Archive for the ‘VPA’ Category

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Two Teaching Artists’ Journeys

March 19, 2019

Nicole Cardano and Brian Evans Jones

Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Teaching Artists Leaders, summer institute, 2017. Brian is in the back row, third from the left. Nicole is in the front row, first person on the left.

I’m always interested in learning about the needs of teaching artists and how to better support them. I view their role in education as vital. Oftentimes it is the teaching artist who inspires a young person. Providing opportunities for learners in grades PreK through high school that include a teaching artist can be empowering for the learner. I have hope that every young person either becomes an artist or an appreciator of the arts as they continue learning on their life journey.

Those of us who have made arts education a career are so fortunate. We are engaged in the creative process as  individuals and have the chance to help young people develop their artistic ideas as well. When arts educators collaborate with teaching artists it is truly amazing. Both teachers learn but the ones who benefit the most are our students.

Pablo Picasso said: “Every child is born an artist, the problem is how to remain one once we grow up. I think of the artist in each of us as a fragile, beautiful and precious light, a creative spark inside of every person.”

Nicole and Brian at the MALI Summer Institute, 2018

Recently I asked two teaching artists who are leaders in the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) to ponder what has contributed to their success as teaching artists. Brian Evans-Jones and Nicole Cardano joined MALI in 2017 during the summer institute.

Brian Evans-Jones is a poetry and creative writing teacher who moved to southern Maine from the UK. He’s been writing poetry since he was 16. Brian has a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Warwick University.

“Since 2005 I have taught creative writing, which is as important to me as my own writing. I’ve taught all kinds of people, from 4 to 94, in all kinds of venues, and this is the main way I try to spread the appreciation of poetry.”

Nicole Cardano has been teaching Drama and Improvisational Theater in PK-grade 12 schools for ten years. In addition, she teaches adults. Nicole’s studies and practice of improvisational theater connect to the foundational philosophies of Listening, Support, Eye Contact and Respect. The games that she teaches and her directorial mindset work from these foundations. Nicole believes in the process being more valuable than the product. Learning and developing these skills fosters a stronger community, a place of open listening and supportive fun. You can learn more about Nicole’s work on Facebook at Theater Today, Nicole’s non-profit organization.

“This December I worked with elementary and middle school students in preparation for their field trip to see Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. The students learned about workhouses and the hard labor and often dangerous jobs that children did in London during the 1840’s. We imagined this world through writing and theater exercises.”

NICOLE, HER TEACHING ARTIST JOURNEY

I started out as a Teaching Artist before I knew that this job title even existed. I was teaching drama and improvisational theater at the Summer Festival of the Arts and re-establishing the drama club program at my alma mater, Pemetic Elementary School. One program would lead to the start of another one. In the last nine years the work has grown. I have formed a non-profit, Theater Today, and have been able to spearhead a larger program in partnering with The Grand Theater, in Ellsworth.

Two years ago I learned that The Grand had a program called Performing Arts for Children showing school-aged performances during the school day, but they were not getting the audiences that they hoped for. The opportunity to partner was clear. Several professionals collaborated to create a Community Arts Curriculum out of which grew my role as the Arts Outreach Educator. This is our second year of this outreach collaboration and we are working with the full student body of four schools, three serving grades K-8, and one 9-12 high school. I have worked with 1,311 students leading theater integration workshops in their classrooms since September of 2017 in just this partnership alone (not including the additional programs I still lead). After meeting with classroom teachers, I design improvisational theater workshops that provide connections between the classroom curriculum and the live theater field trips at The Grand.

I grew up locally on Mount Desert Island in Maine. I got my first taste of theater in school. This made me aware that I wanted to be able to sing better, as I could not really carry a tune. As luck would have it there was an outstanding vocal teacher in our town. Carol Cramer Drummond was an accomplished opera singer and became my performance mother. Carol taught me confidence through song and showed me another world. I struggled to learn in school in the format I was expected. My mother too had her own history of challenges in school. I am now raising my daughter, also as a single parent, and I find myself advocating for her experiential learning needs.

Theater was the only subject I could think to study as I went on to Saint Michael’s College in Vermont. Both of my parents supported this decision. I graduated cum laude with a departmental award of honors and minored in Spanish as an extension of my year abroad in Mexico. My senior year of college one of my theater professors was intrigued with the book “Truth in Comedy; the Manual of Improvisation” from the training and performing center IO (formerly Improv Olympic) in Chicago, IL. IO teaches long form improvisation, where you perform a full show based off of one audience suggestion. Our professor formed an improv troupe and we studied this book. I graduated college in May of 2001 and went home to work a summer job and await a New England Theater festival that I had been selected to compete in. I had plans to go to New York City to follow a job lead. That September our nation experienced 9-11. My understanding of the world as I knew it had changed. The job did not pan out. Going to Chicago to study improv felt like the most sensible and sane endeavour. I competed at the festival in January and flew out to take a level one class at IO. I stayed for the full year and completed the improvisational program. Chicago became my home. Improv was the language that I spoke. I continued to study, perform and work for ten years in this city.

