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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Lynda Leonas

May 17, 2016

Teacher Leader series

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This is the tenth 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 69 posted to date.

Lynda Leonas has been a K-6 Visual Arts Educator  working with approximately 700-800111 - Copy students per year for the past 4 years at two of Lewiston’s elementary schools; Governor James B. Longley Elementary and Farwell Elementary.  Prior to her work in Lewiston, she spent 3.75 years in Auburn’s Public Elementary School system across the river and 3 years teaching all forms of fine art to youth and adults at her private art studio in Lewiston.

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

I love the opportunity to work with every student at the elementary level of education. Seeing all students, even those without confidence in their artistic abilities, allows me to encourage them to overcome any “fears” and to always trust themselves. Working with every student also allows me to champion the arts as an important tool for cross-curricular development in literacy, mathematics, and the sciences; as well as the ever-important motor skill development and hand-eye coordination skills necessary to become a successful athlete.

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

  1. Listen to your students!
  2. Keep it fresh! Promote the student work locally!
  3. Plan ahead as much as you possibly can.

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

I have created assessments inspired by students and credit the new assessments as having been inspired by the students whenever I can.  The sense of accomplishment the students feel as having been listened to produces a total buy-in from their peers and increases productivity and participation tremendously.  The students have fun while using the assessment tools along their learning path in the art room.

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

The motivation resulting from working with educators across our state has produced an exciting energy to keep learning and discussing arts education lessons, assessments, and common goals!

Charlie Hewitt MAEA Spring conference

Charlie Hewitt MAEA Spring conference

What are you most proud of in your career?

Due to my involvement in MALI, I was encouraged to create a workshop and to present to other arts educators. In doing so, the opportunity to showcase this year’s 5th grade collaborative artwork  to the artist we had studied actually came up! The student work was displayed at the entry of our MAEA Spring Conference and Charlie Hewitt, sculptor of “Lewiston Rattle”, was our keynote speaker. The students were so excited to hear he would be viewing their fabulous pieces! It was so thrilling to present Charlie with student art inspired by him!

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

Increased class sizes and reduced class times within the arts education field has hurried along some aspects of the visual art class room. This aspect is truly a challenge for me; and, I have had to search for outside opportunities to increase the amount of one-on-one time I spend with students. During a regular school week, there can be less than two minutes to connect with each student in a class on an individual level.

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

In working with one principal, I had the opportunity to showcase the importance of the visual arts within the elementary general education system. After 17 individual open houses in one year, I was able to connect with families across cultures and provide opportunities for my students to teach their family members how the visual arts embrace techniques that truly develop the “whole” student. After hosting these events, the students themselves truly became more motivated during art classes!  This was a bonus!

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

Advice? Even after planning ahead as much as you possibly can, be prepared to “fly by the seat of your pants” at times!  The art education world can be a hectic environment where everything works out in the end…be flexible!

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

$500,000.00 would start up a terrific college scholarship for those pursuing the arts as arts-for-arts’ sake and arts-related studies that lead toward medical and engineering degrees!  It also might buy me a new car to shuttle between the couple of schools I see each day…I am thinking of a Jeep Renegade…just not certain it would be easy to load student supplies and work along with my Great Dane…any recommendations?

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

I believe I may still be teaching at the age of 94…depends upon retirement funds!  I hope I won’t have regrets.  As new opportunities arise, I will be certain to do my best in accomplishing them so that I can avoid regrets down the road.

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