Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

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Seeing Mercer, Maine

January 24, 2023

Poem for thought

Wesley McNair served as Maine’s Poet Laureate, 2011-15, during which he had two initiatives. He successfully brought poetry to all regions of Maine and made it accessible to people from all walks of life. Mr. McNair has been writing poetry for 40 plus years, authored 20 books, had a poem included in Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, and has received several awards, recognition, and support for his writing. Mr. McNair has a slow and steady voice that draws the listener with hopes of not missing a word. His slight of humor and gentle smile is engaging.

I was fortunate while at the Maine Arts Commission to work with Mr. McNair in the Poetry Out Loud program. High school students who participated in Poetry Out Loud had the opportunity to spend time with him, engage in conversation and be inspired by his readings. I was inspired alongside them and now I listen to a poem being read each morning. Poem-a-Day is a program of the Academy of American Poets and makes it easy and fun to access poetry. The poems that I connect with are stashed away for future reading.

I read one of Mr. McNair’s latest poems (below) recently and knew that I wanted to share it with you, the readers of my blog. Mr. McNair lives in Mercer, Maine, population 640.

Wesley McNair

Seeing Mercer, Maine

By Wes McNair

Beyond the meadow
on Route 2, the semis
go right by,
hauling their long
echoes into the trees.
They want nothing to do
with this road buckling downhill
toward the Grange and Shaw
Library, Open 1-5 P.M. SAT,
and you may wonder
why I’ve brought you here,
too. It’s not SAT,
and apart from summer, the big
event in town’s the bog
water staggering down the falls.
Would it matter if I told you
people live here – the old
man from the coast who built
the lobster shack
in a hayfield;
the couple with the sign
that says Cosmetics
and Landfill; the woman
so shy about her enlarged leg
she hangs her clothes
outdoors at night? Walk down this road
awhile. What you see here in daytime –
a kind of darkness that comes
from too much light –
you’ll need to adjust
your eyes for. The outsized
hominess of that TV dish,
for instance, leaning
against its cupboard
of clapboard. The rightness
of the lobsterman’s shack –
do you find it, tilted
there on the sidehill,
the whitecaps of daisies
just cresting beside it
in the light wind?

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Samantha Smith Challenge

December 20, 2022

Opportunity for middle and high school

The Samantha Smith Challenge 2022-2023 (SSC) is now available on the Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) website (www.americanswhotellthetruth.org). As always, AWTT offers this challenge as an opportunity for middle and high school students to use the creative arts to build a bridge between the classroom and the world as they seek truth, share hope, examine and act upon issues critical to the common good.

In the words of a former SSC participant,

“Hope is power, power is hope. The Samantha Smith Challenge helped me feel powerful and hopeful.” 

We believe that engaged and passionate students learn more. As AWTT looks at the past year and the months ahead, we recognize more than ever the importance of seeking truth and sharing a message of hope, just as Samantha Smith did forty years ago.

This year SSC students will begin by examining what it means to be a Truth Teller, identify important community and world issues, understand them, and make a compelling argument in an effective and creative medium to move people to work for the common good. This year’s SSC is about the importance of truth and sharing ways to be hopeful about the future.

AWTT portrait subjects seek truth and find creative responses to challenges. Their courage and engagement give us hope.  Check out Mary Bonauto, Steven Donziger, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, Kelsey Juliana, Bill McKibben, Stephen Ritz, and Dawn Wooten to see how a quest for truth grounded in hope fuels work for the common good. 

As in past years, the directions for participating in the SSC are on the AWTT website. (www.americanswhotellthetruth.org/programs/education/samantha-smith-challenge/

Rob Shetterly, artist and AWTT founder

If you have questions, please contact Education Director Connie Carter at connieamericanswhotellthetruth.org. You may sign up between December 1 and February 1. This year’s SSC is expanding beyond Maine. As AWTT navigates that expansion they hope to connect schools across real and perceived boundaries to share their work for the common good. AWTT founder and artist Robert Shetterly and Connie will also be available to support students on their creative journeys of truth seeking. 

The SSC Celebration will be on Wednesday, May 24, 2023 — a time to celebrate and share the creative journeys for truth and messages of hope from all participating students. Please contact Connie at connie@americanswhotellthetruth.org if you have questions or concerns. AWTT looks forward to working with you and your students on this year’s SSC. 