I moved back home to Maine for family reasons. I was raising my three year old daughter and my father had gone through stage four bladder cancer due to his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. Time moved forward and my daughter entered school. She was also displaying learning challenges and was not showing the results that our schools wanted. I served for a full term as the chair member of our local school to support education and to better understand it. I really enjoyed being a part of this team. My term ended and I had to decide where I could make a greater impact. My programs were growing and it is a conflict of interest to be on a school board and working in the schools. I continued to develop the work that I saw a need for and believe in. I formed Theater Today to continue this mission. Theater is a tool that helps to communicate and explore topics of interest. This has been true on my journey through life. The practice of theater is a social, emotional and educational tool for all. I embrace process more so than product.

I design the curriculum for the theater integration workshops as the Arts Outreach Educator with The Grand. In our first outreach workshop I was working with 8th graders. The show that they were scheduled to see was “Frankenstein”. The students were studying gothic romantic writing. I taught them about the significance of Mary Shelley and how she wrote Frankenstein, the first sci-fi novel, based on the real modern science of the early 1800’s. The science teachers invited me to speak on this in their classroom, and so I did. In these workshops we highlighted that we are in the middle of history. Through the use of improvisational theater we “built” Victor Frankenstein’s laboratory and acted out scenes on what could go wrong with today’s modern science….

Next I worked with high school juniors and seniors in preparation for seeing Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town”. With the practice of theater we explored the American Dream and enhanced public speaking skills.

This December I worked with elementary and middle school students in preparation for their field trip to see Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. The students learned about workhouses and the hard labor and often dangerous jobs that children did in London during the 1840’s. We imagined this world through writing and theater exercises. We explored Dickens mission of the important role of education in the fight against poverty.

The curriculum areas of integrated study have spanned grades K-12.

In the growth of the outreach program with The Grand I see that there could be more partnerships with other arts organizations in an effort to expand the community of learning. For example, art exhibits could have in-classroom workshops with visual artists in connection to gallery showings. The possibilities are endless. Partnering teaching artists with directors of arts organizations has the potential to create a lot more routine work for arts integration in our schools and blurring the line between classroom and community, thus creating more experiential learning opportunities. Many students, and adults, have not been exposed to all that their town or neighboring towns have to offer. Arts outreach expands the exposure to life that any one person has.

The programs with The Grand and Theater Today are primarily supported by grants and scholarships. We do hope to expand the sponsorship opportunities for this programming.

BRIAN, HIS TEACHING ARTIST JOURNEY

Path 1:

January 2005:  I am in the last year of my undergraduate degree in Creative Writing at Warwick University, UK. Not sure what to do after graduating, I go to see my course director and ask him, “How can I teach creative writing?” He tells me I should go see the professor who runs the university’s creative writing summer school for students aged 11-16. He gives me a job. I work on the summer school for the next 4 years, starting as an assistant for a couple of days, and ending up as a full teacher, staying for two weeks.

April 2006:  I am training as an English teacher in a vocational high school in Manchester, England. I hate it. The school asks for volunteers (unpaid) to run Enrichment workshops. Starved of creative writing teaching, I run one on story writing. 8 students attend.

June 2006:  I am interviewing for a full-time job as English teacher at another high school in England. The principal offers me the post. I say I’ll take it provided I can teach an hour’s creative writing a week, pointing to my experience on the Warwick summer schools and at my previous high school. He says yes.

January 2010:  My creative writing group at the high school has had enrolments of 12 students, 4 students, 18 students, and 23 students. I have organized annual competitions in poetry and fiction, getting the principal and vice principals involved in the judging. I have published chapbooks of the students’ work. In January of 2010, the head of Creative Writing at the local college (Winchester Uni) agrees to judge a fiction competition, teach a lesson to my groups, and give them talk about taking creative writing at college.

December 2010:  I have quit my job at the high school. I contact the head of Creative Writing at Winchester Uni to ask for work, and he asks me to teach an undergraduate course. I teach at Winchester Uni until I leave England in 2014, eventually increasing my teaching to 6 courses per year.

November 2011:  One of my colleagues at Winchester Uni starts an organization called the Hampshire Writers Society. I attend the first meetings to support her initiative. She tells me about a competition to become Hampshire Poet Laureate in 2012 and encourages me to enter. I enter it.

January 2012:  I am named Hampshire Poet Laureate. Over the next year, I am paid to write 4 poems and to run workshops in prisons and homeless hostels. The Poet Laureate also promotes my work as a teaching artist to schools throughout Hampshire. I set up an online project (Writing Hampshire) that encourages people to write poems about their favorite places in the region and submit them for web publication.

2012-13:  Approximately 30 schools contact me to ask me to run poetry workshops. About half of these want me to help students write poems for the Writing Hampshire project. Writers’ groups, arts centers, and community organizations also ask me to work for them. Combining my work as a college professor and teaching artist, I am teaching creative writing full-time.

Path 2:

June 2006:  I am completing my training as a high school English teacher. One of the requirements is to join relevant professional associations. I find an organization I’ve not heard of before called the National Association of Writers in Education. I don’t have much money, but I decide to join it.

