Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

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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!

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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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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

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Inspiration

January 2, 2023

And, Happy Holidays and New Year to you!

I’ve been going to write this post for several days and finally I’ve carved out enough time to do so. My apology for the delay in wishing you the best of holiday greetings! I love this story…

I’ve read a lot of heartfelt stories during this holiday season. They come to me by email from multiple sources. Many times they include a story that is somehow connected to at least one of the arts. Our senses are awakened and ignited by the arts so its no wonder that holiday stories often are founded in the arts. The following interesting story came through my Twitter feed. The first time I saw it I skimmed it quickly and when it came round again I focused in and read the details. Perhaps you read it as well.

Hannah Dale is a British artist who established Wrendale Designs in 2014. On her website you can find her art used on calendars, socks, journals, and mugs. She created a fun rendition of a deer that is part of a luxury Christmas card collection. Its so exclusive its not on the website. This is very interesting since now the world has seen it.

Painted by artist Hannah Dale

If you’re not familiar with the story…

The oldest child of Prince William and Princess Kate is 9 year old Prince George. He was inspired by Dale’s design and created his own rendition using water colors. It popped up on Dale’s twitter feed on Christmas Day. She was surprised and delighted.

I enjoyed reading Hannah Dale’s comments about the young artist. “He has inherited a “very promising family talent”, taking after his grandfather King Charles who is known to have a great love of painting.” I do wonder if he and George W. Bush have ever discussed painting? Of course when we hear the ‘natural talent’ comment it makes some of us cringe. I had to smile when I went on to read more of what she said. “Yes there is family talent for painting and art,” Hannah said. “I always say to people when they ask me, how do you get so good at painting? It is absolutely all about practice. That’s why it’s so nice to see. The more you do it the better you get. If you adopt a love of painting and art at that age, I do think it’s a wonderful thing whether it becomes a career or just an escape. It’s a fantastic ability for anybody and I would always encourage it in any child.”

Painted by 9 year old artist Prince George

We all know that one of the secrets to success in creating is providing excellent arts education programs taught by qualified arts educators for learners of all ages. I remember one time hearing retired music educator Paul Greenstone say “if we miss the developmental stages of learning music it might be impossible to catch up.” If this doesn’t point out why it is critical to have excellent arts education at all grade levels, PK-12, little does.

Hannah Dale went on to say: “He has a good eye for colour. I think that’s always tricky with watercolour but he’s got some good shading and tone in there. I think having a love of animals and love of nature is obviously something that’s maybe captured his attention. That inspires me very much. It’s a real privilege to inspire any child to want to draw or paint. It was a really lovely compliment.” Sounds like no better compliment for the young artist and likewise for the artist whose work inspired young Prince George.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if this experience could impact arts education world-wide? Perhaps at your local level – share this story with your colleagues, administration, community members, and your students. I look forward to learning more about Prince George’s art in the future.

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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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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

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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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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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Meet Mia

July 6, 2022

Mia Bogyo, Education Programs Manager, CMCA

I was so happy to have a lengthy conversation with Mia Bogyo and to learn her story. Mia has a bubbly personality and is an enthusiastic creative person who approaches each task at hand positively. When Mia smiles it is with her whole being. She is totally committed to her work in art education and applies her energy so everyone benefits. Her story…

Mia Bogyo uses the pronouns, she/her and is the Education Programs Manager at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA) in Rockland. Mia’s high school experience at George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill heavily influenced her pathway to art making and teaching. She was able to take advantage of all the programming that Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle had to offer high school students.

Mia at work!

Mia went to the University of Southern Maine (USM), started in the Studio Arts program and then switched to the Art and Entrepreneurship program. During her freshman year she was involved with Oak Street Studios (downtown Portland) and Side X Side and really loved teaching with both programs. She was experimenting with teaching in the community arts programming and in-school/out of school and after school programs. With further consideration she had the choice of majoring in the community art education program or study for a BFA with a K-12 certification. She jumped into the art education program and continued doing some teaching at Oak Street Studios and Side X Side, gaining in-depth experiences. She taught during the school year as well as during the summer. She student taught at Oceanside Elementary School in Portland, Falmouth Middle School, and Casco Bay High School in Portland and graduated in 2018 which gave her comprehensive experiences to help her consider public school teaching or a community education pathway.

USM has agreements with Maine College of Art + Design (MECA+D) and Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) which enables students learning opportunities at all three campuses. Mia traveled to Greece with a MECA+D study abroad summer program.

PUBLIC SCHOOL EXPERIENCE

Mia took on a long-term substitute position at Canal Elementary School in Westbrook. She was contracted for three months and it turned into six. The experience provided something that she couldn’t possibly have planned for. She was impressed with the Westbrook art education program and received a great deal of support while there. She had the chance to attend department meetings with the K-12 art staff and she had ongoing communication with department chair Rachel Somerville who provided incredible support. She even had the chance to advise a student teacher from Maine College of Art + Design. This was a unique experience, chaotic at times, however, between the student population and the support she was provided, everyday was an adventure. She was inspired and walked away with a new confidence and clarity a direction.

She also taught at the Gorham Arts Alliance in their pre-school and after school programs. This experience provided Mia a better understanding of younger learners which was invaluable. This gave her the confidence to work with young children. Soon after she left there, the pre-school became more a part of the public school. Mia views this positively because it helps facilitate a sequential art education program starting at a younger age. Schools adjust their art programs since students have art education prior to kindergarten.

MOVE TO ROCKLAND

Two and half years ago Mia moved to Rockland and visited CMCA to learn about their programming. She was impressed with their educational offerings and that most of it was being facilitated by a volunteer, Sandy Weisman. They had a serious conversation about CMCA’s five year plan which included a comprehensive art education program. Mia’s philosophy and CMCA’s were so aligned that they offered her the position of Education Programs Manager. She is grateful for the mentoring that Sandy provided and for her collaborative ongoing work with Community Arts Instructor Alexis Iammarino, who oversees the ‘Arts @ Work’ program.