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Reading the Sunday Paper

December 13, 2022

Moved by articles

I enjoy sitting down by the wood stove on sunny Sunday’s to read the Maine Sunday Telegram. For a brief moment I like holding on to the real paper. During the rest of the week I catch the news online. Some articles encourage me to pause and reflect on a topic I’m familiar with and other times I learn something new. A recent Sunday was no exception but I did find a few more human interest type stories. Love that! All of them relate to education in some way and I’m certain that the stories about Amy and Jessica (below) made several teachers proud. As well they should be! Nothing compares to knowing that one of your former students is experiencing enormous success! I’d suggest finding the articles online but realize that can be tricky if you don’t have a subscription.

Amy Goodness and the Mill Studio Arts

Five years ago Amy Goodness of Saco opened Mill Studio Arts in Biddeford. Amy is an artist with a studio in the old textile mill. She paints on canvas, having loved creating since elementary school. She’s a graduate of Thornton Academy in Saco, ME and Maine College of Art & Design in Portland, ME. As many artists Amy knows that it can be lonely working in a studio all by oneself. Since art was her favorite class in school she decided to create a space for young artists to come and create with others. This has helped Amy’s life be a little less lonely. She started by offering weekend and summer vacation time slots for young people. The program has expanded to offering classes each day and she has a team of teachers who help. She said: “It is joy. You can feel the energy in the room, and its’s so fun. I feel like that just fills me up.” Sounds like it would be a really fun place for me to visit. Perhaps a road trip to Mill Studio Arts will be in my future.

Christmas Through the Ages

Fifteen years ago in the town of North Anson the public library needed funding to update their automated catalog. They came up with a unique idea for a fundraiser; selling tickets for a historical tour showcasing “Christmas Through the Ages”. Volunteers dressed in period clothing and toured ticket buyers the opportunity to see five homes. After five years they passed the idea on to the Kingfield Historical Society which then passed it to the historical societies of Phillips and Farmington. Farmington passed it onto Winthrop where it was held this year. The Winthrop Historical Society sang songs, offered food, and taught lessons about various eras of Christmas, from the Moravian celebrations of the 1740s to the postwar Christmases of the 1950s. Everyone enjoyed themselves and participants were happy to learn about their community in a hands-on way.

2007 Gorham High School graduate performs on Broadway

Jessica Ernest regularly performs as part of the ensemble in “Chicago” on Broadway. She is the understudy and has performed in the star role of Roxie Hart. It’s pretty exciting not only for Jessica but her parents. Jessica is from Gorham and when she was in elementary school she started performing in school musicals and community productions. She played Snow White as a demanding diva in a show called “Mother Goose, Inc.” Later in life she performed on cruise ships and as a Las Vegas showgirl. She’s worked hard to get to where she is now. Ernest was given two days notice that she would perform the star role of “Chicago”. Interestingly enough she hadn’t actually played the role with the other members of the cast, she only practiced with the stage manager and for her roommates. She was cast in 2017, now 33 years old and is doing 8 shows a week. The article mentions Jessica’s elementary music teacher, Janelle Doak, who was impressed by a ‘show-stopping number’ way back in elementary school called “I Want it All”. How fun it must be for Janelle, who is teaching at Great Falls Elementary School in Gorham, to see where Jessica is at this time.

Below: Photo credit Julieta-Cervantes – Jessica Ernest on state in “Chicago”.

Little change since Sandy Hook, 10 years ago, December 14

The last piece I’ll share is a sad one. All I know about the writer, Irv Williams, is that he is a grandparent of three children ages 4 to 8. I’m sure the topic is near to his heart because of his grandchildren. The piece is about Sandy Hook which took place 10 years ago. Twenty children and six teachers lost their lives that day. The children, if living today, could be starting their college applications. The teachers were the following ages when they died: 26, 30, 47, 29, 52, and 56. We can only guess where they’d be today. Through Mr. Wiliams lens “it seems that little has changed”. I can understand why he might see it that way since school shootings continue and mass shootings outside of schools in the US continue. I understand that he is referring to laws and policy’s and that our countries leaders are not effectively working together to put safety measures in place to protect children and adults. I do see many changes in schools to protect children and teachers. I believe that school systems, in most cases, are doing their part. Is it enough? I’m not sure that there is ever ‘enough’ that can be done to make schools totally safe. The reality of schools includes hundreds of variables. Something that is effective to help and support making schools safer isn’t the same for all school communities. On my visits to schools during a 15 year period many safety precautions have been put in place. Many of you reading this are well aware of the precautions.

The statistics are staggering:

  • 398 schools shootings since 2000
  • 321 people are shot in the US each day, 22 of them are young children and teens, 5 of them die
  • that’s one entire kindergarten class every week

I vividly recall my visit to an elementary school in southern Maine. Within 15 minutes of my arrival to a kindergarten art classroom there was a planned lock down drill. The teacher quickly filled me in on what was about to happen. The alarm sounded and we quickly and quietly moved into the ‘art closet’, the door closed and locked behind us and the only light was the one from the teachers laptop. The children huddled closely to the light source because they trusted their teacher to keep them safe. Their little bodies were alive with tiny movements. In a whispering calm and reassuring voice the teacher helped them through that scary moment with kindness. My visit was within a year of the massacre at Sandy Hook. Tears come to my eyes just thinking of that experience.

In December was the 10 year anniversary of Sandy Hook. Mr. Williams’s article helped me to pause and remember the twenty children and six teachers whose lives were lost that day. I know that schools and teachers are continuously working to make schools safer. I appreciate and applaud those efforts. It’s past time for the leaders in our country to put their differences aside and do what is right for all children and teachers. I am hopeful!

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Upcoming Conference

October 13, 2022

Register by October 18 and receive complimentary book

REGISTRATION

We know this is planned on a Saturday. (Intentionally so you don’t have to stress about the availability of a substitute). We know you might be tired, (teaching is tiresome along with invigorating). BUT, the planners of this conference want you to have this experience that will inspire you (we all need inspiration periodically) — maybe for this year or even next year. 

Join colleagues from across the state (some that are so ready to connect with you). Come and experience the courage, the passion, and the energy Americans Who Tell The Truth (AWTT) portrait subjects (the portraits will come alive) and teachers (who have actually used the portraits in their classrooms) will share.

Use it, store it, ponder it — but most of all have an amazing experience — even on a Saturday! Teaching Truth, Hope, and Creativity: How the Arts Can Deepen Curriculum. You will received a complimentary copy of Portraits of Racial Justice or Portraits of Earth Justice, if you register by October 18! The frosting on the cake: 6 contact hours are included.

Maine Educator Professional Development Opportunity 

Thomas College, Waterville 

Saturday, Nov. 5, 8:45 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

REGISTRATION

In addition, you will have access to the film Truth Tellers (no cost) for 24 hours. If you’ve never seen the film or wish to see it again, this is a chance. Meet Maine artist Rob Shetterly who has created over 250 portraits. He will be unveiling his latest painting at the conference and the subject will be on a panel. The film has been created by Maine Film Maker, Kane Lewis Productions. Richard Kane will also be at the conference.

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Pride in Educators

August 16, 2022

Much to be proud about!

Debra and Rebecca

Arts educators need to, and do, advocate for Arts Education in many different ways. Hopefully, at the end of the day, the advocacy efforts change the access and equity to high quality Visual and/or Performing Arts Education for all students. Advocacy can heighten awareness of the ‘why’ of Arts Education. Efforts may relate to curriculum or assessment or scheduling or numerous other topics that impact an education in the arts. Sometimes we need to seek opportunities and sometimes we’re forced to advocate. And, other times an opportunity unfolds in front of us. Like the time I was on a 2 hours flight sitting next to my superintendent. I had the ear of the person who could make a huge difference in the arts education program. You betcha, I took advantage of the chance to have a conversation that included promoting arts education.

Two amazing arts educators recently had the opportunity to present about their programs. One a theatre teacher, the other, a music teacher. They had an audience that was filled with not only educators, Pre-K through higher education, but people from the business sector as well. I sat in the audience listening to them and chills ran up my arm and I could feel the pride fill my heart and brought tears to my eyes. I often think about how fortunate so many learners are for excellent arts education programs. It takes all of us to bring this magic to schools and school districts but without outstanding and qualified teachers in classrooms, goals fall short.

Congratulations to Rebecca Edmondson and Debra Susi for using your voices and representing all that is ‘right’ and ‘good’ about education. Rebecca is the K-6 classroom music teacher at Conners-Emerson School in Bar Harbor and the 2022 Hancock County Teacher of the Year and Debra is the theatre teacher at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield and the 2022 Somerset County Teacher of the Year. I am so proud and grateful for what each teacher is doing to represent all Maine arts educators. Both were selected as semi finalists for the 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year.

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Critical Thinking

July 26, 2022

Resource

This resource came across in my email recently. Even though the source is not specifically an organization focused on education I think it might be useful in planning lessons/units for teachers/students.

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Music Educator Rebecca Edmondson

July 19, 2022

Hancock County Teacher of the Year

Please join me in congratulating Music Educator Rebecca Edmondson who is the 2022 Hancock County Teacher of the Year. Rebecca teaches at Conners Emerson School in Bar Harbor. Next week, Rebecca will join her colleagues, who along with her, have been named Semi-Finalist for the 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year. All 8 Semi-Finalists will be providing a presentation which is the next step in the process. Below is Rebecca’s story that will provide her history and her journey to this point in her life. The writing is her own, I’m sure you’ll hear Rebecca’s voice. Her commitment to education, her students, and the community of Bar Harbor is commendable!