July 2008:  All NAWE members receive a letter from the Open University. The OU is expanding its creative writing courses and wants new teachers. NAWE members are encourage to apply. I do, and I am given a course to teach.

June 2010:  After two years teaching my OU course, my manager contacts me. They have a vacancy at short notice, and would like me to take it. The combined income gives me enough money to quit my unhappy high school job and go freelance, albeit with a part-time income, but with more time to write.

December 2010:  I contact my local arts center. Based on my experience teaching for the OU, they hire me to run poetry and fiction workshops. By the time I leave England in 2014, I have run 30 workshops and classes fort them, for children and adults.

April 2013:  The manager of the Jane Austen House in Hampshire, England, attends one of my poetry workshops at the arts center. She hires me to run a poetry workshop at the Jane Austen House.

August 2014: I have moved to Maine with my family. We go to a children’s art event at the Jewett House in South Berwick. I get talking to the manager, and tell her about my work at the Jane Austen House. She hires me to run a writers group at the Jewett House and also some one-off creative writing workshops.

November 2015: With some others, I give a presentation at the New England Museums Association Conference on my work at the Jane Austen House and the Jewett House. Soon after the Conference, I am hired by two other historic buildings to run workshops for them.

May 2015:  I am at the end of my first year in grad school at UNH and looking for ways to fill the summer. I offer some free mentoring to a young writer who has come to my writers’ group at the Jewett House. Her mother is grateful, and invites me to go with them to an event called Big Night run by something called the Telling Room in Portland. I go, and I am hugely impressed by the Telling Room’s work with school students. I ask to train as a Telling Room Teaching Artist.

2016-2018:  I work on multiple residencies for the Telling Room, working with 7 schools and leading several residencies.

Path 3:

April 2016:  I am at the end of time in grad school at UNH and wondering about starting a creative writing nonprofit. I hear about a funding workshop run by the Arts Council of NH. I go to it and meet the woman in charge of Arts funding. We meet again later; she tells me about the NH Teaching Artist roster. I apply to the roster and am accepted.

May 2016:  I look for other rosters to apply to, and discover Maine has one. I apply, am accepted, and am invited to a Teaching Artists Training Day.

Brian conducting Poetry Out Loud workshop at Hermon High School

August 2016: At the Training Day. I meet Argy Nestor, who talks to me about Poetry Out Loud. I have experience of the British equivalent. Argy asks if I could do some workshops for POL in Maine. I say yes! I also meet Kate Smith, music teacher at my local elementary school. She tells me about our local Education Foundation, which funds projects in our district. She encourages me to apply for a grant to work with Central School in South Berwick. The grant is funded.

November 2016 and 2017: Argy sends me hundreds of miles to the parts of Maine that are farthest away from my home in South Berwick, bringing Poetry Out Loud wokshops to rural schools and broadening my knowledge of my adopted home state at the same time.

March 2017: My 2-week poetry residency with second grade at Central School in South Berwick takes place. 80 children all write several poems, redraft one to go in a chapbook, and share their learning with their parents.

Brian and Kris presenting, MALI Mega, March 2018

August 2017: Argy invites me to apply to the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI). I attend as a Teaching Artist Leader. Kris Bisson, Chorus teacher at Marshwood Middle School, attends my poetry workshop. She asks me to be involved in a composition project with her 7th and 8th grade chorus groups, and writes a grant to the Marshwood Education Foundation.  I also meet Tim Christensen, potter and Teaching Artist extraordinaire; Nicole Cardano, improv artist; and Lindsay Pinchbeck, teacher of the integrated arts school Sweet Tree Arts.

Fall 2017:  I run my part of Kris’s chorus project. I meet the students for 6 sessions and help them write lyrics based on a local landmark bridge that is the focus of a community renewal project.

Tim Christensen, Brian, Lindsay Pinchbeck at Sweetland School

January and October 2018: Lindsay Pinchbeck invites me to Sweet Tree Arts to run collaborative residencies, first in partnership with Tim Christensen and later with Nicole Cardano.

2018:  The Arts Council of NH send me to schools throughout the Seacoast region of NH to run Poetry Out Loud workshops.

2018:  Kris Bisson and I present our collaborative project at MALI and at the MAMLE conference.

November 2018:  Argy asks me to make some Poetry Out Loud videos to be hosted on the Maine Arts Commission website. I work with student POL competitors and the MAC’s Ryan Leighton to plan and record the videos.

December 2018:  Kris’s chorus perform their composition piece at the State House in Augusta. I am privileged to attend.

This is not a complete picture of what I have done, but I hope it gives an idea of how my work as a Teaching Artist started, expanded, and changed. What I want to show is that I never planned to do this: every new thing emerged and developed from other things I did before, generally not knowing what they were going to lead to. I don’t claim that this is an ideal path: I still have not gotten back to being a full-time teacher of creative writing as I was in 2014, before I left Britain; and even then my income was barely enough to support a new family. But it has been a fun ride.

If I have advice for new teaching artists, it would be:

·      Find things to do that are the right things to do for you, however small at first.

·      Look for places to meet good people: people on the same wavelength as you.

