Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

h1

Magaga

January 31, 2023

Kenyan educator

I have the privilege of working with an educator from Kenya named Enos Magaga who goes by Magaga. He and his family are delightful and over the last two years I have grown to appreciate and understand them in ways I could never have imagined. I am so grateful.

Magaga is the STEAM coordinator for a program called BEADS for Education. He also serves as the Communication and Outreach Coordinator for BEADS. It’s a fascinating program that was initiated to improve the quality of education for women and girls. BEADS established a high school for girls called Tembea Academy located about an hour and a half from Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. Magaga teaches Math and Science at the school. The program has grown mainly due to the work of Magaga and other staff who are committed to girls education. They are not only teaching them ‘content’ but it goes way beyond that. Years of traditions that are detrimental to girls are being interrupted and girls are provided with the opportunity to reach their potential.

In addition to teaching at Tembea Academy 6 hours each week Magaga teaches at the local elementary school. His time there is through the Full STEAM Forward program where students are loving learning through hands-on experiences that connect them with educators and programs in other parts of the world.

Magaga’s committent to the arts came about when he participated in a fellowship program in arts integration that I was part of at Sweet Tree Arts. His pathway to there was through the HundrED program that I’ve blogged about in the past. We met bi-weekly for a semester and during every meeting his face lit up with joy. Magaga’s positivity is contagious. His beliefs are strong and embedded into his daily actions.

I believe in an education system that does not rob learners of their curiosity, creativity and imaginations and above all, one that serves to create a balance in the lives of all learners.

You can read an interview with Magaga and learn more about him and his sweet family on the HundrED blog at THIS LINK. I’m sure it will inspire you!

h1

GRACE

January 17, 2023

Offers hope

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting a wonderful community visual art program that was established in 2019. It was well underway when the pandemic disrupted life as we knew it. It stumbled along during the pandemic gathering outside at the town gazebo and today it is thriving. The program is called GRACE and takes place in Brown Hall Community Center in Bucksport, Maine. The GRACE program provides free creative arts opportunities to seniors and other underserved populations. Participants are invited to explore and experiment through using a variety of materials to create art. No previous experience is necessary.

Several years ago Catherine Ring worked with the GRACE program in Hardwick, Vermont where she was living and working at the time. The philosophy: “Be yourself and do it your own way” connects very well with arts educators, artists and others in the creative world. The open studio idea has become a space for participants to meet, experiment and play with materials. They meet to make art and to connect socially. I was excited to learn more about the program that Catherine’s leadership brought to Bucksport. Periodically Catherine or other participants ‘teach’ a technique, offer guidance and facilitate depending on the wishes of the group. They share their ideas and art work, and provide feedback to each other.

Charlotte Bridges working on her linoleum prints

The GRACE program started as part of Lighthouse Arts & Education which was located in Bucksport at the time. Funding was provided through a grant from the Maine Community Foundation. Since then it has morphed into its own non-profit. Participants are not only nourishing their own creative needs but connecting with community. GRACE has exhibit space within Brown Hall Community Center and in 2021 worked with the Buck Memorial Library in town to create a collaborative mural for their newly renovated space.

The space where they meet is inviting and filled with books, resources and art supplies to encourage and support participants ideas and creative processes. I really enjoyed seeing the art on display and left very inspired. If you’re interested in learning more please contact Catherine Ring at THIS LINK.

The GRACE program offers so much and all are invited to participate. Board member and artist Charlotte Bridges who goes by Cha, started making art at age 55 said it best: “I love that they understand what we needed. I want to be guided and have a chance to play and experiment. I can’t stand to have people tell me how to do every step. We all get so much from each other.” Another participant, Linda Wagner said: We all benefit from each other. The feeling of being lifted up.

Zentangles made by GRACE participants

h1

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!

h1

Doing What is Right

December 3, 2022

On and on and on

There are always challenges as a teacher but I’m hearing “I’ve turned the corner”, “I feel like we’re in a different place with Covid so I can get on with teaching”, “there are other issues that drag me down in teaching but I can focus on my student’s needs more now”.

