Posts Tagged ‘Another Arts Teacher’s Story’

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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Jason Bannister

February 28, 2017

MALI Teacher Leader Series

mali_v1_color_100ppiThis is the first 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 72 posted to date. Thank you Jason for sharing your story!

screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-10-11-23-pmJason Bannister presently teaches Theater to grade  7 and 8 students at the Troy Howard Middle School, RSU 71, Belfast. He has taught for 14 years, all in Belfast – 5 years at 4th grade, 3 years middle school ELA, 6 years middle school theater. Jason teaches 250 kids each year, one trimester of performing arts (theater primarily) each year for two years. He also directs the drama club productions and created the Maine Student Acting Competition.

 

What do you like best about being a theater educator?

I have the opportunity to teach something I love to kids, to expose them to theater. The best thing is seeing a student develop an interest in theater from taking the class, and maybe joining the next production onstage.

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

There needs to be support from your staff and administration. You shouldn’t have to sell the importance of theater arts education to them. There needs to be a proper space to rehearse, perform and store costumes, sets and props. And the class needs to be required, but with the understanding that not everyone is ‘into it’ – so you need to find interesting ways to teach kids about theater where they aren’t worried they’ll have to get up in front of the class.

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

I have used many different forms of formative and summative assessment in my performing arts classes. Some are helpful, but sometimes the process is more valuable than the product.

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

I was given a chance to focus on a particular unit of study I was creating for my classes. I bounced ideas off other theater teachers. I don’t get this chance very often as the only theater teacher in RSU 71.

What are you most proud of in your career?

When I see a former student go on to college and major in theater. Especially when I remember them being shy or not into theater before taking my class or being in a play/musical I directed.

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

I see some teachers using old units over and over. I am always re-inventing units or coming up with new projects. I try to keep what works well and get rid of what doesn’t. When I started my performing arts class years ago lots of kids didn’t like it. This year most kids love it. If I didn’t make changes to what and how I teach I wouldn’t be effective.

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

I guess being a performing arts teacher in a middle school where the class is mandatory for kids to take. I worked hard to get this class created. There just aren’t lots of programs in Maine like what I’ve created. I am honored to have my job, but it’s been (and continues to be) a long road.

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

Fight the mindset some people have about theater arts education – it IS NOT an extra fluff type of subject. You can’t just say ‘oh, well the kids have drama club after school’ – that isn’t the same. Theater arts education is so important in so many ways to so many different kids. Don’t settle – work your hardest to get an equal footing with the ‘core subjects’.

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

That’s simple – I would put it towards building a proper theater to perform in. Enough of these cafetoriums. It’s ridiculous that there isn’t a dedicated performance space in my school district.

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

I have regrets everyday – how I could have taught that better, worked harder to connect with a student, not said something that hurt someone’s feelings. I guess I hope when I’m that old I won’t regret the time I’ve spent teaching theater and the time I’ve missed with my own children.

THE MAINE ARTS LEADERSHIP INITIATIVE

 Committed to the development of Teacher Leaders to ensure deep understanding and meaningful implementation of high quality teaching, learning and assessment in the Arts for all students.

If you are interested in becoming a teacher leader please email Argy Nestor at argy.nestor@maine.gov.

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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Allie Rimkunas

May 31, 2016

Teacher Leader series

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This is the twelfth and final blog post of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 5  Teacher Leader stories. This series contains a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about the work they are doing as Maine arts educators. CLICK HERE for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE for more information on the 73 of the MALI Teacher Leaders. CLICK HERE for Arts education resources. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past stories. There have been 71 posted to date.

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 9.05.08 PMAllie Rimkunas has taught in the Gorham School Department for 18 years, the last 12 as a K-5 Art teacher responsible for 500+ students.

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

I get to play with the coolest supplies with all of the students. I also love getting messy and reminding kids that nothing is perfect.

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

Having fun, teaching how to be courageous, imperfect, and open to change. (Oops, that was four. Hey- I’m an Art teacher, not a math teacher!)