·      Be as creative about your teaching are you are in your art.

Good luck!

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MALI Winter Retreat

March 6, 2019

Amazing day

The Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) held the annual Winter Retreat on Saturday at Waterville Senior High School. Thank you to music educator and teacher leader Sue Barre who provided and arranged for a space for us to meet, exchange and share ideas, and most importantly to learn from each other. This is the foundation of the MALI community.

2019 MALI Winter Retreat

I was curious about words that are related to community. On a recent google search I found the following: amity, benevolence, cordiality, friendliness, friendship, goodwill, kindliness. civility, comity, concord, harmony, rapport, charity, generosity. affinity, compassion, empathy, sympathy. chumminess, familiarity, inseparability, intimacy, nearness. affection, devotion, fondness, love. In Japanese the word is コミュニティ pronounced Komyuniti. In Greek the word is κοινότητα and pronounced koinótita. The Greek community is directly related to the culture and emerged and rose to great heights in 525 BC to 350 BC. The traditions that exist today are built on the original ideas.

When MALI educators come together the opportunity is about connecting with people, their idea, and all of those words in the previous paragraph that I found online. In addition, new learning is offered and depending on individual experiences educators enter the conversation from their own place. Everyone is a learner no matter how much experience they have with teaching, learning and/or living. MALI teacher leaders and teaching artist leaders range in teaching experience from 2 years to 49 years.

On Saturday we revisited the work that teacher leaders and teaching artist leaders have underway in this phase (8) of MALI. During this session we looked at the MALI “This We Believe” statements that are each defined. The titles include Arts Integration, Advocacy, Assessment Literacy, Creativity, Effective Educators: Teaching and Learning, Student-Centered Learning, Teacher Leadership and Social Responsibility. The revised definitions will be posted soon for each topic. I’m sure you’ll all agree that these are critical topics to the success of teaching and learning in arts education.

We were fortunate to have Brittany Ray, Director of TREE (Transforming Rural Experience in Education) speak with us about ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and how trauma interrupts the brains capacity to learn. Heavy stuff but so worthwhile to learn more. I will write more about this in later blog posts.

We had a chance to paint using Process Painting as a jumping off place. Listening to music and painting provided an opportunity to think about where we were as educators. And, the day finished out with information on HundrED and the resources and opportunities the organization provides. It’s difficult not to get excited about an organization that believes that the purpose of education is to help every child flourish, no matter what happens in life. HundrED is looking for Youth Ambassadors so if you have students who are interested in leading check out their Youth Ambassadors webpage.

The last of the Phase 8 MALI Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders stories will be posted this next Tuesday on the blog. I hope you’ve had a chance to read about their journey’s.

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MALI Teacher Leader Story: Anthony Lufkin

February 26, 2019

Art Educator

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

Anthony Lufkin

Anthony Lufkin currently teaches art in RSU #40, at three small schools, including Friendship Village School, Prescott Memorial School, and Union Elementary School. In addition, Anthony teaches a weekly class at Rivers Alternative Middle School which is on the same premises as Union Elementary. This is Anthony’s 12thyear teaching; 4 years at Sedomocha Elementary in Dover-Foxcroft, 4 years at Appleton Village School in Appleton, and the rest in his current position. Presently, he has about 300 students that he sees once a week for about 40 minutes.

What do you like best about being an arts educator?

I like to create, whether for aesthetics or function, it is a gratifying experience for me to use my hands, to think visually, and experiment with ideas. The collaboration of ideas that comes with teaching and learning is as exciting for me as the creation process. Teaching art in my opinion, is visually capturing what already exists in students. It is harnessing the innate characteristics of art that drive creativity, expression, innovation, investigation, and the ability to develop fine motor skills.  It is a powerful tool, and a great opportunity. It is being immersed in the subject, refining skills, pushing creative boundaries, sharing ideas, and celebrating successes. While the logistics of the educational field may have its difficulties, I find the interaction with students, the development of ideas, and the growth in understanding and skill development in both students and myself, very rewarding.

One other thing I appreciate most about art education, is that I can help students respond to ideas through artistic mediums by developing their skills, knowledge, and understanding of the materials and therefore begin to understand the potential for communication. When students are able to make connections, transfer and apply their learning outside of the art room, it is both a fulfilling and motivating experience. Knowing what I am teaching them has application and seeing them utilizing it not only justifies what I do, but inspires me to develop more thought provoking, interconnected, and inspiring teaching practices

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

Three important components to a successful VPA program in my opinion, are resources, flexibility, and support.

Having access to quality resources will help define how students perceive art. This does not necessarily mean having the cake made for you, but having the materials and tools to make it.  There is a distinct difference in feeling if you are working in a shared space versus having a designated studio space. The same applies to materials. We don’t need to give oil paints to kindergarteners, but we need to use materials the same way we project high expectations on students if we expect them to value the experience.

