Archive for June 17th, 2014


Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Lisa Ingraham

June 17, 2014

Madison Elementary School art teacher

This is the 12th blog post for 2014 and the third phase of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative (MAAI) 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. Lisa has been a teacher leader during phase 3 of the MAAI.

IMG_3439Lisa Ingraham is a Kindergarten-4th Grade Visual Arts teacher in MSAD 59. She has been teaching all 260 of the students at Madison Elementary School for the past 3 years. She has been teaching art for 9 (!) years, all at the elementary level. Her students attend 50 minute art classes once per week throughout the school year. Lisa joined the MAAI has a teacher leader during the third phase. Lisa and her program are highlighted this year in one of the 8 arts classrooms videos being created that highlight standards-based/student-centered learning. Phase 3 videos are almost complete, phase 2 videos can be viewed by clicking here.

What do you like best about being an arts educator?

My favorite part of being an arts educator has always been working with every student in my school. This is my third year as the K-4th grade art teacher at Madison Elementary School. I have gotten to know each of the students here, their strengths, their preferences, and their quirks. As I have gotten to know more about my students, I have developed an even deeper appreciation for them as uniquely creative individuals.

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

  1. Passion for your content – I firmly believe in the power of the arts to change lives.
  2. Compassion for your learners – Each of my students approaches art in their own way. It is my job to make it meaningful for all of them.
  3. Support from your school and community – I would not be able to do what I do effectively without the support of my administrators, colleagues, and the parents of my students.

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

I have found assessment to be critical in helping my students understand what they are learning and why, and how it all connects to their classroom goals and the world outside our school. As I have examined and modified the types of assessment I use the focus has shifted from discrete skills and bits of knowledge to helping students think about the bigger picture. Assessment, while helping me determine where we are going in the art room, has also kept me focused on providing depth for the students within our lesson and units.

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

The examples set by the incredible leaders, and teacher leaders I have met through the MAAI helped me understand that really good arts programs don’t happen by accident. Really good arts programs are driven by teachers who believe in what they are doing and are willing to work hard to create them. Thank you all for sharing your passion and knowledge! You have helped me realize that no one knows my art program better than me, and if I am going to make it the best program for my students I need to speak up and say, “this is what we are learning, and this is why it is important.”

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

Time is always a factor, as are resources. But I think some of the biggest hurdles I have had to get over have been the narrow expectations of others. While I am working to change this, the perception of the arts as their own isolated content area that will only truly benefit those students who become visual arts professionals limits the types of learning that others can imagine taking place through the visual arts. This affects the importance placed on the arts, their position in the school, and the resources allotted to them.

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

I love my job! I don’t “go to work” in the morning. I rarely think about it like that. I get to go to school and spend the whole day making art with young students. I feel incredibly lucky. However, I also know the years of work that went into switching to this – my second – career, and the work I’ve committed to in trying to bring the best visual arts education to my students.

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

When I went back to school to become an art teacher I had this idea that I was going to teach art. This was my loftiest aspiration: To Teach Art. The reality as it has turned out is that I teach kids. Side by side with art content I teach listening skills, how to be kind and responsible, how to work toward a goal and be persistent, how to appreciate the ideas and opinions of others, and how to learn from so-called mistakes.

My first professor in the very first education class I attended shared with us the old adage that “students won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” My students have confirmed this again and again, which leads me to my answer for the question…

What are you most proud of in your career?

Reaching students who appear at first glance to be unreachable. Some students take longer to trust that they are allowed to be who they are and express themselves creatively in the art room, but these are the students I am sure I will remember well after they leave me. I am thankful to the teachers who work closely with these students every day and have been very generous with their time in helping me make the connections necessary for them to have the successes they do in the art room.

If you were given a $500,000 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

I am not really sure what I would do with all the money, but I know my school would have one absolutely incredible art program! (And I would probably still get really excited about finding the best “art supply” at a yard sale or discount store.)

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

I hope not. One of my students’ favorite stories is “Pete the Cat, I Love My White Shoes.” I don’t currently have an art lesson I would like to go with it, but I love reading and singing the book with my students anyway. The best part is sharing the moral of the story, which I tend to repeat A LOT over the course of the school year: “No matter what you step in, keep walking along and singing your song… because it’s all good.”


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