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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Nancy Kinkade

May 4, 2016

Teacher Leader series

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This is the eighth 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 67 posted to date.

IMG_2438Nancy Kinkade presently teaches in RSU #67: 5-6 general music (150 students), 6-8 choral music (68 students), beginning band, 6th  grade band and ⅞ band (65 students). I was hired 25 years ago in RSU #67 as an elementary music teacher EK-5 (525 students).  My position was eliminated four years ago and she was able to shift to the 5-8 general music & 6-12 choral position (450 students). Last year her school district suffered yet another cut/restructure to the music department which provided the opportunity for Nancy’s present position.

What do you like best about being a music/art/dance/drama educator?

I have always loved sharing music with the students. That incredible sensation when beautiful harmony fits just right, doing a great performance, seeing someone just so happy that it is music day, having a student ask to stay after school to practice, having 56 kids play ukulele and sing a song at the same time!! I guess it is the little things that are hard to measure. Perhaps my favorite thing about being a music teacher is making sure that students have music in their lives.

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

  1. Belief in the program
  2. Administrative support
  3. Time in the schedule

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

The assessment movement has created a measurement of success on paper that some people needed to have to give validity to the arts. It has also given us as educators a tool to see where students and teachers need to improve in teaching and learning. It has created clarity to help improve our teaching and to defend what we teach.

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

Being a part of MALI has created a great network of people to share ideas, questions and concerns. I am still at the beginning of really utilizing assessment in my new position, but know that MALI and the people I have met will be there to help me improve my teaching and program.

What are you most proud of in your career?

My proudest moment teaching was a few years ago.  In fourth grade we put on the musical Pirates. The entire fourth grade team and “specials” adopted the theme and ran with it. There was Pirate Math with gold coins, a special reading week and so many other great things. We were able to provide t-shirts and bandanas to all the children. The support staff were there in costume putting beards on the students. My Pirate Principal was there opening stages and helping where needed. It was truly a team effort! The music was great, but it was more the fact that so many people were a part of it and supported it that made it so special!

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

Scheduling and lack of support seem to be the biggest hurdles. You can’t teach children you can’t get in your room! If you don’t have the support of administration to give you those children then your program is doomed. With the cuts to our music/art positions, we have seen a huge impact on the quality of art and music the students are producing. Elementary music and art were reduced 5 years ago, now the effects are showing at the middle and high school levels. There is also a different attitude towards the arts. You can feel it isn’t valued in administration so it is starting to show in the students.  Sadly, we are losing the arts culture.

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

The Music and Art teachers in our district are making our programs successful despite the eliminations. Because these teachers are so dedicated and hardworking, the programs are persevering. In a way, this is too bad because it makes the people who cut the programs think they were right in their decision making. It is kind of a “Catch 22”.

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

If at all possible, work in a place where you are appreciated and valued. Be happy and work hard. Enjoy what you do, work with the other people in your district to make a cohesive arts community and a higher quality of education for the students.

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

Create an “arts” center. I would probably need more money, but a place where students could sing, act, play, move and enjoy guest artists. There would also be technology involved, but I would love to create a “real” theatre with teaching and performing spaces.

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

Right now, my regret is the loss of the program we had. When I am 94, I hope my reflections is that this was a dark period, but something great came after it!

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