What I admire about teachers, now more than ever, is that teachers have a strong moral compass that guides them to do what is right for all learners. No, not just the ones who are ‘traditional students’ who will succeed no matter how much a teacher focuses on them, but for ALL students.

During this time of year the students who are challenged are struggling for several different reasons. The weather is colder and they may not go home to a warm home. Parents shouldn’t have to pick between heating their home, putting gas in their vehicle to get to work or to feed their families but some are. According to the Maine Department of Education website, “on average, 1 in 4 children in Maine is at risk for hunger, and 37% of them do not qualify for public assistance”. As teachers we can’t solve that problem but we can insure that students feel supported at school for who they are as learners.

THANK YOU, ESPECIALLY DURING THIS HOLIDAY SEASON, FOR SUPPORTING ALL STUDENTS!

h1

Education Has Lost a Giant

November 15, 2022

So long Phil Brookhouse

For those of us who came in contact with Phil Brookhouse, we are all better for it. You may know Phil from his days with the Maine Learning Technology Initiative. He and Barbara Greenhouse played off of each other while providing professional developing with technology. They were quite a team. For many Maine educators this was their first introduction to technology in the classroom so it needed to be top notch. The delivering was excellent, the content was spot on, but more importantly Phil understood it was ‘all about the relationship’. He was gentle, kind, and knowledgeable, AND he understood how to communicate with teachers because he had teaching in his heart and soul. A teachers teacher!

Phil worked with the State of Maine to roll out and support one of the first “one to one” laptop programs in the country. Phil always had a pleasant look on his face and often he spoke with a ‘pirate accent’. In fact, he was the first ‘pirate’ I ever met. Phil loved music and performed in community theatre. He understood the value of arts education and took the opportunity to include the arts in the work he did. He was proud to be named an Ambassador to Jupiter through NASA. After leaving the state work, Phil returned to the classroom at Edward Little High School in Auburn working with the gifted and talented program before retiring. He will be missed but the seeds of learning he spread will live on. I am grateful for the work he did in Maine education! You can read his entire obituary at THIS LINK.

h1

November Gifts

November 12, 2022

Theatre – alive and well in Maine high schools

One of the best parts about November is that high schools across Maine provide opportunities for students to perform in theatre productions. The added benefits to our state are many! People of all ages can engage in stories, some old and classic, and some newer. The community including parents, children, seniors, retired folks and anyone who lives in the town where the school is located, as well as surrounding towns, have a chance to watch, listen and learn as teens take to the stage. There aren’t many opportunities during a school year for citizens to enter our school buildings. These performances can serve as advocacy for not only theatre programs but dance, music, and visual art since all of the arts are often utilized through the theatre production.

The skills and experiences gained through participation in theatre productions are not learned elsewhere!

CONGRATULATIONS…

…to all the high schoolers taking part in plays. I know that to give your best performance you have practiced for many days and weeks which amount to many hours while still keeping up with attending classes and doing homework. You’ve worked individually and with your peers practicing lines, your position on stage with how and where and when to move. You have collaborated with teachers, actors, light and sound students, costume and make up people. Your success relies on the commitment and cooperation of a huge number of people.

THANK YOU…

…to all the educators who give opening of their time after the normal school day to support the many students who participate in the theatre program. I know we have some Maine schools with theatre teachers who provide classes during the day that contribute to the production but most are doing this work after school. Your patience, kindness, and influence inspiring theatre students is amazing.

SUPPORT…

We know that it takes many people beyond the actors and teachers who help support the production in many different ways. Thank you to all of you lovers of the theatre and students who participate. I encourage everyone reading this blog post to attend a play going on at your local high school. Nothing like a full house to feel appreciated when performing!

The following are a few of the plays that are taking place in the next couple of weeks. If you are aware of others please email me at meartsed@gmail.com and I’d be glad to add them to this blog post. Thanks!