One of the nice things about teaching art is that it is more expansive than linear, allowing for more flexibility in curriculum than most subjects. It does not mean just doing whatever, but rather having the ability to experiment, to find new ways to connect with students, and to try new methods and materials. Making progressive and relevant changes is important in education and requires at least some experimentation to implement. This flexibility also allows room for educators to connect more with their students interests, making the information relevant and creating applicable associations for students. I firmly believe there is still a linear progression to art education, however, there are many pathways to getting there. Having the ability to customize it to a specific audience, will create a more relatable and impactful experience.

Similar to resources, perception of the art program is important to student engagement. Having the support of administration, colleagues, parents and community members, not only makes our job easier, it also creates a positive assumption in students that there is value in what we do. When parents and teachers are engaged with what is happening, students naturally develop a stronger sense of importance. What a community values can easily be seen in its children. If we are to have a successful VPA program, we need to build and foster support.

How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?

I have found informal assessment to be an invaluable tool in developing student growth both in skills, and conceptual understanding. Being able to respond to students throughout the process allows me to interject when students are struggling, and to provide support to help them understand the components of techniques and expression of ideas. With the limited amount of time I have with students, I have found verbal formative assessments to be the most beneficial and productive to students’ growth. I also include some critiquing components such as visual thinking skills when looking artwork to help students analyze and create meaning. Helping them create meaning is as important as helping them create.

MALI Critical Friend Day, November 2018

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the Maine Arts Leadership initiative?

I joined MALI this year after talking to several other VPA educators that recommended it. I was aware of its existence but not really sure about its application. Becoming involved with MALI has been motivational, providing a platform for creating improvements. Through the collaborative exercises, the processes of feedback, and the access to resources, it has helped me begin a pathway to creating improvement I would have otherwise thought incapable of happening. There is always room for improvement. Using MALI as a platform has already helped foster more impact on making some of those improvements a reality. There is a lot of work to do within my logic model, but I feel confident through this process that I will be able to influence the necessary stakeholders to move in a positive direction.

What are you most proud of in your career?

As I continue in the teaching profession, there are a few things that really motivate me, and keep invested in my work. Visual culture is such a huge and underrated component of society so creating awareness has always been a driving factor for me. To create awareness, I have sought to create opportunities for students to see how art is integrated throughout life experiences and give them the tools to actively participate in communication through visual literacy. I am proud of the integrated, collaborative, and extracurricular opportunities I have been able to provide students.

As students develop, there is a gradual shift from the creativity and skill development of traditional art mediums to a more social awareness that tends to start a gradual decline in participation and eventually interest in art. I know most students enjoy creating, but it becomes a balance of time, a self-conscious view of abilities and self, and drive towards financial stability that stifles their continued growth.  Creating opportunities that make connections for students, has helped to keep them engaged, and helped them see the relevance and possibilities that art can have on their lifestyle and career. Not everyone will make a career out of art, but everyone can and should appreciate it for what is, as a reflection of humanity.

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

Currently, one of my biggest obstacles is the logistics of my position. Being an itinerant teacher, and only seeing students once a week makes it very difficult to create any continuity. Just working in separate spaces, toting materials between schools, working in a gymnasium for the majority of my classes are a few of the difficulties of the position.

Another difficult component to teaching art in my position are the natural interruptions that cause missed classes. There have been times that I have not seen students over the course of a month due to snow days, field trips, sick days, etc. It is very hard to maintain sequential learning without continuity and to teach transferable concepts, when students don’t have enough time and access to the material.

And, of course time.

Anthony at the Gala celebrating the Maine Teacher of the Year educators. Anthony is the 2018 Knox County Teacher of the Year.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

Something I have spent a lot of time on is the development of curriculum and lesson plans that are both relevant and engaging. The more times I teach something, the more connections I can make, and the more clearly I see the effectiveness. My “curriculum” is as it should be, is in constant flux.  There are some tried and true lessons I do not change much, but most are adapted regularly and I am constantly on the lookout for better ways to build skills and convey concepts. I am sure it looks like any other art class to most, but there are many details and research I have put into my process.  Understanding developmental levels, how to have high but reasonable standards, how to structure building blocks of learning both over the course of a year and over several years, are all important aspects that may not be noticed but I believe make a huge difference in how effective and art education can be.

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

Teaching is a social service. It is not a lucrative job and success is not based on a financial scale. It is though, one of the most rewarding occupations one can have. You are given the opportunity to influence the future more than anyone else. It is a powerful and humbling experience.

There is the saying that there are two types of people, those that work to live, and those that live to work. There should be a balance though, being self-aware and allowing time to step back, is crucial to the longevity of a successful teaching career. It is also important to work in a field you enjoy. However, to truly appreciate something, you need to be able to see it from other perspectives as well so it is important to take a step back every once in a while. There is the quote by Marc Anthony, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”. True to some degree, though I would argue that all success requires hard work. Being able to see the big picture and being passionate about it, gives a sense of accomplishment and gratitude to the work that is being done. I like the quote by Dr. J a little better: “Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don’t feel like doing them”.

Some other advice, be passionate. If you’re not excited about it, neither will your students. Even if it’s not your favorite thing to teach, teach it with enthusiasm. Being passionate is projected and will create interest.