CONGRATULATIONS Rebecca Edmondson

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

Teaching was a way of life in my home. My grandmother, mother, and numerous cousins were teachers or administrators. They shared stories that provided warm and delightful chatter at the supper table. It got my attention! At that point, I began dreaming of becoming a teacher.

It was my mother who impacted my decision on becoming a music teacher. She taught music for twenty-eight years and we always had instruments laying around our home just waiting to be played. 

Edmondson piping at the Town Pier in Bar Harbor to welcome the Queen Elizabeth II on her maiden voyage.

During my high school years, I wanted a taste of teaching so I gave private music lessons to beginners. That was it! I knew that I wanted to continue to have a positive impact on young learners. From then on, I devote my life to teaching. Teaching comes naturally. Music is my life. Teaching music is my forte! 

My music education began at age five with learning the piano because I wanted to be just like my older sister so I begged my mother for lessons! Mrs. Frisk was our piano teacher and prepared us both for college auditions. She had even taught my mother when she was young! In her younger years, she played for silent films and I thought that was really cool.  

Edmondson at piano for community production of “Clue,” literally playing the part of Professor Plum, the murderer at the piano, at The Grand Theater in Ellsworth.

In fifth grade, I discovered the oboe and loved it! A few years later, I began private lessons from Dr. Dicicco at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I always studied under the best instructors and was classically trained. During my teen years, folk music and instruments captured my heart and I was compelled to play the Great Highland Bagpipes! I spent summers on the shores of the St.Lawrence Seaway with a hundred other pipers, receiving instruction from world class pipers Seumas MacNeil, Angus MacLellan, and Iain MacFadyen from Scotland. These inspiring teachers will always have a special place in my heart.

During my high school years, on Saturdays, I traveled over the mountain to play oboe in the Johnstown Youth Symphony and on Sundays I ventured into the big city to pipe in the Pittsburgh Scots Pipe Band. It was the best of both worlds – classical and folk!

Several of Rebecca’s Conners Conners Elementary School violin students

My formal education includes earning my Bachelor of Science in Music Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). I expanded my education and earned my Elementary Education Certification from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania and from there, I was placed as a program Reading Specialist Graduate Assistant back at IUP when suddenly I received a call for a music teaching interview and was hired on the spot. So many opportunities presented themselves in that year and shortly after my teaching career began, I married Bill and in the next few years our children were born. Life was good!

Then one day, Bill said that it was time to make the move to Maine that he had been dreaming of for years. I cried. I had a beautiful home, loving children, and my dream job. I did not want to move, especially 800 miles away, however, I put on a happy face and packed us up. Upon moving to Maine my current teaching position became available and we built our home on the beautiful Mount Desert Island! I have been enjoying a wonderful life near Acadia National Park and a successful teaching career at the Conners Emerson School since 1990! Life was good again. 

Fifth grade dulcimers created by students

My education continued, earning my Master of Music in Music Education degree from the University of Maine at Orono. I continue to enjoy learning new music and instruments. Harp and accordion are my newest additions! Teaching and music has created opportunities to bond friendships that endure to this day and I love to perform for community events. It brings a smile to my face when I fondly remember my Dad saying, “With all of those classical lessons that I drove you to, what do you prefer? Bagpipes and tin whistle!”

I truly feel that every facet of my teaching and life experiences with music in the community has pointed me in the direction of becoming the 2022 Hancock County Teacher of the Year. Thirty five years of teaching has given me ample time to live my dreams and achieve my goals.

Conners Emerson Show Choir

What is your present teaching assignment – how long have you been there?

My husband Bill, our children Bethany and Ethan, and I moved to Bar Harbor in 1989. We found a piece of wooded land overlooking Echo Lake and built our home. I took a year to earn my Maine Teaching Certificate and be home with my children. The following year, my current music position became available! It was meant to be! I have enjoyed inspiring thousands of children and involving their parents since 1990! 

At Conners Emerson School (CES), I teach K-6 general music classes, consisting of programs that I have initiated; second grade class violin, third grade tin whistle and xylophone, fourth grade ukuleles and acting to the classics, fifth grade dulcimer constructing and playing, sixth grade keyboard class, third through eighth grade string lessons and two orchestras. My fiddle group, the Swallowtail Fiddlers, provides a creative and traditional approach to learning tunes and this group serves as musical ambassadors from CES providing community service and delighting audiences of all ages. Every class sings and dances as well and the icing on the cake is the show choir where it all comes together! 