Thornton Academy, Saco presents The Odyssey. MORE INFORMATION!

Camden Hills Regional High School presents Mamma Mia! MORE INFORMATION!

Medomak Valley High School, Waldoboro presents Hello Dolly! MORE INFORMATION!

Waterville Senior High School presents Momma Mia! LEARN MORE!

Belfast High School present Grease. MORE INFORMATION!

Orono High School presents Mamma Mia! MORE INFORMATION!

Mount Desert Island High School presents Oliver! MORE INFORMATION!

Break a leg!

h1

Conference Lift-off

November 4, 2022

Teaching Truth, Hope, and Creativity: How the ARTS can deepen any curriculum

During the last 7 months a group of committed educators have been planning, writing grants, communicating with each other and many other educators to plan the conference being held tomorrow, November 4, at Thomas College. Those of you who have planned conferences know of the thousands of details that it takes to pull together a successful conference. Those of you who have attended education conferences know how critical they are to advancing teaching and learning.

The Teaching Truth, Hope, and Creativity conference is for all Maine educators and is supported by many organizations through funding and planning. We are fortunate to have Connie Carter, Education Director from Americans Who Tell the Truth AWTT, take the lead on many of the details. Connie is amazing and knowledgeable about what is needed to face the tough conversations in schools today. Karen MacDonald from the Maine County and State Teachers of the Year Association has been involved in planning several conferences since her retirement as a middle school Language Arts. She is great at taking on responsibilities and at asking the questions to continue moving forward in the planning. Chelsea Fay representing the Maine Math and Science Alliance has been a top notch planner and she along with her colleague at MMSA Emma Carey will be presenting a workshop at the conference. Iva Damon representing the Maine Arts Education Partners in Leadership has wowed us with her technology skills setting up the Padlet and the jam board participants will use. Hope Lord representing Maine Art Education Association has been instrumental in many of the hundreds of details. Sooooo grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with this amazing group of educators!

The conference couldn’t happen without the cooperation and generous support of many organizations. Unum, Veterans for Peace, Farnsworth Art Museum, and Kane-Lewis Productions. Thomas College is a wonderful organization to work with and has a beautiful campus. Staff member Darren has been excellent every step of the way!

The conference is scheduled for 8:45-3:00, tomorrow, November 4. We have 130 registered. If you’re interested in attending we have a few spaces available. Register at the link below OR show up at the door with cash or a check for $25.00 made out to Americans Who Tell the Truth. Included in registration is light breakfast, full lunch, an AWTT book, a padlet filled with resources, amazing workshops presented by Maine educators, access to two films: Truth Tellers and Natasha Mayers: An Un-still Life, wonderful gifts, and contact hours. There will be the opportunity to purchase the film Truth Tellers at a special conference price. Briar Patch books will have books to purchase. The door prizes are amazing!

I’m looking forward to seeing old friends at the conference and making new ones. YAY!

REGISTRATION

h1

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.

h1

Matthew Bernstein

October 12, 2022

2023 Maine Teacher of the Year

I’m feeling proud for our teaching profession as I reflect on the 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year announcement ceremony held at Casco Bay High School in Portland. I’m sure if you have a chance to meet Matt you’ll feel proud as well, knowing that this young teacher will be representing Maine educators during 2023. The ceremony at the school announcing the teacher of the year is a formality that has barely changed and I am lucky to have attended all but a handful, since 1995. A similar scene is repeated year after year: the room gradually fills with administration, school and district staff, funders, representatives from the media, muckety-mucks, and out of town guests. The speakers are seated at the front near a podium with a microphone. The most important people file in last in a somewhat orderly fashion, students and their teachers. We know that high school teachers can blend in with students but on this day the teachers were recognizable because they dressed in blue shirts with ties partially knotted to honor one of their own colleagues, grade 9 humanities and social studies teacher Matt Bernstein. The energy level and the pride was evident throughout the room. Everyone was very attentive throughout the ceremony.