Finally, have a plan, and a back-up plan, and maybe even plan C. There can be many difficulties to teaching whether it is specific students, administration, parents, access to materials or resources, etc. If you are not prepared for these, they can derail you. If you are though, you can take them in stride, and not let them cripple your perspective on teaching. You’ll also look good doing it.

MALI Summer Institute, August 2018, USM

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

I feel like the most fiscally responsible thing to do with such a large amount of money would be to invest it. Using the interest, I would think I would be able to create a system of sustainable growth contributing to the enhancements of the art programs and facilities in my district and community first, then possibly expand to other areas of the state.

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

I do and would regret opportunities I was not able to take advantage of. We only have one life to live so I think it is important to make the most of it. However, if we are always trying to take advantage of opportunities, it is easy to get burnt out and lose focus on what matters. It is important to see and appreciate the little things that make life so great. One of the benefits of having a job directly focused in art, is that it encourages me to take time to look closely at things, to identify and appreciate the subtleties that make life so interesting.

So, my regrets don’t mean I am disappointed with the direction my life has and will go. The events in my life have shaped who I am. The path I have taken has sculpted the way I think, interact, and of course teach. Therefore, it is the destiny I have put forth. Plus, I teach art for a living. I think that’s hard to beat.

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MALI Teaching Artist Leader Story: Kerry Constantino

February 19, 2019

Teaching Artist – Dancer

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

Kerry Constantino

Kerry Constantino began teaching dance to kids right out of college when she graduated college in 2003. Even though she really enjoyed teaching, Kerry felt like she needed more time and experience just creating art. She stepped away from teaching and turned her focus towards developing her technique, studying movement and choreographic theory, and participating in the practice and creation of dance for herself and others. Nearly a decade later, Kerry found herself wanting to teach again, so she applied and was accepted in the San Diego Young Audiences Teaching Artist Training, where she re-learned a lot of things that would prepare her for her role as  a teaching artist. And, she loved it! Kerry really feel at home working with all members of the community. Whether through a school residency or at a private studio, she finds that working with dancers of all ages is so satisfying.

What do you like best about being a teaching artist?

I love being a teaching artist because people, especially young people, are natural dancers.           Giving people permission to move, when so often in a school and work setting, we are told to stay sedentary, is one of my greatest joys.

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

I have no idea what would be the key to having a successful arts education, however, I think the thing that stops people from having a successful arts education is a pressure from society that the arts are not valid, or that they are superfluous. The arts give us tools to be creative problem solvers, to think three-dimensionally, and to have the confidence to improvise if we need to. I think all kinds of industries and workplace environments benefit when there are artists at the table.

Have you found assessment to be helpful in your classes, workshops and residencies, and if so, how?

Assessment is part and parcel to being a teaching artist. Whether I’m teaching 3 year olds or 70 year olds, having tools to assess how my students are understanding me is important. When teaching dance, so much is dependent on being a clear communicator, I want my students to dance articulately, safely, and joyfully. Knowing how much of my information is getting across is accomplished through using assessment throughout class.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative?

I have loved my experiences learning with the other educators in the MALI. It has been inspirational to hear their stories and learn from what they are currently practicing in their classrooms. Learning from other teachers and seeing how they organize and strategize their teaching techniques is invaluable.

What are you most proud of as an artist and/or a teaching artist?

I think what I am most proud of in my art is that I haven’t gotten stuck with just one medium. I began as a dancer, but over the years I have continued to be a voracious learner in many different mediums. I don’t think I will ever be satisfied just practicing and teaching one thing, there is so much more to learn. As I have learned new mediums I’ve incorporated it into my own art and into my teaching as well. Sometimes it feels like I’m a bit of a “Jack of all trades” it’s during those times that I remind myself that if I stop learning new things, then I have stopped growing.

Kerry Constantino

What gets in the way of doing a better job as a teaching artist?

I think that the biggest challenge for me as a teaching artist is navigating the process of finding residencies. I still feel really new to teaching, so I’m hoping this gets easier the more that I do it. I tend to retreat a bit when it comes to pursuing residencies because I feel like there are other people who are doing what I do, but with more experience and better. I talk myself out of things a lot and I think this is all born out of fear.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

Everything. I have spent years pushing and finding a way to continue as a dancer and movement artist. Sometimes it feels too hard, like if being a dancer and choreographer is this hard, then I just shouldn’t do it, but for some crazy reason I keep going. Every piece of choreography I have shown, every informal performance, every single time I have made dance and shown it there has been a period during my creative process that has felt impossible.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a teaching artist or is just starting out?

Go for it! Practice saying what you want to say to your students before you are actually in front of a class. Write down everything. Get a calendar and use it. Don’t worry if you get flustered on the first day and forget your whole lesson plan, you will be ok!

MALI Summer Institute, August 2018, USM

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

There is so much I could do with $500,000. I have always hoped to own a home that would have a dance/art/movement studio in it. Dance requires a lot of open space, so I think that would be a big thing for me, to have a proper studio where I could hold classes and have informal performances in my own home. One of my first dance teachers lived in a huge old victorian house and the “ballroom” was her dance studio. It is definitely a dream of mine to do that. Oh, and more travel, I have terrible wanderlust.