Image of an original song that Rebecca composed for my students

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

One of the most rewarding experiences that a teacher can experience is the creation of a new program. A quarter note is always a quarter note, however, there are so many different songs to sing and tunes to play that every year, even though the curriculum remains the same, I have the flexibility in choosing new music that the students and I are interested in and form new ensembles. I rarely have repeated music during my past 35 years of teaching. Also, if I am unable to find just the right music for my students, I compose something for them! It makes them feel so special.

Schools have locked their doors to community connections for the past two years due to COVID. My advocacy is building community; bringing the community into the school for inspiration and taking our school students into the community to serve. This generational aspect in reciprocity creates a circle of mentoring, which renews with every passing generation for my school and community. Parents of the primary grade students have not set foot inside our schools. Now is the time to reconnect and rebuild our school and community collaborations to inspire our young people to become responsible future leaders and policy makers! 

2018 Hancock County Teacher of the Year Jennifer Farnham with a student clarinetist, demonstrating a circle of mentoring. They first performed together in my community orchestra that I founded, TEMPO: The Eastern Maine Pops Orchestra, and continue to play alongside each other in the Bangor Band!
Photo that appeared in a YWCA calendar, empowering community women

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

The Teacher of the Year process has been one of reflection, self evaluation, and networking. I have enjoyed reflecting on my past accomplishments when writing the essays. Self evaluation gives me pause to fondly recall community music and performance events that I had forgotten about because my mind is always looking towards the next thing! The networking with my county cohort, Maine TOTY cohort, and Educate Maine gives a teacher a big picture of what we as TOTY can do to, well, educate Maine!  

Those involved in Educate Maine have prepared the TOTY candidates every step of the way for success. The Professional Development that I have participated in, through TOTY, has been very beneficial, educational, and fun. Because of it, I have grown as a teacher and person. 

 Sponsor Lee Auto reminded Rebecca of the time when her Swallowtail Fiddlers performed at the Seal Cove Auto Museum

The 2022 County Teachers of the Year is a strong cohort and it is an honor to be a part of it. Once a TOTY, always a TOTY so the friendships formed within this group are sure to last for years to come. The sponsors, UNUM and Lee Auto, to name two major contributors, have made it possible for the Teacher of the Year cohort to be treated as professionals so that travel to state-wide events is a luxury in that expenses are covered. I feel supported and appreciated.

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?

Oh my! There are so many to choose from and I do not want to leave anyone out! 

During these COVID times, extra duties have been added to my schedule, which gave me insight into classrooms that I would not have normally walked into. Spending time in the K-8 classrooms during snack time, lunch, and indoor recess, have given me the gift of spending extra time with students in their homeroom in a relaxed atmosphere. Student interactions in their own environment during non-instructional time, gave me a glimpse of their social interactions.

 Composer project, 4th grade project at the Conners Emerson School. The students learn about a different composer each year, Rebecca draws it and cuts it apart, deals out the “puzzle pieces,” students color, assemble, and voila, masterpiece legacies!

Each physical classroom that I was assigned to, was set up differently, taking on the persona of the classroom teacher. One was decorated with elephants. The color blue was the predominance of another classroom. Yet another displayed items accrued on an overseas trip. Some classrooms were calm while others caused overstimulation, in my opinion. 

One thing that all the classrooms had in common was the display of student work. Whether it be self-portraits, a research project, or the signing of a classroom contract, every child was represented in some way in the classrooms. I work with incredible teachers at Conners Emerson and each brings a personal touch to their classroom to create a positive, safe, and inspirational cultural community. 

There are 32 composers hanging in Rebecca’s music room – one for each year that she has taught at CES. They are a good conversation starter among students plus alumni who return like to point out which composer that they helped create

You’ve had professional development in ‘communicating with the press’ since you’ve been selected as the Hancock 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?

Communicating with the press is much different than communicating with your students. Teachers present new skills and techniques to students in numerous ways to accommodate various learning styles. With media, your communication needs to be clear, concise and to the point. Do not babble. 

Reporters love to let you talk on and on to catch you on something. Less is more. Keep it short. Create a one sentence, eight second sound bite from a paragraph to effectively make your point. If the interviewer shifts and has an underlying agenda, say, “That is an interesting question but it is not why I am here. Let me share my classroom experience with you” then blow your own horn.

Edmondson’s Swallowtail Fiddlers in 2009 performing in Agamont Park on the CBS Early Show

You have heard the saying, “Music speaks where words fail.” That is my motto! My Swallowtail Fiddlers spoke through toe-tapping jigs, reels, and strathspeys while performing on the CBS Early Show and the Channel 5 Morning News and I never spoke a word! 