Two parts of the day brought me to tears. Matt was nominated for the award by a former student, Yusur Jasim. While a student of Matt’s he spent a lot of time in Matt’s classroom and decided to be a teacher because of the compassion and support he received. When Yusur spoke to describe Matt I could see the faces of the students understanding because he had impacted them in similar ways. The 2022 Maine Teacher of the Year, Kelsey Stoyanova who teaches at Reeds Brook Middle School in Hampden, gave an engaging speech that not only highlighted the honor and role Matt will have during his year as teacher of the year but pointed the light directly onto the students. She was on the teacher of the year visitation team and during a recent visit to Casco Bay she learned about Matt, his students, colleagues, and the school. Her shared observations and collections of words made it clear that Matt is a compassionate, caring teacher who provides a safe and nurturing true learner-centered classroom for every learner who walks through the doorway. In Kelsey’s words:

“Mr. Bernstein empowers you all to be teachers for yourselves and others. Mr. Bernstein empowers you to teach him because you are all worthy of being learned from. Mr. Bernstein would not be able to do that if he did not truly believe in each of you all individually to be the kind of humans you want to be, the kind of humans your school needs you to be, the kind of humans that contribute and add value to all the communities in which you reside – in and outside of the four walls of your classroom with Mr. Bernstein.

Not only in the words that Matt shared but his body language spoke volumes as he put his hands to his heart and formed a heart shape over and over. He shared that this recognition wouldn’t have been possible without his students and the teachers around him. Matt jokingly said that he steals a lot of ideas from his colleagues. Matt said: “When I come here, I feel like I’m home. I feel like I have family around me”.

Matt was named 2022 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year at the beginning of the year which automatically put him in the arena of being considered for the state teacher of the year. Unlike most other states, Maine’s program for recognizing teachers is a long and drawn out process lasting almost a year. It’s a process that has only slightly changed since 1995. The biggest differences are the recognition of county teachers, Educate Maine facilitating the program for the department of education, and the funders are plentiful. In reality, all supporting teachers.

Matt has a Bachelor of Arts in History with a European History concentration from Bowdoin College, where he was also a Bowdoin Teacher-Scholar. His pedagogy is centered around student voices and student activism. He believes that the purpose of education is to help students find their way of contributing to a more equitable world. Matt is also passionate about creating opportunities for students to experience joy and belonging at school daily, and, to that end, he believes in cultivating meaningful relationships with students, often through his work as a 9th grade crew advisor, that are grounded in deep listening and holistic support. Matt has served in many leadership capacities at Casco Bay and the Portland district and takes opportunities to deepen his knowledge and teaching practice. A teacher for 10 years, I’m certain that his future in education will continue to be filled with learning and teaching opportunities.

Along with Educate Maine and the Maine DOE, the other partners and funders include: Maine County Teachers of the Year, State Board of Education, Geiger, Hannaford, Bangor Savings Bank, Dead River Company, unum, Silvernail Family, and Maine Lottery.

If you’d like to learn more about the program please go to the Educate Maine website at https://www.mainetoy.org.

h1

9/11

September 11, 2022

Let us pause and remember

A few evil people acted that day, 21 years ago, but millions acted out of bravery and kindness and showed the world that goodness can overpower evil. I was in my art classroom the morning of 9/11 when the news came through. I was horrified and was reminded that not all of us do what is right for other human beings.

I watch this video each year on this date to remind me of the importance of compassion and not to be so only when there is a tragedy but everyday. The challenges that people experience throughout our world must be combatted with a little kindness to each other.

There were many stories of bravery that day but I am forever moved by the community of boat owners and captains who put others first and their acts made a difference! Everyone who participated in the search and rescue operation on 9/11 and the days following is a true hero. Never Forget the lives lost on this tragic day or the heroes that emerged from it.

%d bloggers like this: