Posts Tagged ‘Another Arts Teacher’s Story’

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MALI Teacher Leader Story: David Coffey

March 27, 2018

Music Educator

This is one of several blog posts in 2018 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 7 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 93 Teacher Leaders and 8 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 David for sharing your story!

David Coffey currently teaches music grades 6-12 for RSU 71 in Belfast. He is in his 15th year of teaching but only 4th year at RSU 71. He currently teach choirs grades 6-12, 6th grade general music, and high school modern band serving around 170 students. Outside of the school day he serves as music director for the middle school and high school musical productions, teach an a cappella group called Belfast Voices, and serve as Department Chair for the high school Visual and Performing Arts Department.

What do you like best about being a music educator?

I like the opportunity to open student’s minds to new discoveries.  Though it’s great when those discoveries are academically focused, social and civic discoveries are equally important to the building the lives of our students.  At the beginning of my career I adopted a vocal music motto; Building lives and voices with song. That is the essence of what I believe as a vocal music instructor and it brings me great joy when I am privileged enough to see it happen.  

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

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

The assessment practices I have developed over the past three years, online individualized vocal assessments based on voice type and level, enable me to enter into one on one digital conversations with students in ways that I was previously not able to in an ensemble setting.  Using Google Classroom as a platform I am able to assess students individually without losing any rehearsal time. The assessments I offer provide students an experience where they are able to learn a song on their own, record a video of it, receive feedback from me, reflect on and respond to that feedback by correcting their performance until standards are met.  This allows them to see and hear vocal growth as they continue through the choral program.

David’s students performing at Point Lookout for the arts and economic impact Maine Arts Commission luncheon.

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

By becoming involved in MALI I have encountered new colleagues, been given access to new resources and new ways of thinking, and because of those things I have grown as an educator.  The ultimate goal is growth, whether it be mentally, physically, spiritually, professionally or in the case of MALI, a growth fusion. In order to grow we must first acknowledge that there is room to grow (there always is!) and then seek or seize the opportunities as they arise.  I didn’t really know what to expect when I agreed to be involved but I am glad I did.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of the relationships I have built with the staff, students, parents, and the communities where I have worked over the course of my 15 years in education. Though not always easy and while this taken many forms it is always wonderful when the people involved feel a sense of satisfaction, self-worth, and joy. Whether it be working with students and audience members at concerts, preparing students for festivals, getting volunteers for our annual mattress sale, or lending a voice at a school board meeting we, as an education community, have academic, social, and civic responsibilities that we must see through together. What we do as educators, administrators, parents, and community members matters. How we support one another matters. Though not always perfect I am choosing to focus on the positive (or should I say “Accentuate the Positive”) things that have happened to me as an educator and hopefully the contributions I have made have helped to positively shape the lives of the educational communities I have been a part of.

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

David’s students taking a break from performing at Point Lookout for the arts and economic impact Maine Arts Commission luncheon

One word answer, me…okay, so maybe the answer isn’t quite that simple but that is pretty much the case.  Is it true that there are plenty of external factors at work? Yes, but ultimately it is me. Time is one of the biggest things I complain about; not enough time to do this because of that and not enough time to do that because of this. Let’s face it, there’s a lot on our plates. However, while all of that is true, I am starting to realize that maybe there isn’t enough time because I haven’t set limits for myself. Why haven’t I set these limits I might ask myself? Do the words guilt, pride, or ego ring a bell? I want so badly to do a “good” job and help as many people as possible but at the end of the day I haven’t always done a very good job of taking time to take care of me. It’s the whole analogy of putting on your air safety mask in the case of an emergency on an airplane. You can’t help your neighbor until you have put your mask on first. I don’t want to sound selfish or come across as thinking only about myself but this year I am trying to put my mask on first. Yes, I am very busy still but I am taking some time to focus on things I want to do, things that help me feel more refreshed, more energized. Do I have it all figured out? No, of course not, who does? Am I trying, am I doing my best given the circumstances I have to work with? You bet, it’s all I can do sometimes! What are you doing you might ask? Exercise was completely squeezed out of my schedule last year and it has taken its toll. While the toll was more mental than physical, it was noticeable. Knowing that exercise was an important part of my life that was missing I had to make some adjustments to my schedule and expectations of myself to add it back in. I am still working it out but I am glad I am trying, it has helped me and those around me immensely.