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

It makes me think much more about what I’m teaching, how I’m teaching, why I’m teaching it, and how it can help my students to become more creative inside and outside the Art room.

IMG_0178What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

It’s great to hang out with Arts teachers from all over Maine and pick their brains not only about assessment, but everything else that we have in common. It’s lonely being the only Art teacher in the school with no one else to commiserate with on topics that are important to me as an Art teacher. Our district VPA teachers are given time together only once or twice a year. We’re social animals and need time to share and learn from each other.

Meeting with folks from all over the state also gives me tons of ideas to think about and new strategies to try out.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Whenever I run into students at the grocery store they run to me and not away from me.

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

The lack of time to do all of the things I want/need/should do.

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

I would change the word “luck” to “talent” and say that my artistic and teaching “talent” is not innate but developed through work and perseverance.

As far as “luck” is concerned, I’m the luckiest Art teacher in Maine, probably the world. I have a beautiful Art room, wonderful co-workers, understanding and supportive administrators, and terrific students.

IMG_0366Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

Love your kids, especially the difficult ones. You never know how far love will reach in their lives.

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

I’d pay off my kids’ college debts, then I’d love to create a nature program for the neighborhood kids, and then…wait, can we up it to an even million? I need to do some traveling to soak in the Art and cultures of the world.

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

My only regret is that cloning has not been perfected so that I can have a second brain to remember all of my student’s names (especially in the grocery store when their names become “sweetie”, “big guy”, or “you with the face”).

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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Holly Leighton

April 27, 2016

Teacher Leader series

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This is the seventh blog post of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 5  Teacher Leader stories. This series contains a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about the work they are doing as Maine arts educators. CLICK HERE for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE for more information on the 73 of the MALI Teacher Leaders. CLICK HERE for Arts education resources. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past stories. There have been 66 posted to date.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 8.42.57 PMHolly Leighton has been an elementary art teacher at the Ella P. Burr School in Lincoln for 17 years seeing 400+ students weekly. This year she moved to the district’s high school, Mattanawcook Academy, where she is the art teacher with 92 art students from grades 9-12. (RSU 67) Holly’s main responsibilities are teaching six 70 minute classes and covering the visual art standards.

What do you like best about being a visual art educator?

I love working with the students and watching their confidence in their art abilities grow. When I have a student that feels they “just aren’t good in art” I make it my mission to help them find their strengths and show them their growth as they go. When they begin to show pride in their art, embrace new media eagerly, and start thinking outside the box, I feel I have done my job well. It is very fulfilling and makes me feel proud to hopefully be making a difference in student’s lives.

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

I believe it requires teachers that are knowledgeable and passionate about teaching the arts and understands and loves working with students of all ages. I believe there has to be support from the administration, school board, and community. I believe we have to build strong art programs and continually advocate for them.

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

I like to use formative assessments to track student’s growth and guide my teaching. I like to make sure each student knows where they are and where they need to go next in their learning. I have students do self-reflections on their artwork using the critical analysis process. I feel it makes students really think about their art, gives it importance, and makes them proud of what they have done.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

Confidence! I was very unsure about how effectively I was using assessments in my classroom. After attending the conference in the fall I realized many of the others felt the same and we are on the right track. I learned so much from the others, creative resources for assessing in the arts, confidence in using my voice, and that we all have good ideas and need to share them. I have become a much more confident teacher.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am proud of whom I have become through my years of teaching and this has happened because of the many dedicated colleagues that have mentored and encouraged me on my way. I consider myself a good teacher that cares about the students and really wants them to succeed in life.

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

For me it is time. Teachers are expected to spend so much time on new initiatives, trying new programs to improve the way we do things, meetings, and duties. We need to have time set aside on early release and workshop days to work on curriculum and standards, reflect on our teaching, and the multitude of other things that have to be done to keep our programs running effectively.

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

I have always tried to find ways to bring the students to the arts and artists to the classroom. We have had authors, illustrators, drama and dances teachers, and musicians come preform and/or teach in the classrooms. We have had multiple field trips to the Portland Museum of Art, Colby Art Museum and University of Maine Museum of Art. With help from my arts colleagues, I arrange these events at little or no cost to the district through grant opportunities and foundations. It is a lot of work and sometimes seems to just happen to others. I do it because I feel it is important for students in our rural area to experience the arts first hand.

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

Reach out and network with others. Join state and national organizations and be an active member. There is a wealth of resources out there to help with funding for field trips to the arts, to bring working artist to your schools and professional development opportunities for yourself.

If you were given $500,000 dollars to do whatever you please, what would it be?

I would go on vacation and travel to all the places here and overseas that I have wanted to see. I would pay off our home and fix up our family’s summer camp on the lake. With the rest I would fund a ceramics studio for our art program.

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

No. I use to have regrets, but finally realized that choices I have made have led me to be who I am today, my family, friends and work ethic. I believe the choices we make in the past lead us in different directions and where I had ended up at this point in my life, I couldn’t be happier.

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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Iva Damon

April 13, 2016

Teacher Leader series

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This is the sixth blog post of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 5  Teacher Leader stories. This series contains a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about the work they are doing as Maine arts educators. CLICK HERE for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE for more information on the 73 of the MALI Teacher Leaders. CLICK HERE for Arts education resources. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past stories. There have been 65 posted to date.

Iva Damon, 2Iva Damon is the 9-12 high school level in visual arts at Leavitt Area High School. She teaches art 1, art 2, natural arts, painting, and two dual enrollment classes through UMFK. This is her fifth year teaching at Leavitt and seventh year teaching in general. In my six classes, Iva has just under 100 students total. She is also the co-advisor to the Class of 2019.

What do you like best about being an arts educator?

It’s a unique experience to see students challenge themselves to be creative and try new things. The best part is having the opportunity to see how students grow throughout their high school experience.

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

A sense of humor, patience, and continuing to be an active artist in one’s own discipline. We all are working with kids and a sense of humor and patience go a long way in making connections with students in a meaningful human way. Far too often there are so many items as teachers we are juggling to keep up with. We are all busy, but I personally need to take the time and just create art. It keeps my passion for what I am teaching alive when I can share what I do and why I find it important with my own students.

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

Assessments in my classroom are essential to understanding how well my students are learning. Formative assessments are the best way to check for understanding and influence how long and and in-depth lessons need to be within a unit. Personally, formative assessments should guide instruction to fit the needs of the students.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

The Arts Assessment Initiative validates that there are other art teachers throughout the state who have a similar passion to become connected, advocate for our profession, and want to become better educators. It has given me the opportunity to work with individuals outside my district to share with and learn from.

What are you most proud of in your career?

The relationships I have been able to develop both professionally with peers and students. It’s an amazing thing to have shiny new faces in introductory classes, and continue to have those students come back for one to three more years because in some way I was able to capture and inspire their interest in the arts. Having students become passionate about a subject that I love so much is such a powerful experience.

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

All of the other things that occur that take us away from teaching or working with kids. There are so many tasks, duties, and assignments that are given to teachers, and I feel like the quantity increases every year. There is a need to reflect on one’s practice within the classroom and how well students are receptive to information, updating and changing curriculum, but there are so many other items that have found their way into my normal day.

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

Every year Leavitt holds their Art’s Gala celebration in March. It is the annual art show that occurs Thursday night after a week of having 5-8 visiting artists come into the building to work with all the arts teachers as well as other content area teachers. The entire first floor of Leavitt becomes transformed with displays and installations that students are responsible for creating. It may appear that everything runs smoothly but a great deal of hard work and determination goes into the event. Though not alone in this endeavor, teaching students how to mat, create artist statements, tags, and create their own installation is exhausting but the final product of walking through the halls on the night of Arts Gala continues to be an amazing and proud experience.

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

Have fun in what you do. Students are so receptive to whether their teachers are passionate about what they teach. It is important that the passion we have for the arts comes through on a normal basis. When they see how passionate and excited we as teachers are for the arts, that enthusiasm will spill over to them too.

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

If I were to be given $5000,000 I would probably spend half of it to pay off all of my existing debt and take time to travel with my family. The remaining amount of money, I would really like to see set in a trust to be given out to students so they can have opportunities for art experiences outside a school classroom like camps, college classes, or intense studies.

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

By 94, I hope that I have few regrets. Like many things, time is my issue. I hope to travel more but I know that I need to take the time to do so. I want to see more masters work in person and be able to see more of the world, and to do so I need to travel. It is something I love to do, and I need to make the time for it to happen.

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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Dianne Fenlason

April 5, 2016

MALI Teacher Leader series

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This is the fifth blog post of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 5  Teacher Leader stories. This series contains a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about the work they are doing as Maine arts educators. CLICK HERE for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE for more information on the 73 of the MALI Teacher Leaders. CLICK HERE for Arts education resources. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past stories. There have been 64 posted to date.

20160324_142730Dianne Fenlason currently teaches middle school bands, grades 6-8, at Spruce Mountain Middle School. In addition, she teaches the following at Spruce Mountain High School: piano, guitar classes, contemporary vocal ensemble, a rock history perspective and performance class called Rock of Ages. She has taught a variety of other music electives over her 28 year career. Dianne has been at Spruce Mountain, formerly Jay Public Schools, since 1995.

What do you like best about being a music educator?

The best part of my job is working with my students and seeing them progress through the years that I work with them. I used to work with grades 4-12 students and to see the transformation of these students is awesome.

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

For me the keys to a successful arts education include providing an opportunity to any student, creating a challenge for all students and establishing a rapport with each student. I also believe working with students beyond the classroom can greatly impact the success of your program within your school. Seeing students in another setting outside my class and them seeing me as well has benefits to building respect for one another and in a word, is fun.

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

I have always felt assessment has been crucial for student progress and I had been doing instrumental performance assessment since I began in 1988. At first I used assessment simply to have an opportunity to hear high school students individually and try to provide them with feedback. Today I use assessment similarly but also incorporate a specific scaffolding of expected skill outcomes as well as a tool for students to self assess and track their own progress.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

My involvement with the arts assessment initiative has provided validation that what I had been doing was on point and it has made me focus my instruction on the specific outcomes I feel are important for all students.

What are you most proud of in your career?

The proudest moments in my career all revolve around student success. I once had a senior trumpet player perform the National Anthem standing on the pitcher’s mound at a state baseball playoff game. Whether taking students to adjudicated festivals, or instituting new and different ensembles or performing music that students may perceive as unattainable and having them realize group and individual success, is something that keeps me teaching year after year. Also seeing students pursue or participate in music beyond high school provides an undeniable sense of pride knowing that what you do and have done has made a lasting impact on their lives.

IMG_0173What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

All professions have hurdles but I have never felt I couldn’t improve or do a better job. There is always someone who does it better and if I can learn from them and it helps my instruction with students than I am willing to do that. The educational field has undoubtedly become more difficult since I began and it has meant doing things differently and working harder to maintain the same expectations I have always had. Social and economic changes as well have greatly impacted students lives but I will always stand by the adage that students will meet whatever bar you set, so why not keep the bar high.

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

I would have to say that my “luck” is that I continue to enjoy what I do. There is a quote that describes what we do that says something like “art is hard work masked by fun.” As visual and performing arts educators we not only teach students but also administrators and communities that the arts are not a frill but a necessity. This agenda never happens by luck but only from hard work, commitment and a belief that arts truly enrich our lives. I have told myself that when what I do is no longer fun, then I am done.

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

If I were to give advice to any teacher I would say make sure you love what you do and be willing to sacrifice for others while maintaining a balance for yourself at the same time. Teaching can often times commandeer much of our energy but it is important that we find a sense of accomplishment in what we do and find ways that refill our tank when we feel we have given everything we have.

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

If I were given $500, 000 I would build a performance venue and become the house manager. There are not nearly enough large theaters or concert halls in the state of Maine. Augusta, our state capital, does not have a performance hall to draw people to the area. I would try to use the hall to provide performances for local schools and community groups to attend shows as well as perform in the local facility. If we can encourage performance attendance early in young people than I believe they will be patrons of the arts later in their lives.

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

At age 10 I knew I was going to be a music teacher. I never wavered in that decision, so if I live to be 94, I will look back with no regrets. I don’t believe in “if only.” I was once asked why I continued to teach at my school and I replied by saying, “it is where I am supposed to be for now.” I am blessed to have worked with many wonderful students and excellent educators and colleagues over my career. In the end, I will have given all that I was capable of and if I made a positive impact on one student or colleague than my time was not wasted. I feel confident that I have made an impact on some and to me that is most rewarding.

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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Elise Bothel

March 29, 2016

MALI Teacher Leader series

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This is the fourth blog post of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 5  Teacher Leader stories. This series contains a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about the work they are doing as Maine arts educators. CLICK HERE for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE for more information on the 73 of the MALI Teacher Leaders. CLICK HERE for Arts education resources. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past stories. There have been 63 posted to date.

Elise Photo - Meca PosterElise Bothel teaches grades K-5 art at Narragansett Elementary School in Gorham. She has been teaching at Narragansett for two years now, and is in her third year of teaching. Elise is the only art teacher in the school, and teaches part-time 3 days a week. She teaches 12 classes, about 220 students total, for 45 minutes each class. Elise also teaches an after school clay club at Narragansett, and has taught after school art classes at the Art Alliance in Gorham.

What do you like best about being a visual art educator?

I love seeing what my students create! I focus on adding choice to my lessons to let students explore their creativity and to help develop creative problem-solving skills. My favorite part of the day is when I see a student create something incredible, and to see the joy and pride in their face. I also love when students make connections from art class to their personal lives and what they are learning in their other classrooms.

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

  1. The educator needs to be passionate about the subject.
  2. The educator needs to work to meet the needs of many.
  3. The program needs access to materials and support from the district, and if not, an educator that can advocate and get what they need.

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

Assessment has helped my students track their own learning. It has made my program a bit more rigorous, but I feel that my students are learning more, understand why they are learning it, and what they need to do to meet proficiency.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

It has helped my increase confidence as an educator. I’ve gotten to know so many Visual and Performing Arts educators in Maine, and the benefits of connection are endless. I’ve already added so many new tools to my toolbox, and look forward to more collaboration and inspiration.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am proud to say that I am a Teacher Leader in my third year of teaching! I’m proud of the respect I’ve received as an educator, despite how young I look. Most of all, I am proud of my students when I see them grow, build confidence, and show interest and excitement about something new.

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Elise presenting on the MALI Critical Friends Day

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

Time is probably a challenge for every teacher. I wish I had more time with students to help them learn and progress as artists. Personally, the work/life balance can get in my way. I only work part-time, but I commute over an hour to work and participate in other activities after school. Making sure I don’t get burnt out or let my personal problems seep into my job can be challenging.

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

This year I put on an Empty Bowls fundraiser for the Gorham Food Pantry, which raised over $1200. Though I facilitated the event, put in many extra hours, and had every student in the school make a clay bowl for the event; I didn’t seem to get the personal recognition of the success of the project. I now know that I need to advocate more for the art department and the hard work that I do. Here’s a link to a TV spot with a mention of the money raised, but no mention of our art program! http://m.wmtw.com/weather/narragansett-students-wake-up-early-for-weather-at-your-school/38144668

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

My advice to all teachers would be to breathe and to focus on the positive aspects of teaching. I see many teachers stressed, burned out, and counting minutes. Teachers need to remind themselves why they wanted to teach in the first place. My advice to arts educators is that it can feel isolating and we can feel misunderstood, but it is up to us to reach out, make connections, and find creative solutions to our unique challenges.

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

I don’t want to be selfish but I would use some of the money to travel! As a life long learner, I’d love to see art and architecture from all over the world. I feel that my art curriculum could use more global awareness. I’d use the rest of the money to help the schools in Maine that don’t have the funding they need to have arts programs.