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

If I make it to be 94, I hope that I can see that all of my choices were what made my long beautiful life. I can’t say there would be any regrets at this point.

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POL Northern Regional Finals

January 31, 2019

Amazing High School Students

Five Northern Maine Finalists: Shaphnah McKenzie, Emma Jacot-Descombes, Magnolia Vandiver, Hanna Lavenson, Emily Campbell

At Hampden Academy earlier this week students, teachers and families traveled from different parts of Maine to recite poetry. The Maine Arts Commission held the Poetry Out Loud (POL) Northern Maine Regional Finals in conjunction with the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Students have been practicing and reciting poems in schools across the state and country since early in fall. For the event they had prepared three recitations and wowed the audience with their amazing performances.

We’re so proud of the following students who participated. The names with stars are the five students moving onto the state finals on March 11 at the Waterville Opera House, 3:00 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. All are welcome!

  • Hanna Lavenson, Messalonskee High School **
  • Emily Campbell, Waterville High School **
  • Emma Damboise, Hampden Academy
  • Kate Kemper, Camden Hills Regional High School
  • Maria Dottie, Winthrop High School
  • DiamondRose Dunfee-Platt, Searsport High School
  • Rebecca Collins, Presque Isle High School
  • Emma Jacot-Descombes, Rangeley Lakes Regional High School **
  • Magnolia Vandiver, George Stevens Academy **
  • Shaphnah McKenzie, Bangor High School **
  • Elias Miller, Medomak Valley High School
  • Neily Raymond, Hermon High School
  • Kaitlyn Bilodeau, Leavitt Area High School
  • Kaitlyn Carreira, John Bapst Memorial High School
  • Shelby Skipper, Gardiner Area High School

The Southern Regional Finals will take place on Monday, February 11, 3:00, Westbrook Middle School Performing Arts Center. For more information about the Poetry Out Loud program please go the POL pages at the Maine Arts Commission website.

 

 

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2019 MALI Mega Conference

January 30, 2019

Friday, March 15

The Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) will provide a Mega-regional conference at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in South Paris, Maine on Friday, March 15, 8:30 a.m. – 3:15 p.m. All educators, PK-higher education are invited to participate in this professional development opportunity in arts education. Workshop facilitators are Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) teacher leaders and teaching artist leaders from all eight phases of MALI. These educators are providing dynamic work that they’ve been engaged with themselves, some for many years.

Below are the descriptions for the workshops being offered. You will have the opportunity to register for three of these workshops.

  Register for the 2018 Mega-Regional Workshop

Date and Location

Friday, March 15, 2019, Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, South Paris

Schedule

  • 8:30 a.m. Registration begins
  • 9:00 a.m. Opening
  • 9:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Breakout Session I
  • 10:30 a.m. – 10:40 a.m. Break
  • 10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Breakout Session II
  • 12:00 p.m. – 12:45 p.m. Lunch, participants on their own
  • 12:45 p.m. – 1:45 p.m. Artist Showcase
  • 1:50 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Breakout Session III
  • 3:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. Closing

Contact hours

5.5 contact hours will be provided to those participating in the full day of the MALI Mega-regional conference at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.

REGISTRATION

What does “arts accessibility” mean? Presented by Shawna Barnes

PreK-12 All content

Description

Shawna will share the five key definitions of arts accessibility and what they may look like in the classroom/studio. Participants will learn how to break through these barriers to access, with a few creative solutions.

Sandbox Composing Presented by Joe Cough

Grade 6-Adult Music

Joe will demonstrate how easy it can be to compose music. With participation from the group, we will create a new piece of music with numbers (and talk about other ways to write music too). Risk taking and mistakes will be the driving force of this workshop.

Arts and Community Outreach: “The Stories We’ve Been Told – Preserving the Histories of our Elders” Presented by Kris Bisson

Middle School Chorus, applicable to multi-disciplines and all levels

Reaching beyond the walls of the classroom to explore learning provides many valuable opportunities for both the students and those they collaborate with. Kris will share her students’ current project, monthly visits to a retirement home where the students interview residents to capture their stories, games, pastimes, and events that shaped their lives. Students take these stories and create a multi-movement choral composition to be performed in our Spring 2019 concert.

Students will experience cross-curricular collaboration that moves the arts to the heart of curriculum. Interconnected learning provides students of all learning styles an opportunity to demonstrate and share understanding and knowledge learning using the creative process.

We will compose in the workshop and share ideas that can be used directly in your area of study.

The Possibilities of Full Choice Presented by Shalimar Poulin Chassé

Grade 6-12 Visual Art

A story of a developing full choice approach to art making, hard copy and link-based resources (including student project proposal form, course expectation student guide, self direction management aid, rubrics, do’s and don’t’s, examples of student works, and access to slide presentation) to assist the wild-spirited, brave, and trusting (or crazy) to dive in feet first or the perhaps wiser ginny-pig with an appetite for a savory taste. All wild-spirits and ginny-pigs welcome!