Look Inside program

CMCA EDUCATION PROGRAMS, for all ages

VISION – Dedicated to promoting dynamic engagement with contemporary art and artists, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art offers programs that fuel the imagination, stimulate forward thinking, and cultivate conversation.

The priority is to develop programming that:

  • Expands access to the new ideas and modes of expression inherent in contemporary art
  • Provides authentic and experiential art education that engages local artists as teachers and mentors
  • Empowers individuals to explore their own capacities as creative thinkers and makers

CMCA learning programs:

  • Art Lab – Offering hands-on education programs year round for all ages.
    • Look Inside specifically geared to K-12 school visits, created by professional museum educators and assisted trained volunteer education staff, invites students to look at and understand the world in new ways. The program strengthens the following:
      • Visual literacy
      • Interdisciplinary learning
      • Deep and thoughtful looking
      • Hands-on creating making
    • Expanded program supporting K-12 school visits and professional development for Maine art teachers online and in person
    • February and April school vacation workshops
    • Summer Art Camp facilitated by guest teaching artists
  • Arts @ Work is a free mentorship program connecting high school students across the mid-coast region to arts leadership, career development, volunteer opportunities and studio practice development. This program is facilitated by Community Arts Instructor Alexis Iammarino.
  • Community Partners are plentiful at CMCA which help to connect artists of all ages, races, genders, socio-economic status, and abilities to contemporary artwork and artists.
Mia leading Look Inside program

PANDEMIC

The pandemic offered Mia and CMCA some challenges along with opportunities. They quickly shifted to online offerings. They built over 1,300 art kits with each kit being attached to one lesson. Over time students participating collected tons of ideas and materials. Parents are grateful for the quality art supplies to help steer their child while at home and most likely will last for a very long time. They worked with the local teen shelter providing art kits while they were doing food distribution.

Covid influenced and impacted decisions and direction. They are building on the challenges. Returning from the pandemic to in-person has been a different kind of challenge. They continue to offer online opportunities and will not lose what they learned during the most difficult part of the pandemic. They have streamlined their communication. CMCA is the only organization in the area providing online. They are now very open for schools and love having groups visit.

The other big learning is that they are clear that “creativity can be a step away from technology now.” They used technology to engage people while simultaneously making and offering the art kits, serving all ages, PreK through adults. Since it was difficult to get kids online they pre-recorded the lessons and the local school district communicated the information to students.

The instruction reached quite a distance during the pandemic. Schools as far away as Machias and Kennebunk participated during the heart of the pandemic. CMCA provided virtual tours and workshops. Perhaps due to the pandemic programs with classroom teachers are growing.

Mia has connected with the teachers at Harbor School and George Stevens Academy and provides workshops for students there.

Artlab

SCHOOL AND COMMUNITY RELATIONSHIPS, OPPORTUNITIES

CMCA has a free membership for Rockland residents. In many cases this starts with the teacher and the local schools.

CMCA is at a turning point, growing from what they’ve learned about young and adult learners. They are diversifying their teaching staff and including artists from the mid-coast. Many are interested in teaching and sharing what they do. Covid has shown that teachers, formally trained or not, can and wants to give back. Adult community members are interested in learning from an expert.

Mia teaches the elementary and middle school gifted and talented program in RSU 13 (Rockland) which she teaches at the school. The students also visit the CMCA shows throughout the school year.

The After School program involves partnering with the local schools through their 21st century program.

Rockland High School program is called ‘Arts at Work’, established in 2017, and CMCA partners with that program. Teaching artist, Alexis Iammarino facilitates this program. Internship for high school students at CMCA, focusing on the community. Alexis also oversees the mural program in the summer as lead artist for Arts in Action, which has been painting murals for several years in public spaces throughout Rockland. The town is being visually transformed thanks to the murals these young people have created with Alexis.

The ArtLab portion will expand to be more community based space for teaching artists.

CMCA is building on their relationship with the Mid-coast School of Technology. Together they are considering alternative learning spaces with an interest in the Graphic Design and Film programs offered at the school.

CMCA is part of the RSU 13 Youth Alliance. The organization is made up of more than 15 organizations who put out a newsletter and meet monthly. The organizations are located in the mid-coast, from Rockland to Camden, and are connected with youth, trying to build connections with youth and/or provide opportunities for youth. The group also supports each other by checking in with members to learn what is needed for youth, to help address struggles and to understand what is being heard from youth.

Mia leading Third Sunday

MAEA RELATIONSHIP

Mia works closely with Maine Art Education Association, hosting conferences and communicating about the resources that CMCA has for educators. She enjoys exploring this together with teachers and providing professional development in a collaborative manner, planning and implementing.

SUMMER

CMCA is 70 years old and the 5th year that they’ve been in their new facility in Rockland. On the 3rd Sunday of the month they have Sunday tours. In partnership with the Farnsworth Art Museum this summer they are offering joint field trips for children and summer camp programs for children in RSU13. Mia is honored that organizations wish to collaborate with CMCA but focusing on the numbers is a priority for them. And, getting everyone on the same timeline is a challenge.

LOOKING AHEAD

The education portion of CMCA will continue to grow while being mindful of their mission and goals. They will hire a part-time employee (10-15 hires a week) to help maintain the programs that they are currently housing. In Mia’s own words: “It is so exciting to have new work that turns over, exciting to have this space to use, exciting to make connections. I am wanting to do (provide programming for). “I am always reminding myself to slow down.”

Thank you Mia for providing so much information for the blog readers so they can learn (more) about you and the education programs at CMCA.

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