I collaborated with first grade teacher, MaryAnne Young, to create the Maine Musical, Plant Kindness and Gather Love, about nature and Maine history. It makes a musical statement with eleven educational and entertaining songs, enhanced by movement, dance, script, and classroom activities that encourage students to be stewards of the earth. The synopsis features fourteen characters named for the wild flowers of Acadia National Park. All students in grades K-4 performed Plant Kindness and Gather Love at a public performance at The Criterion in Bar Harbor. The timing was perfect, for Plant Kindness and Gather Love became a celebration of the Centennial of Acadia National Park and the Bicentennial of Maine!

Edmondson and Young collaborated to create Maine musical, Plant Kindness and Gather Love. Acadia National Park donated Ranger hats for our young thespians and parent volunteers made flower decorations for the hats representing the wildflowers of Acadia National Park

What advice do you have for new teachers? 

Be flexible, go with the flow, and have a sense of humor. Young students are the source of an endless supply of optimism. Open your mind, hand, and heart and seek resources and opportunities beyond the classroom walls for real life learning experiences. Be a facilitator to spur your students’ imaginations. Expose your students to a wealth of stuff to guide them to discover their talents, to create their own voice, and have fun. Just like my classical training with a love for folk music I have networked with incredible musicians, both professional and recreational. I have the pleasure of expressing myself on both oboe and bagpipes, reaching very different audiences. 

Edmondson with two members from the Dirty Dozen band at their performance at the MENC National Convention in Salt Lake City. Edmondson advocated for school strings programs on a panel of twelve music teachers when she was designated as one of twelve in the country for having a Model Music Program.

Be diligent in continually making connections and build relationships between students and the community to spark an interest with your students. Be a good listener to what your students need and to what your community wants. There is a whole new world out there that is constantly changing. Embrace your journey with your students. You never know where it may lead for your students and you! Anything is possible.

Edmondson having fun being a pirate at Fort Knox. Her students enjoyed her antics.
The best of both worlds of, classical and folk, met on stage at The Grand Theater in Ellsworth. Guest Scottish National Fiddle Champion Sean Heely and Edmondson on the great Highland Bagpipes perform with her community orchestra, TEMPO, while Ethan Edmondson conducts Tributum for Celtic Pipes by Nan Avant, Composed for the Celebrate the World Music! Concert in 2013.
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Art Teacher Extraordinaire Retiring

June 28, 2022

Congratulations, Ms. Snider, and thank you!

“LOVE WHAT YOU DO AND NEVER STOP LEARNING ABOUT WAYS YOU CAN ENGAGE STUDENTS!”

While reading Janie Snider’s reflections below you will understand who she is and the impact she has had, not only on her elementary and middle school students, but the adults in her life also. Janie is a gem whom I’m certain will be missed in her daily teaching role. I’m confident that she will continue to make a difference in this world through her interactions with others as she enjoys her retirement. Thank you Janie for your service to the field of education! I know the blog readers join me in wishing you the very best in your retirement.

Last week of school, Hancock Grammar School

IN JANIE’S WORDS…

I have been teaching for 30 years. My first ten years teaching were in SAD#37 including Columbia Falls, Millbridge, Cherryfield, Harrington, and Addison. I started as a long-term art substitute, then as a kindergarten teacher and the following year as the art teacher. In 2002 I started teaching at Hancock Grammar School, where I spent the last 20 years. As a result of consolidation, I also taught art at Lamoine Consolidated for four years from 2011-2015. I received a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education, K-8 from University of Maine, Machias and K-12 Visual Arts Certification.

My favorite part of teaching is building the most wonderful relationships with students that revolve around art making! Painting is my favorite discipline. Guiding students through color exploration and expression is so rewarding.

Cherryfield School – notice all the art styles included?

It has been quite the journey from when I was a young itinerant art teacher. I remember being so overwhelmed in my early years; five schools, 600 students and all the different challenges. In year three I was considering giving it up. I was feeling isolated and unsure of my impact on students. Then one day as I was introducing landscape to third graders I learned that I was! As I explained the horizon line, a little boy who normally didn’t participate suddenly started waving his hand, so I called on him. He was so excited to have made this connection, he said, “I saw it this weekend when I was on the lobster boat with my Dad, there it was and I knew it had something to do with art!!!” From that moment on, I never questioned my ability to connect students with the wonders of art in their world. It was my inspirational moment. Nature is my inspiration for my own work and it easily found it’s way into my lessons!

