MALI Teacher Leader Story: Shalimar Poulin Chassé

February 12, 2019

Art Educator


This is one of six blog posts in 2019 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 8 Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders. This series includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about each leader. CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 96 Teacher Leaders and 11 Teaching Artist Leaders. CLICK HERE  for Arts education resources. CLICK HERE for the MALI Resource Bank. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past teacher leader stories. Thank you Shalimar for sharing your story!

Shalimar Poulin Chassé teaches students in grades 6 through 12, visual art at Wiscasset Middle High School. This is her 4th year facilitating a full choice high school program. Shalimar also is the studio art director at Buker Community Center in Augusta.

She was honored to sit at the table in the early stages of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative (MAAI), and now to join the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative. She is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with motivated, educated, and curious colleagues. This blog post is in Shalimar’s own words from here…

Chapter 1 of my story was my first year at Wiscasset High School, soon after leaving Gardiner Area High- many moons ago. While I followed the required format in Chapter 1, I offer here in Chapter 2 a freestyle review of some background and update in the form of briefs (perhaps a suitable fit for we busy arts educators): 

Twenty-five year veteran engaged in modified to full choice-based art programing for students grades 6th-12th grades at Wiscasset Middle High School. Aiming to continue developing resources for students and colleagues wishing to engage in or offer their students a self-directed study that meets program and state standards for current, quality art education. 

When school is not in session, enjoy working with Augusta area community members of all ages, ability and means as director and instructor for Buker Studio Arts- also a choice-based Augusta Recreation program. This program began in the summer of 2014 and continues to be kindly supported by families who value art education extensions beyond that which area public schools offer.

Raised in Maine, one of three siblings- all who went to college for art. From a four generation line of artists- mother a painter and father a craftsman. Interest in learning a diversity of media is reflected in my personal artistic journey- Visit Shalimar Corneille Noire on Facebook. Favorite relaxing work- Maine wild flowers and landscapes- pastel spiritual work with an expressive, narrative, multi-media and sometimes collaborative approach combines wood carving, weaving, mosaic and collected personal artifacts. 

Always had an interest in teaching- it comes naturally. Love to learn. Find learning and teaching to be symbiotic.

Recently married to fifteen year partner, best friend and special education teacher, Scott. Favorite activity: family time- hanging with Scotti and our Standard Parti Poodles Skye and Ruby. Value sharing time with family and friends- especially when school is out of session and we can relax and enjoy.  

Love Maine outdoor activities including: walking, biking, snow shoeing, x-country skiing, swimming/aqua fit, kayaking, sailing. Enjoy Qi Gong, Yoga, and quiet meditations. Love to write, drum, and explore new media types and techniques to share with students and use in my own practice. Special interest in sharing my love of water exercise with others returning to active lives after an injury, illness or a busy lifestyle- I teach Aqua Fit classes a couple of evenings a week. Scott and I have a seasonal campsite at Green Valley Campground, Vassalborough and seasonal passes to Quarry Rd Nordic Ski Center- we are grateful to have beautiful placesto spend time with the outdoors.


Teacher of the Year MSAD 11 ’08, Maine Art Educator of The Year ’09, MAAI Keynote Speaker (with Rob Westerberg and Jeff Beaudry) for Arts Assessment For Learning Conference ’11, Former Fifteen Year Triathlete, Kidney Donor (2011 for my Dad who is doing very well enjoying life in his mid 70s), Stage Three Breast Cancer Survivor (diagnosis 2015, difficult treatment, approaching end of three year recovery- clean imaging and hope for a healthy future.)

Recovering Over-Achiever + Often Hard on Myself = Tendency to have High Expectations for my students and lean towards being hard on students and can be demanding if I am not careful. To address this trait, I aim to pay special attention to the balance between achievement and relationship nurturing; and, carefully facilitate appropriate challenges and support for each student’s process, growth and level of study. One day at a time, I aim to be kind to myself and surround myself with those who model a healthy balance in their lives.

Best Classroom Moments- A student “gets it”, turns on to art, believes they can be creative, recognizes talent is not necessary to learn about and enjoy making art; and, without the advantage of talent, the skills of art can be learned with practice. A student, who has been accustomed to “spoon feeding” and who is most comfortable with recipes, embraces the opportunity to sit in the driver’s seat, take charge of their learning, think outside the box, and approach problem solving with curiosity, courage and humility. A student learns for maybe the first time the value of art in their lives and the lives of others. A passerby takes time to “really look” at the student art in the halls, reaches out to student artists, and begins a conversation that might help both participants grow. My students and I learn together new processes, techniques, media types and their success far surpasses my own and our expectations. A student’s passion is infectious- and our class operates like a well oiled engine rich with supportive peers, student leadership, creative conversation, and enjoyment of the creative process.

Special interest in supporting at risk students- those without IEP or 504 supports and often with limited resources and less supportive home situations. Those that might slip under the table, unnoticed and less apt to self advocate. Current facilitator of the Student Success Team for which I have been a member during my tenure at WMHS.

Why Choice? As a student and person, and much like many students I work with daily, I have often felt confined by project criteria and recipes that dictate a particular process and perhaps result. At a critical point in my teaching journey, I recognized I was restricting my students to pre-conceived and teacher-preferred art types. While this approach guaranteed quality, it limited student’s opportunity to solve the blank page. What it came down to for me was this primary thought, “If my students might have only one semester of art in their post grammar school lives, let it be one to remember, the creation of a piece that they identify as theirs– something they want to take home. And with any luck, a creative experience born from courage, sustained with grit, and woven with moments of pleasure such that they might make time to create in their futures. Compromises? Sometimes students spend less time with isolated and comprehensive foundational Art Basics, sometimes there might be a reduction in Quality- as the scholars define it, and sometimes fear and confusion rise in the vastness of choice. A messier classroom climate where independence is a critical skill necessary to navigate- some less ready than others to drive through the creative process need tender nurturing to build skills and confidence necessary to navigate mostly solo. Flexibility and effective strategies to support these developing student artists is helpful.The choice-based classroom is unpredictable, exciting, rewarding, challenging, not always initially 100% successful for all- but memorable for most. 

As our choice-based ride is constantly morphing, I welcome conversations with art educators who offer choice in their classroom studios. I wonder how you manage a messier approach to management and instruction or better yet, facilitation. Several of we MALI folk are interested in forming a Maine chapter of the NAEA Choice Cohort. Want in? Contact me at: Arted4all@gmail.com or schasse@wiscassetschools.org. 

Will be in attendance at this year’s NAEA Choice Interest Group and multiple Choice-based workshops at our Boston Convention beginning March 14th. Hope to return with a tool box of successful approaches tried and true by our colleagues across the Nation. If you wish to engage in an excellent study of historical and current trends in Choice-based Art Education, consider enrolling in an ArtofEd Choice-Based Art Class. Course description.

Distancing in from NAEA Boston, MALI Phase 8 Teacher Leader, Shalimar Chassé and her generous colleague and Choice-based Art Workshop facilitator Molly Carlson (Wiscasset Middle High School former Middle School Art Educator and current Special Education Instructor) will be presenting at the March 15th Oxford Hills High School MALI Mega Conference for those interested in learning more about approaches to Choice-based art education. Go here to register for a professional development opportunity, the MALI Mega, Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, Friday, March 15, that promises to be filled with great ideas, passion for teaching and learning, and inspiring conversations lead by some fabulous art educators I have been so privileged to collaborate with through MALI 8.

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