Music & Math Presented by Lindsay Pinchbeck & Tom Luther

Grades 1-12 Music

Lindsay and Tom will share their experiences teaching music and math as a single domain. Using simple, open ended tasks, they will show how to help students make connections between these two normally specialized subjects, and how other “rabbit holes” can be discovered along the way.

Adding Choice to Art History Presented by Cindi Kugell

Middle/High School Visual Art (ele welcome)

Choice-Based Art classrooms are working studios where students learn through authentic art making. Control shifts from teacher to learner as students explore ideas and interests in art media of their choice. This concept supports multiple modes of learning to meet the diverse needs of our students. We’ll chat about how to add choice to a studio art history course (without offering centers) and through the hands-on creation of artist trading cards.

Zines Presented by Samantha Armstrong

Elementary Visual Art

Informational Zines or mini magazines are a great way to bring writing into the art room. In this workshop we will look at combining informational writing with drawing techniques and tools to create unique zines. We will look at student examples, strategies and tools for teaching an arts/literacy integrated unit and have time to create a zine. Once complete zines are easy to photocopy and are always fun to share with classmates and the school community.

Theater as a Life Skill Presented by Nicole Cardano

PreK-12 All content

Play lets us shake off anything unwanted and connect with those that we are with.  Foundational practices of improvisational theater: Listening, Eye Contact, Respect, Support, YesAnd as well as Embracing Mistakes will be discussed and exercised.  Sharing observations and experiences as a student, teacher and general human.

Students Reflective Response & the Digital Process-Folio Presented by Melanie Crowe

Grade 6-High School Visual Art – applicable to all beyond art room

The use of reflective practice allows students the opportunities to gauge their understanding along the process of creating. As students regularly document their experiences throughout process of art making it provides opportunities for discussion and conversation between student & self, student & peers, and student & teacher. These conversations provide checkpoints for reflective practice and growth.

Pre-Assessment: Misconceptions & Building Stronger Student Achievement Presented by Iva Damon

PreK-12 All content

Let’s dive into the misconceptions surrounding pre-assessment and look at easy ways to implement strategies into the classroom that work for both teacher and student.

Practical Self-Care for Teachers – Beyond Bubble Baths and Barre Class Presented by Elise Row

PreK-12 All content

This workshop was born out of necessity. Elise will share her personal experience of confronting the topic of self-care as an elementary visual arts teacher. This ever evolving workshop will provide teachers, artists, and busy people in general tools, resources, insight, and reminders to support their growth and practice of self-care.

Photos from the 2018 MALI Mega at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.

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Dance Education Funding

January 29, 2019

Schools/districts apply by January 31, 2019

AUGUSTA-January 23, 2019—The power of dance is alive in Maine schools thanks to a Dance Education Grant offered by the Maine Arts Commission that is available to PK-12 schools and teaching artists until January 31, 2019. Applicants can apply for awards up to $2,500 to fund a dance residency in their school district.

Teaching Artist Nancy Salmon with students at Freeport High School

Dance education makes a difference in children’s lives and creativity. Yet only five percent of all schools in Maine offer opportunities in this artistic discipline, according to the Arts Education Census study conducted in 2016 by the Maine Arts Commission.

The Dance Education Grant emphasizes high quality learning experiences for students and educators through a series of residencies that are administrated by teaching artists from the Arts Commission’s Teaching Artist Roster. Each residency is designed to teach the art of movement, performance, creative expression, and teamwork.

Freeport High School students rehearsing their dance

During this past school year, the dance education grant funded residencies at Freeport High School and Maranacook Middle School. Nancy Salmon, a teaching artist listed on the Arts Commission’s teaching artist roster, provided the instruction.

“The students know that dance is more than memorized steps,” Salmon said, reflecting on her residency program at Freeport High School that collaborated with the theater program. “They know how dance movement can enhance meaning of words in a script and how all dance and movement have elements in common. I believe all of us, teacher, students and visiting artist, have honed our adaptation, flexibility, and focus skills.”

Freeport High School students rehearsing their dance

Applying what they learned in the dance residency program, the Freeport theater class wrote a play based on three thematic stories, and then performed the piece as an interactive workshop for all second graders in the Freeport school district.

“The dance education grant is intended as seed money to grow a dance program,” said Argy Nestor, Director of Arts Education at the Maine Arts Commission. “This funding provides a unique opportunity, one that I hope all schools without dance ed curriculum in place will take advantage and apply.”

Collaborators – Teaching Artist Nancy Salmon and Freeport High School Theater teacher Natalie Safely

Funding for the grant is made possible through an annual dance performance presented by two schools and ten dance studios in collaboration with Thornton Academy dance educator and Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Teacher Leader Emma Arenstam Campbell.

Dance Education Grant guidelines application criterion is listed at www.MaineArts.com. Applications will be accepted until Thursday, January 31, 2019.The Commission encourages PK-12 educators or teaching artists to review the guidelines prior to applying. The funding cycle for the grant must take place September 1, 2019 through March 30, 2020.

For more information visit the grants and the teaching artist roster webpages at www.MaineArts.com.

For questions regarding the grants or current teaching roster, contact Argy Nestor, Director of Arts Education at 207-287-2713 or email at argy.nestor@maine.gov.

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