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

Before I moved to Maine I worked for 10 years as a choral and eventually modern band (rock band) director serving students grades 6-12. I also directed the music for the fall musical, had an extra curricular a cappella group, and served on various committees here and there. Pretty standard fare for an Ohio music teacher.

However, when I moved to Maine all of that changed. I found myself teaching concert band grades 6-12, high school chorus, guitar class, directing music for both the high school and middle school musical, directing pep band, jazz band, an a cappella group, and trying to do all of the stuff that comes along with being a teacher. Can’t you just hear the Simon and Garfunkel song “The 59th Street Bridge Song?” “Slow down, you move to fast…Gotta make the moment last….” Needless to say, I was not “feelin’ groovy!” Staffing cuts in our department prior to my arrival had eventually led to an unsustainable system with holes in our course offerings and a ½ time position in our band program that we feared was going to become a revolving door (not helpful when trying to build a program). Over the course of 4 years and in collaboration with the district music staff, administration, and school board we were able to shuffle the staff around in a way that better served the needs of our students, schools, and us as music teachers. It wasn’t easy and I even resigned and got rehired along the way but it was worth it in order to provide a higher quality, more consistent music education to our student population.

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

David’s students performing at Point Lookout for the arts and economic impact Maine Arts Commission luncheon

Be patient and don’t spread yourself too thin, set limits. In our efforts to provide high quality arts education we can sometimes fall into the trap of trying to do everything at once. In my case, I see a new lesson or concept and want to try it out right away but without considering the artistic process of preparation, incubation, illumination, and implementation. It usually is more like instant implementation that leads to serious inflammation! Be patient, sit with the lesson or concept for a while, let it incubate, so that you can enter deeply into it not just scratch the surface. You have plenty of time to do it.

Arts educators do amazing work and are often give less time to do it. That being said I know that I am guilty of spreading myself so thin that I get to a point where I feel overwhelmed by it all, crushed under the pressure (again, can’t you hear the chorus of “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie….”Pressure, pushing down on me, pressing down on you, no man ask for”). I say yes to this and yes to that and by the end I am doing way too much at once and can’t really do a great job at anything. We have to learn to set limits. We don’t set limits because we aren’t willing to be helpful, we set limits because we want to be able to be helpful. Think about the oxygen mask emergency training given on airplanes (yep, here it is again!).  In order to be able to help others you have to put on your mask first. You won’t do any good passed out on the floor.

Be yourself and listen. You have a core, a center to who YOU are. Am I saying not to look to others as role models and guides?  Absolutely not, but I am saying to follow your inner voice and to be corny and quote Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true.” Always, period! You can learn a new concept but learn how to put it in your own words, use your own voice. People crave authenticity, they can smell phony a mile away. Don’t forget to listen to those older and younger than you, you might learn something. Age doesn’t always mean more wisdom, sometimes the greatest learning you can do is by listening to your students. Trust me, they love to know that they taught the teacher something new and what a lesson that is for them to learn!

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

I regret the way I approached my first year of teaching. I was trying so hard to be like my mentor and try things in a way that wasn’t true to myself and I ended up doing some damage to my program that took a couple of years to fix and rebuild. I forgot to take the advice I would now give to new teachers, be yourself and listen. I wanted to build a program the same way other people did and not listen to the advice of those around me. That being said, if we truly believe that education is lifelong and is about growth then we must also learn to apply that to ourselves as educators and be insistent, persistent, and consistent in that belief. I desire and try to be flexible in all things but to me it is important to always be a learner, that is non-negotiable!

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MALI Teacher Leader Story: Cindi Kugell

March 6, 2018

Visual Art Educator

This is the first of several blog posts in 2018 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 7 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 93 Teacher Leaders and 8 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 Cindi for sharing your story!

Cindi Kugell is currently teaching High School Visual arts. She was fortunate to find an open teaching position just after graduating from the University of Maine Orono and has been happily teaching art for the past 28 years. Cindi’s first teaching assignment was in SAD#58 teaching at 2 K8 schools. In 1998 my husband, 2 young children and I moved to Oxford and started teaching in SAD#17 in the Oxford Hills K6. In 2000 we added a third child to our tribe and our family was complete. Fast forward to 2010 and a position opened at our high school. I made another move to Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School to teach darkroom photography and introductory Art 1 courses. Over the past 8 years I’ve added Adaptive Arts, Drama, Yearbook, Advanced Photography, and Studio Art History to my teaching load and have taken on the roll of K12 Visual Art department chair. I am also the Yearbook advisor and Lead teacher for our Project Graduation group. I like to stay busy!

What do you like best about being an art educator?

What are the positives of having the best job EVAH!? At the K-8 level one of the “bests” was getting to see EVERY student in the school and building lasting relations with them over time – year after year after year! Most teachers don’t get the opportunity to really know their students (and their families) as they grow up. My first year teaching at the high school level I had the unique opportunity to have Seniors in my classes that I had first 13 years previous as Kindergarten students, nothing is cooler than that! I love my job, there isn’t anything that I’d rather be doing. Who wouldn’t love the celebrity status that comes with knowing so many students, building positive relationships with them and their families, building skills in talented children and getting to play with art materials all day while teaching a subject that you love?!

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

I think that one of the biggest ways that arts educators can offer their students success in the arts is in the way or the “how” that they present problems to their students. If students feel confident and non-threatened in by the process of creating and realize that there are multiple solutions to problems they feel free to flourish. Releasing students from the fear of being wrong is a great part of a successful program. Another way that

Teachers can foster success in their programs is by letting their students know that skill in the arts can be increased just as math, English or any other core subject can be build upon. By letting them know that it’s your job (and your pleasure!) to help them get better and grow as an art student, you can relieve some of the pressure they may feel while in your classroom. Meeting student where they are and moving them forward is the job of all educators, some of us just get to have more fun with the supplies that they use to get students to their best! A well rounded education is important to student success. So are the skills of creative problem solving and critical thinking. The arts are a fantastic, hands on way of fostering those skills in students. I’m fortunate in my district to be very well supported in what I do and how I teach. Teachers and administration see the value of a well rounded education and the roll that the arts play in student success.

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

My current jam in the world of assessment and reporting is a single point universal project rubric. This style of rubric has only the descriptors for the proficient level of achievement listed down the center. To the left is a box that I can write descriptive feedback to my students on what needs improvement or isn’t going well and to the right there is an area that I can write things that were amazing or outstanding in their project. Kids love the comments and the opportunity to go back and make adjustments to their work. It takes a long time to assess this way, but as it’s a universal rubric for all projects there is a clarity for students as they navigate through work in the art room.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the Maine Arts Leadership initiative? I think the biggest benefit for me is the networking with other teachers. It’s easy to become comfortable on your own little teaching Island and get stuck in a pattern or “the same old”. Learning new things, meeting others that share your discipline and making those colleague connections helps to keep things fresh and inspiring in teaching for me and for my students.

What are you most proud of in your career? The first thing that comes to mind is the fact that I had my own 3 children in my classroom K12. When they were in Elementary I taught at their schools and when I made the transition to the High School level I had them there as well. It’s a unique opportunity to see your own children as learners and know that they are great people! They also have given me great feedback on my lessons, organization and classroom routines that have been very reaffirming. Nobody is more critical than your own children on the crazy things you do to inspire students! I’m proud of my 28 years in art education and proud of the great students (and children!) that I’ve raised during my career.

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher? I think the age old comment of “time” is the biggest obstacle in becoming a better teacher. It takes a huge amount of the stuff to do your job well. Staying current with educational practices in this ever changing landscape can be exhausting. Pair that with extra curricular activities, leadership roles, teaching, parenting and family life and you’ve got a full 24 hours in each day – oh, and try to rest up in there as well!

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances? Starting in this district as a part time elementary art teacher, moving to full time elementary then stepping up to the High School level and finally ending up as the leader of our K12 art department has taken a fair amount of hard work and determination. I wouldn’t change a thing and can’t thank my colleagues enough for their support and hard work this year. It’s amazing to work with such a great team of educators and I’m thankful for that everyday!

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers? Get your masters while you are young and never stop taking courses or PD to improve your teaching skills. As educators we need to keep learning just as we expect our students to learn from us. Stay current, advocate for yourself and your program and LOVE what you do.

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be? Education is so grossly underfunded that I can think of a plethora of activities, programs and equipment that would be amazing to add to our district. I think the most pressing issue that I’d apply the funds to would be to increase the base pay of our new young teachers to entice them into the profession. I know teaching isn’t all about the money and has it’s own rewards, but we need new qualified educators in our field and we need to validate the importance of the profession and celebrate it accordingly.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets? I have truly enjoyed my career. My only regret is in not continuing my education by getting my masters. I’m working on it now, but do wish that I’d taken that step earlier. I can remember starting out as a new teacher and thinking to myself “I’ll do this for 5 years or so then change to something else”. Well, 28 years later I’m still here and loving every minute of it! Every day is a great day to learn something new and my students teach me something new every day.

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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Jean Phillips

April 11, 2017

MALI Teacher Leaders Series

This is the seventh blog post of the Phase 6 Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teacher Leader stories. This series includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about the work each Maine visual or performing arts teacher or artist is doing.  CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 81 Teacher Leaders plus 4 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. There have been 77 posted to date. Thank you Jean for sharing your story!

Jean Phillips has been a teacher at Wiscasset Middle High School for fifteen years. Originally hired to teach English, but, in 2008, when the drama coach and director left, she picked up the three drama classes. In 2010, when the person hired to direct the One Act Festival play suddenly quit, the opportunity to direct came along. The following year, Jean was “hired” to teach three drama classes: Acting Workshop, Children’s Theatre, and Tech Theatre Design and to direct the two yearly productions. She has been doing both “jobs” ever since. Presently, Jean also teaches the 8th Grade drama component of their Allied Arts program. Her  yearly responsibilities include two public performances – one in the fall and the One Acts Festival piece – creating, building, or procuring all the sets, costumes, and props, as well as the maintenance, storage, and upkeep of the lights and the stage. She usually teaches nine to twelve 8th graders per quarter and 10-15 students per year in the Acting Workshop class per year; 8-12 students per year in the Children’s Theatre class; and 20 – 30 students per year in the Tech Theatre Design class. Jean’s Acting Workshop class involves teaching the terminology specific to theatre, stage positions and body positions – creating characters through analysis and fulfilling the performance standard by producing a public performance piece. Children’s Theatre begins with each student reading a children’s book, creating a story board for the book, a group decision of which play be the best to produce, writing a script, practicing together, and putting on a public performance – sometimes with children in the audience. Tech Theatre Design involves the technical aspects of theatre – specifically the design and construction off a set, sometimes the design of costumes, if time permits lighting and makeup.

What do you like best about being a theater educator?

My most favorite part of being a theatre teacher is watching students become hooked on working on the stage – either behind the scenes or as actors. I love that many disenfranchised students have found a home in theatre and even if they don’t pursue it any further than high school, they will have gained skills that will carry them throughout life.

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

The three essential things to a successful performing arts education is full support by administration, parents, and state; less interference by outside agencies; and fewer budgetary constraints.

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

I am just beginning to utilize more formative assessment in the classroom. The public performance has always been the summative assessment, but I have found it important to the success of the summative assessment if more formative assessments are given.

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

Before becoming involved in MALI, I taught my three classes and directed my plays. Now, I have never been as involved with professional development for the arts as I have this year. I have made more contacts and found advocates. I have also been able to engage more students in advocacy for the arts, too.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of two things: first, that I have been directly responsible for having students opt to become theatre arts majors in college; and two, that students who have not normally found a home in high school have found a safe haven on stage.

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

For me there are two things that get in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as an educator: people who have no idea what happens on stage telling me how to do my job – the more constraints put on me by bureaucrats makes connecting with students harder because I’m spending more time with pointless paperwork than working directly with the students; and my own inhibitions. I am not a risk-taker and feel safer with the tried and true.

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

My whole life has been about hard work and determination. I have major anxiety and live my life in stress. In spite of this, I have earned two BA’s and an MA – all because I do not believe in quitting. I broke my leg my third year of getting my MA and learned to drive with my left foot so I could continue going to class because I knew that if I took the rest of the semester off, I would never go back. I set my sights on a goal and just push forward since I’ve never been very lucky or relied on circumstances to get what I want.

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

Wow – I’d tell them there’s a fine line between keeping discipline and being a hard nose about following the rules. I’d tell them that there will be times when you won’t sleep because you’re worried, or you’re scared, or you’re frustrated, or you’re stuck – and all of those sleepless nights will be worth it when just one student comes back to thank you or remembers you fondly later in life. I’d say that no matter how much your budget gets cut just keep on keeping on. Arts education is important and students need this creative edge as well as a haven – be these things and more.

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

If I had $500,000 I would build a separate arts facility for Wiscasset Middle High School – one with adequate space and light for the visual arts, a clean, soundproof room for band and chorus, and a dedicated space for the construction of sets, the construction and storage of costumes, and a place for all performances. If this isn’t feasible due to budget constraints, I would overhaul the stage lighting, build a space for the construction and storage of sets, maybe get more tools, and have someone come in and design a much cleaner, more organized space for the lights.

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

Who doesn’t have regrets? I guess my biggest regret would be that I didn’t reach more students, especially since many of them shied away from my program because they were anxious about performing or because they were afraid of me because of what they had heard from other people. I hope to have worked on the latter before I’m 94.

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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Rick Osann

April 4, 2017

MALI Teacher Leaders Series

This is the sixth blog post of the Phase 6 Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teacher Leader stories. This series includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about the work each Maine visual or performing arts teacher or artist is doing.  CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 81 Teacher Leaders plus 4 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. There have been 76 posted to date. Thank you Rick for sharing your story!

Rick Osann teaches grades 9-12, Theatre, Film & Video at Bonny Eagle High School in Standish. He has been teaching for 13 years, 11 at Bonny Eagle. His courses include Theatre 1 and 2, Stagecraft, Film History, and Video Production. The theatre classes are all experiential learning classes. In Theatre 1 students produce a children’s play that tours the elementary schools. In Theatre 2 students write their own play and perform at an evening at the high school. In Stagecraft students design and build the scenery for the main stage productions. The Stagecraft class has won a “Set Design Commendation” at the One Act Festival for the last several years! Rick has about 80 students per term between four classes.

In addition to classes, Rick serves as Drama Club and Thespian Society Advisor. Thespian Society is a dramatics honor society sponsored by Maine Educational Theatre Association. He directs two main stage productions per year, a full length play in the fall and a one act play in the winter, taking part in the Maine Drama Festival, and Rick serves as Producer for their spring musical. In addition, he  volunteers as State Chapter Director of the Maine Educational Theatre Association.

What do you like best about being a theater educator?

