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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Mandi Mitchell

May 25, 2016

Teacher Leader series

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This is the eleventh 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 70 posted to date.

IMG_4336Mandi Mitchell has been teaching Visual Art for the past three years at Hermon High School (HHS), grades 9-12. Mandi teaches 120 students of the 500 students attending the school. This year she restructured her curriculum and course offerings to better suit the needs and wants of students. The first course that a student takes in Visual Art is Art Foundations, which runs for the entire year. After they take that course, they can choose to take any of the following four semester courses: Advanced Painting & Drawing, Ceramics & Sculpture, Graphic Design & Printmaking, and Photography. Mandi created the first Art Club for HHS a year ago and serves as the Advisor for the Class of 2018. Before Hermon, she did a lot of substitute teaching for various subject areas (mainly art) in Hampden at Reeds Brook Middle School and Hampden Academy. As many know, finding a teaching job in the arts can be somewhat challenging, so she took as many substitute jobs as she could! Mandi also substituted at John Bapst Memorial HS (my alma mater), Brewer HS, and schools in Orono.

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

It is hard to think of just one thing that I like best about being an art educator because there are so many reasons! Usually at the end of the year, my students express how I have encouraged and helped them to be persistent and persevere through creative challenges. I like seeing them grow more confident in themselves and their skills, enjoy creating art, and embracing their individuality.

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

  1. Expose student work. Whether it be a theatrical performance, jazz concert, or art show, it is important for you to share and celebrate these talents with their family, friends, and community.
  2. Vary options to explore creative expression. Arts education is not one-size-fits-all. Perform, dance, or draw your ideas, thoughts and feelings.
  3. Provide a nurturing atmosphere. Students should be provided with an opportunity to be creative, expressive, and unique!

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

Assessment is so important in my classroom. The way in which I create my rubrics is highly successful. Both expectations and criteria for my assignments are clear and it is a great tool for student success. I have found that my rubrics can help students to further develop their work. They are able to set their own bar high and push themselves.

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

  •  Camaraderie
  • Networking
  • Support
  • Professional Development
  • Confidence
  • Leadership Opportunities

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of myself for expanding the visual arts program at my school, making it appealing to many students. Restructuring my curriculum this year made a huge impact on enrollment.

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

 One word. TIME. Oh, and money.

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

Honestly, getting the teaching job that I have at Hermon. I am very lucky and fortunate to be surrounded by a very supportive staff, administration, and community. So, some would say that it is luck. I am a firm believer in that everything happens for a reason, and I was patient and determined for three years after graduating college to land this “perfect” teaching job!

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

  • Stay organized. It makes life easier.
  • Get involved in your student’s extra-curricular activities. They appreciate (and notice) when you go to their sporting and academic events.
  • Never bring student work home to grade. I have learned that the hard way and wanted to laugh when I was told this, but I have now adapted this mentality.
  • Have an “agenda” displayed for what the class schedule looks like for that day. You’ll repeat yourself less and students will have an expectation of what to do and what’s to come.

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

First, I would want to travel around the world to experience the art and culture of different countries. Additionally, it would be great to bring a group of students with me to share those experiences and see some amazing art and culture!

Second, I’d use a good chunk of that money to build an amazing art room at my school with some top-notch technology and materials!

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

At this point in my life, there isn’t much that I have been regretful of…so I probably wouldn’t have anything to regret at the age of 94.

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