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MAEA Honors Art Educators

April 29, 2017

Maine Art Education Association

Westbrook, Maine, April 2017 – On Friday, April 7 in the beautiful library of Westbrook MIddle School, the Maine Art Education Association (MAEA) honored seven of Maine’s art educators for excellent service to their profession, their schools and their communities. It was an evening filled with sincere praise and celebrated in typical fashion with custom-made ceramic vases, flowers and, of course, pineapples. Holly Houston, Recognitions Chair for the MAEA, began the evening talking about the “wonderfulness of art teachers” and with each award presented that wonderfulness became more apparent.

Rhonda Miller presented the 2017 Distinguished Art Educator Award for Pat Savigny-Higgins from Marshwood High School in South Berwick, describing Savigny-Higgins as an “art teacher down to her bones” who is known for her dedication to students. Savigny-Higgins responded with thanks especially to her students for challenging her. Citing that art is crucial now more ever, she urged support for the arts due to the “life lessons that happen in the art room.”

Jodi Thomas presented the 2017 Outstanding Service to the Profession Award to Jody Dube from Lewiston High School. Jody is responsible for guiding students through the creation of pottery that is sold to help fund the Store Next Door, with the mission of supporting homeless students. In this endeavor, stated Thomas, Dube teaches students their “skills have monetary value and can be harnessed to make a difference.” Dube stated he was honored and humbled and thanked all teachers who do what they do every day, saying “In these challenging times, it is an important mission to be able to help kids be who they were meant to be and not just a test score.”

Lisa Ingraham presented the 2017 Retired Art Educator Award to Frank Chin, a former middle school teacher in Skowhegan. After more than 30 years of teaching Ingraham wondered how many students have a deep understanding of the arts because of Chin’s dedicated career. Chin stated that the best thing about teaching art is when things come back to you. He read a letter from a former student who years after being in his classroom wrote to tell him that his kindness was transformative her her, urging him to to remember that while teaching may seem rewardless at times, “please make sure you know you make a difference.”

Lisa Ingraham also presented the award for 2017 Secondary Art Educator of the Year to Mandi Mitchell from Hermon High School, describing Mitchell as a “whirlwind of creative energy who infuses joy into all she does.” Mitchell expressed gratitude for the recognition and thanked her colleagues Ingraham and Suzanne Goulet who have been influential in her career.

Deb Arter introduced the award for 2017 Middle/Elementary Art Educator of the Year to Laura Devin of Woolwich Central School. Arter described Devin as a fierce advocate for the arts and her local program, who spent years in a waterless mobile classroom but now works in a facility that includes a kiln and a printing press. Devin, who accepted the award wrapped in a giant paper chain while wearing a tiara, stated that the arts offer creativity, collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking skills. Devin closed by saying, “Art is so important and we are so lucky to be able to bring it to kids.”

Kay Allison and Kate Cargile presented the 2017 Museum Art Educator of the Year Award to Anthony Shostak of the Bates College Museum of Art. Allison and Cargile spoke from their experience as nearby teachers at Lewiston Middle School, describing how Shostak makes the museum accessible to art students of all ages. They spoke of how Shostak is an asset not only to Bates but all the surrounding schools, especially citing his Thousand Words Project which emphasizes art and literacy connections. Shostak, from Lewiston originally, expressed pleasure at working with teachers and honoring students and their growth in the arts.

Finally, Matt Johnson presented the award for 2018 Maine Art Educator of the Year to his colleague, Deb Bickford of Westbrook High School. Bickford recalled others discouraging her from entering into the arts as a profession but she was determined to make her own way. Most importantly, stated Bickford, is the realization that the art classroom isn’t there to make artists but rather, “We help people learn how to learn. We just happen to do it with art.” Bickford invited seven current and former students to talk about what learning in the art room meant to them. The students expressed themes of the art room being a safe place of refuge but also a place to push you out of your comfort zone and expand your horizons. They spoke of the art room as a place to learn to make better decisions and art as fundamental to the human mind. They talked about how art classes offered valuable life lessons such as how to learn different ways to look at things, to self-evaluate through constructive criticism and to communicate effectively.

Suzanne Goulet also honored Deb Bickford as outgoing president of the Maine Art Education Association. Suzanne Goulet will serve as current president for the next two years.

The Maine Art Education Association is a statewide professional organization whose members are committed to excellence in visual arts education.

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