I often tell my friends I get to go to work and play every day. Now, this is not saying I don’t work hard. I spend more hours working and work harder each of those hours than I did before I was teaching. The difference is that I totally believe that what I am doing is important and meaningful. When I was in high school I was totally passionate about theatre and I love having the opportunity to share this passion with students. Theatre is a place to create magic- we bring into existence whole worlds out of our imagination, and then we invite the public to live in our world for a couple of hours. It is a life-changing experience to create a moment of extraordinary beauty on the stage!

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

  • Be passionate- We need to be passionate about our art and believe it is the most important study that our students will experience in school. I often tell my students that our theatre class is the best place to learn the skills they will need to succeed in the modern world. We study and practice collaboration, creativity, communication- all the 21st century skills- and we do them with a strict deadline. Business leaders are recognizing this!
  • Love- We need to love our students and support their own passions. Sometimes this isn’t easy!
  • Learn- Keep learning something new every day.

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

It is so important for students to understand what they are doing well and where they can improve. Traditional grading methods average out student strengths and weaknesses. Proficiently Based Education (PBE) identifies for the student each individual strength and weakness and how to improve.

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

Getting a handle on PBE is challenging! Working with MALI has forced me and helped me to make my own assessment practices more genuine so they’re meaningful for my students.

What are you most proud of in your career?

We just won the Maine Drama Festival Class A State Championship!! This was pretty darn exciting. I am incredibly proud of how well my students worked together and supported each other to reach this goal. It was an honor to help these students grow and mature through their years in high school. A long time ago it was pretty spectacular working on the film, “The Muppets Take Manhattan”!

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

There is never enough time to do all the things we know we should do to help our students. I struggle to get my priorities straight to balance home, family, classes, theatre, and volunteer work. There are so many important things we can do to help our students and sometimes I worry I’m not doing any of them well enough.

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

I still consider my first teaching job to be my greatest moment of “luck”. Sylvia Pease, Superintendent of SAD #55, will always be my angel for hiring an inexperienced teacher and giving me this chance. I would like to think she recognized in all of my “non-teaching experiences” something that might be of value to students.

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

Believe in what you do and the importance of every moment you share with your students. You are making a difference in many lives. Be confident that what you do and say MATTERS, even when it looks otherwise.

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

Create more opportunities that would encourage students to get involved in theatre. Open a theatre somewhere? We went to London over February break and saw that the upcoming London production of “Hamilton” is enabling them to renovate and open a theatre that has been closed for over 50 years. Awesome!

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

When I was fresh out of graduate school, my wife encouraged me to try teaching public school. I thought it was crazy, when my degree qualified me to teach at the college level, that I would need to go back to school to teach at the high school level. What a fool I was! When I finally took the education classes after about 30 years in various careers, I realized how helpful and important they were. I don’t regret my other careers and learned a tremendous amount from the experiences, but I wish I had listened to my wife and started teaching sooner. The past 13 years have been my very best!

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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Charles Michaud

March 28, 2017

MALI Teacher Leaders Series

This is the fifth blog post of the Phase 6 Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teacher Leader stories. This series includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about the work each Maine visual or performing arts teacher or artist is doing.  CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 81 Teacher Leaders plus 4 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. There have been 75 posted to date. Thank you Charles for sharing your story!

Charles Michaud is the Pre-K – 12 music teacher at MSAD#33 in Frenchville and St. Agatha, MSAD#33 has a little less than 200 students and is located on the northern border of the state.  Charles teaches general music for grades Pre-K – 6, and offers band for students from grades 4 – 6.  This is his third year teaching at Wisdom Middle/High School and Dr. Levesque Elementary School.

What do you like best about being a music educator?

In my opinion, the best part of being a music educator are the moments when learners surprise themselves by playing or singing something impressive. They light up and gain a whole new confidence in themselves.