I have seen many changes in education and art education over the years. I truly believe that being included in the “Maine Learning Results” gave validity to arts education. However, it was challenging to keep up with the interpretation of standards that serve as guidance in developing strong arts programming. I was fortunate to have been an active part of this process, a member of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI, now MAEPL), a local leader, and advocate for arts education. All of which helped me tremendously with meeting students needs! As a result of my work, I was recognized as the 2014 Maine Middle School Art Teacher by the Maine Art Education Association. This was a very important time in affirming my career. Representing Maine and attending the National Art Education Association conference in New Orleans was a definite highlight!

Another huge change is how technology has developed and changed the art curriculum, this boggles my mind. I started my career without using any technology and in 2020 developed an online art curriculum for remote learning.

Three things that are really key to a successful art program are:

  • KNOW your students, develop a relationship with them!! Listen to them!!
  • SHOW your passion for your profession!! Be creative in your approach!!
  • GO WITH THE FLOW, be flexible, be current with best practices and meet students where they are!
Janie in her classroom at Hancock Grammar School

I am most proud of my ability to guide students and help them understand and appreciate art in education and the world. I recently received a message from a former student who was in Washington DC at the National Gallery and was thinking back to the many lessons she learned in my classes. She thanked me for that. I have many young adults that have reconnected with me and shared their fond memories in art! 

Looking into my crystals ball….My advice to teachers is “LOVE WHAT YOU DO AND NEVER STOP LEARNING ABOUT WAYS YOU CAN ENGAGE STUDENTS!” 

K-8 mural, D.W. Merritt Elementary School, Addison. Kindergarten students started at the bottom and the mural grew as each grade contributed.

Stay curious, involved and be a life long learner. Take classes and reach out to others in your area of expertise, they are a gift!

I have come to realize that I was supposed to be an art teacher. So I guess the innate ability to teach was there, I just needed to become aware of it. I knew early on I had some artistic talent and wanted to be an artist. However, life happened and that dream had to be on hold. So I learned a lot of teaching skills over the years that helped me in my work! I’m still learning more about my work through my reflection. I am hopeful that during retirement I will rediscover that innate “art-self” that will bring my life-long dream into being.

Hancock Grammar School

I plan to make time for me and my art! I plan to take art classes, garden, read, travel with my honey and spend time with family and friends. I have grandkids that I am excited to have more time with!❤️ I know me and I am always busy, so my goal is to slow down just a bit and smell the roses!!

If I was given $500,000….definitely, buy a camper to continue my trips to the national parks. Contribute to my grandkids education fund and invest in my community arts programming! 

I hope to be 94 and looking back!! My mom made it to 93 and we had a conversation about regrets before she passed. No regrets here, I have lived a good life, learned many lessons to carry me into the present! I have listened to my intuition and followed my heart, which is full of love!!❤️

Janie painting, home studio
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Music Teacher Extraordinaire Retiring

June 21, 2022

Congratulations, Mrs. Murphy and thank you!

I love helping students find their voices.

Kim Murphy has been teaching music for the last 34 years and is retiring this month. She’s one of those teachers who I thought would never retire since she has a ton of energy and is totally engaged in every aspect of teaching. She has high expectations for herself and her students. Kim always has a smile on her face and her laughter is contagious! I’m certain that she will be missed! (You can learn something about Kim’s humor by the most of the photos below and the embedded links, be sure and click on the center capitalized titles to see the videos).

Kim started teaching grades 6-12 Choral and General Music at Oak Hill High School, Sabattus, Litchfield and Wales. Shortly afterward the position changed and she taught Band and Chorus, grades 9-12 at Oak Hill High School. She took a sabbatical in 1996-97 and then moved to Lincolnville. For the last 25 years she has taught at the high school, Camden-Rockport High School for 3 years and when the new high school opened, Camden Hills Regional High School (CHRHS), she has taught there. Earlier in her music career she worked as a music therapist in Peapack, NJ and Bethlehem, PA.

Kim was a double major and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education and Music Therapy. She is a Nationally Board Certified teacher.

What has been your favorite part of teaching?                                                                                                                       

  • I love helping students find their voices. Find their self-confidence through singing. I love it when someone has a solo – and other people never realized what a beautiful voice that person has.  And then there is just the self-confidence in getting up and singing before a large crowd – whether in a small group or a large group. There are life lessons – the teamwork is necessary. 
  • I love music festivals – where students from different schools come together to create works of beauty. It’s SO different from sports – where someone is always the winner and someone is always the loser. With music festivals – the competition has already happened (through auditions) and the coming together to create a concert in 2 – 3 days is a wonderful way to build connections.
  • And then of course – I love musicals!

Tell the readers about a moment in your teaching career that has been unforgettable? 

