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Visual Art Educator Kelsey Boucher

August 8, 2022

Androscoggin County Teacher of the Year

Please join me in congratulating Visual Art Educator Kelsey Boucher who is the 2022 Androscoggin County Teacher of the Year. Kelsey teaches grades K-6 at Connors Elementary School in Lewiston. Her love of art was encouraged and supported by her own art teachers. “I love teaching art because art is its own language. Our school is home to a variety of spoken languages but when they come into my room, the art speaks for itself.”

CONGRATULATIONS KELSEY BOUCHER

Tell us your story, what led you to this moment Kelsey?

Throughout my school years, I always loved art class. I had really enthusiastic art teachers throughout elementary school who provided a variety of opportunities to create. My middle school and high school art teachers really provided interesting art projects and kept my interest. I took every art class possible. When I went to college at the University of Vermont, I went in undecided. A friend of mine had been taking art courses and I wanted to try my hand at the college level. While in college, I babysat to make some extra money and everything kind of just started to make sense. I loved kids and I loved art.  I decided to transfer to USM where the Art Education just seemed perfect for me. I student taught at Raymond A. Geiger Elementary in Lewiston and Brunswick High School in Brunswick. I landed a part time art teaching position at Martel Elementary School in Lewiston, which ended up turning into full time. I did 6 years of “art on a cart” between Martel Elementary School, Longley Elementary School, and some time at Farwell Elementary School. In 2019, Martel and Longley combined into a new building, now Connors Elementary School.

What is your present teaching assignment?

This year will be at Connors Elementary School in Lewiston, teaching 37 classes in a 6 day rotating schedule. This will be my 4th year at Connors, but 10th year in the Lewiston School District. I was born and raised in Lewiston and I can’t see myself teaching anywhere else. 

What do you love about teaching? What are you biggest challenges?

I love teaching art because art is its own language. Our school is home to a variety of spoken languages but when they come into my room, the art speaks for itself. The seeing, creating, hands on nature of art and the climate of my room allows for success and the creativity to flow. Right now the biggest challenge is the buy in once I get students hooked, it’s smooth sailing. Other big challenges are beyond our control. Things like home life, poverty, the nature of life right now (i.e. Covid times), trauma, etc. 

Tell the blog readers about the Teacher of the Year process, what’s it been like?

The process has been really eye opening. When somebody nominates you in the first place, you feel finally really seen and appreciated. It’s a tough time for teachers right now, but just the nomination really boosted my attitude and helped affirm my “why”. After that, the application process was extremely reflective. As teachers, we constantly reflect on lessons and activities in our room but rarely have time to reflect on our philosophies of teaching, our values, ours beliefs in the classrooms. This process really grounded me in my work and in my beliefs. In writing my essays and even answering interview questions, the reflective nature of it all really helped me be myself and stay true to who I am. When I finally got the call from the program director, I was elated and overwhelmed, in the best way possible. My colleague and friend, Nes Griffin (who is 2017 Androscoggin County Teacher of the Year), has been my rock through this process, and when I won she was my biggest cheerleader. Nes, along with administration, orchestrated the most amazing parade through my school where all of my students cheered for me. 

I finally got to meet with my cohort (the other county teachers of the year) and spend time working with them. All I can say is WOW! Maine has some AMAZING educators. I feel so lucky and empowered to be part of the 2022 cohort.

Whose classroom have you visited that really impressed you and what were the pieces that stand out most to you? What did you learn from that experience? 

Nes Griffin, teaches grade 4 at Connors, has been a true mentor. I am lucky enough to be co-advisors of the civil rights team at our school with Nes and the way she affirms student identity in every aspect of education has been the biggest, most important thing I’ve learned from her. That one key piece has changed who I am as a teacher. 

Share a story of something you’ve learned from your student(s) that has impacted your teaching.

My time as the civil rights team co-advisor has transformed my outlook completely as a teacher. I’m lucky enough to teach the entire school, so getting to spend time with students on the civil rights team allows the student leaders and I to gain a different understanding for each other. As we started to do a lot of work on the civil rights team, I started to see their artwork change and become more personal. Kids starting adding more social justice flare to their art and add personal touches that they hadn’t previously. This further amplified the importance of affirming student identity in all aspects of school.

You’ve had professional development in communicating with the press since you’ve been selected as the Androscoggin County Teacher of the Year. What did you learn that is good advice for all teachers in communicating about the importance of your role as a teacher?

The media professional development was so eye opening for me. There is so much more to doing interviews than just speaking. We learned a lot about sound bites and how important it is to stick to your sound bite. It helps you nail down what your message is and allows you to stay focused on that. This is really helpful for what I do because art is so much more then something pretty to look at. For some students, it is their pathway to learning, for some it is their outlet, for others it is their way to use their voice and make a change. 

What advice do you have for new teachers?

My message for new teachers would be to put a lot of priority on getting to know your students and build a relationship with every single one of them. Relationships and affirming students’ identities are the key to everything else and once that is established, the lessons, the planning, and your time together will be more successful and enjoyable. 

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