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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Elise Bothel

March 29, 2016

MALI Teacher Leader series

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This is the fourth blog post of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 5  Teacher Leader stories. This series contains a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about the work they are doing as Maine arts educators. CLICK HERE for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE for more information on the 73 of the MALI Teacher Leaders. CLICK HERE for Arts education resources. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past stories. There have been 63 posted to date.

Elise Photo - Meca PosterElise Bothel teaches grades K-5 art at Narragansett Elementary School in Gorham. She has been teaching at Narragansett for two years now, and is in her third year of teaching. Elise is the only art teacher in the school, and teaches part-time 3 days a week. She teaches 12 classes, about 220 students total, for 45 minutes each class. Elise also teaches an after school clay club at Narragansett, and has taught after school art classes at the Art Alliance in Gorham.

What do you like best about being a visual art educator?

I love seeing what my students create! I focus on adding choice to my lessons to let students explore their creativity and to help develop creative problem-solving skills. My favorite part of the day is when I see a student create something incredible, and to see the joy and pride in their face. I also love when students make connections from art class to their personal lives and what they are learning in their other classrooms.

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

  1. The educator needs to be passionate about the subject.
  2. The educator needs to work to meet the needs of many.
  3. The program needs access to materials and support from the district, and if not, an educator that can advocate and get what they need.

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

Assessment has helped my students track their own learning. It has made my program a bit more rigorous, but I feel that my students are learning more, understand why they are learning it, and what they need to do to meet proficiency.

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

It has helped my increase confidence as an educator. I’ve gotten to know so many Visual and Performing Arts educators in Maine, and the benefits of connection are endless. I’ve already added so many new tools to my toolbox, and look forward to more collaboration and inspiration.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am proud to say that I am a Teacher Leader in my third year of teaching! I’m proud of the respect I’ve received as an educator, despite how young I look. Most of all, I am proud of my students when I see them grow, build confidence, and show interest and excitement about something new.

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Elise presenting on the MALI Critical Friends Day

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

Time is probably a challenge for every teacher. I wish I had more time with students to help them learn and progress as artists. Personally, the work/life balance can get in my way. I only work part-time, but I commute over an hour to work and participate in other activities after school. Making sure I don’t get burnt out or let my personal problems seep into my job can be challenging.

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

This year I put on an Empty Bowls fundraiser for the Gorham Food Pantry, which raised over $1200. Though I facilitated the event, put in many extra hours, and had every student in the school make a clay bowl for the event; I didn’t seem to get the personal recognition of the success of the project. I now know that I need to advocate more for the art department and the hard work that I do. Here’s a link to a TV spot with a mention of the money raised, but no mention of our art program! http://m.wmtw.com/weather/narragansett-students-wake-up-early-for-weather-at-your-school/38144668

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

My advice to all teachers would be to breathe and to focus on the positive aspects of teaching. I see many teachers stressed, burned out, and counting minutes. Teachers need to remind themselves why they wanted to teach in the first place. My advice to arts educators is that it can feel isolating and we can feel misunderstood, but it is up to us to reach out, make connections, and find creative solutions to our unique challenges.

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

I don’t want to be selfish but I would use some of the money to travel! As a life long learner, I’d love to see art and architecture from all over the world. I feel that my art curriculum could use more global awareness. I’d use the rest of the money to help the schools in Maine that don’t have the funding they need to have arts programs.

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

I’m not quite sure what I’ll be getting up to by the time I’m 94, but I do already regret not taking the time to focus on my own artistic practice. I believe that it is important to have working artists as educators, and being an artist is important to me. I’m glad I have plenty of time to build and grow my own artistic practice.

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4 comments

  1. Very proud of my daughter.


  2. MALI is proud of Elise as well and we’re glad she is a teacher leader with the initiative! Thanks for your comment proud Dad! ~Argy


  3. Elise is so wonderful! One of the best art teachers I have worked with as a visiting artist!! So great to see her featured! Thanks, Argy! And congratulations, Elise, on all your accomplishments!


  4. Thanks for your comment Jude! So glad to hear that you know and have worked with Elise!
    ~ Argy



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