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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Iva Damon

April 13, 2016

Teacher Leader series

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This is the sixth 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 65 posted to date.

Iva Damon, 2Iva Damon is the 9-12 high school level in visual arts at Leavitt Area High School. She teaches art 1, art 2, natural arts, painting, and two dual enrollment classes through UMFK. This is her fifth year teaching at Leavitt and seventh year teaching in general. In my six classes, Iva has just under 100 students total. She is also the co-advisor to the Class of 2019.

What do you like best about being an arts educator?

It’s a unique experience to see students challenge themselves to be creative and try new things. The best part is having the opportunity to see how students grow throughout their high school experience.

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

A sense of humor, patience, and continuing to be an active artist in one’s own discipline. We all are working with kids and a sense of humor and patience go a long way in making connections with students in a meaningful human way. Far too often there are so many items as teachers we are juggling to keep up with. We are all busy, but I personally need to take the time and just create art. It keeps my passion for what I am teaching alive when I can share what I do and why I find it important with my own students.

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

Assessments in my classroom are essential to understanding how well my students are learning. Formative assessments are the best way to check for understanding and influence how long and and in-depth lessons need to be within a unit. Personally, formative assessments should guide instruction to fit the needs of the students.

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

The Arts Assessment Initiative validates that there are other art teachers throughout the state who have a similar passion to become connected, advocate for our profession, and want to become better educators. It has given me the opportunity to work with individuals outside my district to share with and learn from.

What are you most proud of in your career?

The relationships I have been able to develop both professionally with peers and students. It’s an amazing thing to have shiny new faces in introductory classes, and continue to have those students come back for one to three more years because in some way I was able to capture and inspire their interest in the arts. Having students become passionate about a subject that I love so much is such a powerful experience.

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

All of the other things that occur that take us away from teaching or working with kids. There are so many tasks, duties, and assignments that are given to teachers, and I feel like the quantity increases every year. There is a need to reflect on one’s practice within the classroom and how well students are receptive to information, updating and changing curriculum, but there are so many other items that have found their way into my normal day.

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

Every year Leavitt holds their Art’s Gala celebration in March. It is the annual art show that occurs Thursday night after a week of having 5-8 visiting artists come into the building to work with all the arts teachers as well as other content area teachers. The entire first floor of Leavitt becomes transformed with displays and installations that students are responsible for creating. It may appear that everything runs smoothly but a great deal of hard work and determination goes into the event. Though not alone in this endeavor, teaching students how to mat, create artist statements, tags, and create their own installation is exhausting but the final product of walking through the halls on the night of Arts Gala continues to be an amazing and proud experience.

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

Have fun in what you do. Students are so receptive to whether their teachers are passionate about what they teach. It is important that the passion we have for the arts comes through on a normal basis. When they see how passionate and excited we as teachers are for the arts, that enthusiasm will spill over to them too.

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

If I were to be given $5000,000 I would probably spend half of it to pay off all of my existing debt and take time to travel with my family. The remaining amount of money, I would really like to see set in a trust to be given out to students so they can have opportunities for art experiences outside a school classroom like camps, college classes, or intense studies.

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

By 94, I hope that I have few regrets. Like many things, time is my issue. I hope to travel more but I know that I need to take the time to do so. I want to see more masters work in person and be able to see more of the world, and to do so I need to travel. It is something I love to do, and I need to make the time for it to happen.

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