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

  1. Accessibility: Learners need opportunities to access the arts. While this seems like common sense from an outsider’s perspective, we all know the challenges of fitting in the schedule.
  2. Customization: A program that adapts to the abilities of the students requires customizing lessons and materials to meet the learning styles and speeds of the learners. I think that the best way to draw students into the arts is to make the arts theirs.
  3. Appropriateness: Every arts program exists within the context of the community. Make sure the goals of the program not only provides access to the broader arts world, but also has deep roots in the musical culture of the area. Many programs try to adapt the local culture to fit their music, but I think a successful program draws the community in by drawing the local musical culture into the program.

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

Assessment is a big cog in the learning machine. Assessment is communication about learning, and plays an essential role in my classroom.

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

MALI has given me access to a community of arts educators on the cutting edge of their disciplines. Our collaborations and conversations have pushed me to innovate as an arts educator, which has been all to the benefit of my students.

What are you most proud of in your career?

The strength of community in my band is what has made me the most proud in my short career.  In the end, I find that what keeps students coming back year after year is that band is their home away from home.

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

My biggest barrier to becoming a better teacher is a lack of time for developing all of the cool new lessons and methods that I would like to try. Imagine what a few solid weeks of straight lesson planning could do for a teacher!

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

Increasing the numbers in the music program has been my challenge since year one. I have been very successful in this regard, but it could easily be attributed to the great students that we have in our district.

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

Work hard and be innovative, because proficiency based education can present some very unique opportunities for the arts.

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

If my program received 500k, I would create a position that bridges the gap from arts in school and arts in the community. This would connect my students with authentic learning experiences, and give them a model context for their role in the local arts scene.

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

I have a long road to travel before I hit 94, so I will almost inevitably regret something. For now, however, I am very content with the choices that I have made. Fingers crossed!

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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Hilary Martin

March 21, 2017

MALI Teacher Leaders Series

This is the fourth blog post of the Phase 6 Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teacher Leader stories. This series includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about the work each Maine visual or performing arts teacher or artist is doing.  CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 81 Teacher Leaders plus 4 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. There have been 74 posted to date. Thank you Hillary for sharing your story!

Hilary Martin is currently working as a grades K-8 ed. tech. at the Vassalboro Community School in AOS 92. Before this year, beginning in 2013, she worked as the K-12 theatre teacher at the Vinalhaven School, where she taught K-5 drama, high school public speaking, and middle and high school electives in acting, directing, playwriting, and technical theatre and design. While at Vinalhaven Hilary also directed after-school productions.

What do you like best about being an arts educator?

Having the opportunity to help students be creators, and giving students who might not be highly successful in other classes a place where they can shine.

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

Community support, investment from administrators and colleagues, and a passionate teacher.

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

Assessment allows me to get a sense of what students have and haven’t mastered, so I know what curriculum areas to spend extra time on, and it allows me to give students useful, constructive feedback on their work.

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

Being an arts educator can often feel very isolated–a lot of time you’re the only one in the building in your subject area, and being a theatre teacher even more so, as there aren’t that many of us in the state! Being involved with MALI has been a wonderful opportunity to network and share resources with other theatre teachers.

What are you most proud of in your career?

While at Vinalhaven, I began taking students to the Maine Drama Festival. Our first year attending we placed second at the regional competition, and the program has been successful enough to continue under the new Vinalhaven theatre teacher. I’m very proud of how I was able to expand the already very strong theatre program at Vinalhaven!

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

Time, or the lack of it! With all of the responsibilities teachers have there is very little time for professional development, collaborating with colleagues, or even individual curriculum planning–all things that are crucial to being an effective educator.

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

While on Vinalhaven, I had the opportunity to become a literacy interventionist, in addition to my work as the theatre teacher. This gave me a great opportunity to improve my skills as a teacher and get to know my students in a new way. While to some extent that opportunity was a result of being in the right place at the right time, it was also a result of my own hard work and commitment to continuing my education and training.

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

Know your limits, and don’t be afraid to say no to additional commitments. Arts educators tend to love what we do a great deal, and as a result it can be easy to overextend ourselves–I know I’ve found myself in positions where I took on more than I could reasonably handle! Remember to leave yourself space for rest and recovery.