  • Well – there are many.  But a recent one is…. During the 2020-21 school year, I had the FIRST tent up!  And my tent was the FIRST to blow away! UNDER THE TENT!
And there she blows!

What changes have you experienced during your teaching career that have been positive and/or negative?

  • I think it’s great that kids can take so many AP courses – and get college credit. Yet this (adding of AP classes to schedules) has really hurt music programs in that the schedule and time for Band and Chorus is getting squeezed out. And also – is it healthy for a student to have so many AP classes?
  • In a positive manner, I think students are more assertive; they self-advocate for what they need in education; education is now –  less “top down” instruction and more collaboration.

YESTERDAY!

What do you think are three keys to ANY successful music ed program? 

  • Know your students, be genuine in your care for them
  • Flexibility and creativity – learn to work with schedule changes, or things that happen that throw your carefully written plans out the window
  • Plan, plan, plan 
  • And (a 4th!) have a sense of humor!

What are you most proud of in your career?

When I was hired at CRHS I said that my personal 10 yr goal was to have the strongest choral program in the State of Maine. We are lucky – we have fantastic community support. I think – with the numbers of students that have been accepted to District III, All State, All Eastern and National festivals over the years – I think that it has been one of the strongest choral programs in the State. Unfortunately – right now – due to Covid and other challenges – the Chorus program is not as strong (in numbers) and that breaks my heart. You have to have the numbers.

Who influenced your work as a teacher or perhaps inspired you?

Charlie Seymour and Steve Moro

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

Teaching is the hardest and best profession. There are days when you will want to cash in your chips early – don’t! Hold on. Your students learn more from your daily attitude and mindset than you realize. As a teacher – you teach a subject area – but it’s the character that you bring into the classroom that has the lasting educational benefit.

IT’S TIME TO SING!

How much of what you do is learned skills and how much is innate?

Wow – that’s an interesting question. I come from a family of teachers – so I think that was how we grew up. So – teaching comes naturally. I was going to be either an English or Math teacher. Those subjects come easily to me (well….not Math anymore – ha ha). But Music didn’t come easily. I had to work at it. I had to make it look easy. But – because I had to work at my music skills so hard, that made me a better teacher – because I could understand why kids were struggling, and I could break it down into smaller chunks for them to understand.

I’VE GOT MY OWN TENT!

What does retirement look like for you?

Exciting and Terrifying.  I have an Air BNB business at my house, which I LOVE to do – and hope to be able to grow that – especially in the shoulder seasons (when I would have been at school). I’m connecting with community theater and music groups – because that is my passion. I do a lot of work with my church – and hope to be able to volunteer more with places like AIO food pantry (food and energy assistance for citizens of Knox county) or other social programs. And finally – I will fly to CA (whenever I damn well please) to see my son!

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

I would create a theater program for kids – especially kids who struggle in life.  

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

I hope not!  You have to live in the moment and enjoy each beautiful step.

The concert photos in this blog post were taken by Marti Stone Photography.

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Juneteenth

June 19, 2022

Freedom Day

Today, June 19 marks the 157th anniversary of Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. It commemorates the day in 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, and brought news that slavery had been abolished more than two years earlier.

I came across this story from 2015 on NPR, an interview recorded in 1941 with Laura Smalley who was born into slavery. Most slave owners kept the news from the slaves. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas on June 19 with 2000 troops and a message – slaves were free. 

Finally, after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier, the news reached the slaves in Texas. I can’t imagine being a child and being born into slavery let alone not being told that in fact, my freedom had been granted. I wondered how much respect Laura had for the slave owner after learning the news. Access Laura’s recording at THIS LINK.

Laura’s story and others are archived at the Library of Congress. There is a collection of stories in a section called Voices Remembering Slavery: Freed People Tell Their Stories. The documented stories took place between 1932 and 1975 in nine states. We can learn from the plethora of information included in the stories. Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021 amid discussions of racial injustice following the death of George Floyd.

I can’t help but think about Ashley Bryan on this day. His contribution as a black artist, storyteller, poet and all around amazing human being is immeasurable. Many of you know that Ashley passed away in February of this year. He left a large body of artwork but my favorite and most cherished pieces of what he left are his children’s books. Even though they are children books each one has a message for all ages. If you read no others I recommend you get yourself a copy of Freedom over me. It includes the stories of 11 slaves, their lives and dreams were brought to life by Ashley. Mr. Bryan bought the slave papers at an auction in Southwest Harbor, ME and used them as a launch pad for the book. In this book he combined the simple descriptions and the price the slaves were sold for with his imagination and creativity and created a tribute to all slaves.

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