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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Michaela DiGianvittorio

March 24, 2015

MAAI Teacher Leaders series

This is the sixth blog post for 2015 on the Phase 4 Maine Arts Assessment Initiative’s (MAAI) Teacher Leaders sharing their stories. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to learn from and about others. You can learn more about MAAI at http://mainearts.maine.gov/Pages/Education/MAAI# and learn more about all 61 of the MAAI Teacher Leaders at http://www.maineartsassessment.com/#!teacher-leaders/c1qxk.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 1.15.44 PMMichaela DiGianvittorio attended the Maine College of Art and graduated with a B.F.A. in Illustration in 2006. She taught pre-school at a local childcare center for a year and decided to go back to school to obtain a degree in Art Education. In 2008 she graduated from the Post-Baccalaureate in Art Education program at MECA. Michaela is currently a visual arts teacher at Gray-New Gloucester High School. She has been teaching art for seven years and has taught all seven at GNGHS. She is one of two art teachers at the high school. This semester, she is teaching Foundations In Art, Drawing, Multi-Media, Digital Media and Gifted & Talented Visual Art.

What do you like best about being an art educator?

I have a passion for art and a passion for teaching. What I like best about being an art educator is that I am able to practice what I love. It is not often that people love their job, but I truly do. Being an art educator is not just something that I do, it is who I am.

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

  1. Connections- Making connections with students, colleagues, administration, parents, community members and other VPA educators is crucial. Through connections you are able to collaborate, receive feedback, and advocate for your program.
  2. Life Long Learning- It is so important to be a life long learner. Staying up to date with new initiates, technology, and attending professional development opportunities will improve your knowledge, and keep you grounded/connected with your school/district and the field of education.
  3. Reflection & Revision- To have a successful program you need to be willing to make changes, take risks, and try new things. Making things new, exciting, and relevant to/for students will make your class more meaningful. Taking time to reflect, review and revise is so important in keeping your students engaged and improve your curriculum, instruction, and assessment. As a teacher, your job is never done. It can always be improved.

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

Assessment has not only helped me track student progress, but it also has helped in developing and revising my curriculum. When developing my rubrics, I organize and “unpack” the standards that are being assessed, then target what is essential for the student to know in order to meet each standard. This has allowed me to determine where there are gaps and also create essential formative assessments that help them be more successful when they are working on their summative assessment.

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

Making connections with other art educators has been by far the most beneficial part of being involved in the arts assessment initiative. Also, it has made me reevaluate what I do and has given me ideas and inspiration for new and different methods in my teaching.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am very proud of everything that I have contributed to the art department at GNGHS. I feel as though I have made a big impact on our art program through curriculum development and also transitioning to standards based instruction and assessment. However, what I am most proud of is the connections that I have made with students. I know that I have impacted many students lives throughout the years, and in return they have impacted mine. Teaching is such a rewarding career!

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

I always feel like I could be a better teacher. The only thing that can really ever get in the way of becoming a better teacher is myself. To be a “better” teacher, you need to be a life-long learner. To be a life-long learner, you need to have self-motivation. Lack of motivation can definitely get in the way of being a better teacher. The trick is to find out what will motivate you when you are in that rut.

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

I honestly don’t know. I feel very fortunate and “lucky” to have a job in art education. I feel as though I have worked hard to get where I am, but some might see that as luck? Art teaching positions are few and far between. Being among so many dedicated and inspirational art educators, I could see how some might see that landing in a position could be do to luck or circumstance.

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

Practice what you teach! It is so important to continue to nurture your own creativity, and when students can see that you are truly passionate about what you do, it helps to inspire and motivate them. Also, stay in the loop on new initiatives and keep up to date with technology.

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

If I was given $500,000.00 I would start an international travel program for the art department!

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

I can’t really predict future regrets when I still have many years to live before I am 94 years old. At 32, my only regret is that I haven’t traveled much. If I went back in time I would look into opportunities to teach abroad for a few years before I got married and started a family.

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