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

I would create a program to expand the number of in or after school theatre programs for elementary students. For many students, their first opportunity to participate in theatre comes in middle or high school, but elementary students can benefit just as much from being involved in theatre.

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

It’s hard to say, but I hope that by the time I reach 94 I’ll have the perspective to look back on all the moments of my life as valuable learning experiences!

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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Jaclyn Bousquet

March 9, 2017

MALI Teacher Leaders Series

This is the second blog post of the Phase 6 Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teacher Leader stories. This series includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about the work each Maine visual or performing arts teacher or artist is doing.  CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 81 Teacher Leaders plus 4 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. There have been 73 posted to date. Thank you Jackie for sharing your story!

Jaclyn Bousquet presently teaches Visual Art to grades 9-12 at Traip Academy in Kittery, ME where she has spent the majority of her five year teaching career. At Traip Academy, Jackie teaches seven visual arts courses including AP/Advanced Art, Mixed Media, Art Fundamentals, Drawing, Painting, Stained Glass, and Pottery. On average, Jackie teaches about 125 students per year with many repeating students taking multiple art courses each year. In addition to teaching art, Jaclyn is also a Co-Advisor for the class of 2017 and the S2S/Interact club.

What do you like best about being a music/art/theater/dance educator?

I love the positive relationships I have fostered with my wonderful and passionate art students. It is the most amazing feeling in the world to know that I am making an impact on these students by encouraging their creativity and exposing them to the visual arts.

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

The essentials for any successful visual and performing arts education include, community and school investment, a passionate and effective art teacher, and a budget!

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

Assessment is helpful in providing feedback to students so that they may improve upon their future work, as well as make revisions to make stronger work. Quality assessment and rubrics also validates the arts as integral to a well rounded education.

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

As the only visual arts educator in my building, I often work in isolation. Becoming involved with MALI has enabled me to network and collaborate with other visual arts teachers across the state. Working with MALI has also encouraged me to become more confident in my own leadership abilities, as I have been pushed outside of my comfort zone in creating and presenting workshops for other art educators.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am extremely proud of the partnerships I have worked so hard to create with the surrounding community over the last four years. I have collaborated with local businesses, art galleries, and community members in order to enhance student learning and advocate for the arts. As a result of my efforts, I now have three annual art shows that occur in the community, as well as other meaningful projects that encourage students to communicate and collaborate with community members outside of the classroom.

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

Time! As a teacher with seven art courses, it often feels as though I am racing time even with a block schedule. Having enough time to create meaningful and engaging lessons and art activities, provide students with meaningful feedback through assessment, and engage in professional development is extremely challenging.

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

I am lucky to be working in a community that places strong value on the arts, so I think the work involved with setting up art shows and collaborating with local businesses can easily be overlooked or underestimated. I’ve worked extremely hard to set up community partners and display student work in public spaces in order to advocate for my program.

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

As a relatively new teacher myself, there are still many things I am figuring out! The advice I would give to a new teacher, and that I often need to remind myself, is to continue making art and pursuing your own passions because it will radiate into your teaching. Additionally, I would stress the importance of changing things up and avoiding routine in the classroom. It is easy to repeat successful lessons year after year, but just like our students, it is important for us to take risks in order to learn and grow and become stronger educators.

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

The first thing I would do is revamp my classroom with new cabinetry and storage, and workstations for kids. Maybe I would create an entirely new classroom and expand our program! I would also invest in some expensive new Pottery equipment. I might create some kind of arts enrichment program or grant for schools that do not have formal arts education programs in place.

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

This is a hard question! I will be so wise by the time I am 94, that any “regrets” will be thought of as learning experiences that helped shape who I am. I believe that everything happens for a reason and that I am always exactly where I need to be and that things unfold for a purpose. In the present, I am doing what I love and would not trade a minute of it!

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