for advocacy that is based in fact. I think we are unique and powerful. I want to let Argy and Jeff and Catherine and Rob and all of our people know that we are on the right track….

It was an amazing conference and I encourage any of you to try to attend in the future. But know, we have a solid route to leadership and success in advocacy for the Arts right here in Maine.

To become a teacher leader with the MAAI, applications are now available at this link with a deadline of today, June 2. All teacher leaders need to attend the New England Summit on Arts Education. In addition, all educators are invited to attend the Summit being held at USM, Portland, July 29-31. Registration is available at this link.   Please email Argy Nestor at argy.nestor@maine.gov if you have any questions. Thanks for considering this opportunity!


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