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

I’m not quite sure what I’ll be getting up to by the time I’m 94, but I do already regret not taking the time to focus on my own artistic practice. I believe that it is important to have working artists as educators, and being an artist is important to me. I’m glad I have plenty of time to build and grow my own artistic practice.

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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Virgil Bozeman

March 21, 2016

MALI Teacher Leader series

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This is the third blog post of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 5  Teacher Leader stories. This series contains a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about the work they are doing as Maine arts educators. CLICK HERE for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE for more information on the 73 of the MALI Teacher Leaders. CLICK HERE for Arts education resources. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past stories. There have been 62 posted to date.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 5.23.50 PMVirgil Bozeman IV has been teaching at Richmond Middle/High School for 17 years. He teaches 150 students in grades 6-12 Choral and Classroom Music, the total population grades 6-12 is 270. Virgil has four choruses, grades 6, 7/8, and two high school. In addition he teaches grade 6 and 8 General Music and AP Music Theory.

What do you like best about being an arts educator?

I believe that music educators are in the enviable position of being able to leverage naturally intense student interest to promote critical thinking, demand strong work ethic and introduce students to the incredible depth and breadth of our tradition. It is easier to get students to sing Rachmaninoff than to read Tolstoy.

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

  1. Quality repertoire
  2. Individualized assessment
  3. Quality repertoire

I know this is pithy, but I firmly believe that great music is the best teacher my students will have.

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

Simply put, the better I have become at assessing individual student growth, the more my individual students have grown. I used to think that changing the way I assessed would necessitate a drastic change in my teaching methods. Nothing could be further from the truth.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

Across the state our music/art/dance/drama colleagues are doing innovative work in the area of student assessment. Many are already involved in MALI, as are a ever-growing number of teaching-artists. It is a tremendously fertile collaborative environment. I can always count on the fact that solutions are already being developed and tested for assessment challenges that I am experiencing in my classroom and ensembles.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud when graduates from Richmond High School continue be active music makers in college and beyond.

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

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Virgil, center, in deep discussion with colleagues at the MALI summer institute, August 2015.

I am lucky to teach in a supportive small school with a terrific student/teacher ratio that allows me to focus more easily on the individual needs of students. That being said, our small size can sometimes be a barrier, both in limiting the repertoire I can introduce to our students, and working within a schedule that can prevent interested high-school students from being able to enroll in music classes/ensembles throughout their careers.

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

Creating the culture and expectation that our students will have to approach music from styles/cultures/languages that lie far outside their immediate experiences and interests. I used to think it was just “something in the water” in Richmond, but now recognize how important it was to remain true to this vision, even when students occasionally exhibited frustration at not being able to sing enough of “their music”.

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

When I first arrived in Richmond, the school had just cycled through four teachers in a five year span. That turnover had sapped the continuity and morale of the music program. Don’t think that the grass is necessarily greener somewhere else. Most arts educators encounter barriers where they work, be they schedule, budgetary, cultural, or facilities-based. If it feels as though there are too many barriers to building and maintaining a quality program at your school, it just means that there is important work that needs doing, and nobody is better suited to this work than you.

Also, keep searching for opportunities to improve your musical chops. We need to model life-long learning to our students, and they need to see us doing it.

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

Make a lead gift for the construction of a suitable performance space at my school, sock away living expenses to take a sabbatical to finally pursue a DMA in choral conducting.

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

Aside from not knowing how they kept my corpse animated for 20+ years, I will regret knowing that there were students who could have learned so much about themselves through learning how to use their voices, and either they never walked through my classroom door, or I failed to reach them when they did. IMG_0087

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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Samantha Armstrong

March 15, 2016

MALI Teacher Leaders series

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This is the second blog post of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 5  Teacher Leader stories. This series contains a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about the work they are doing as Maine arts educators. CLICK HERE for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE for more information on the 73 of the MALI Teacher Leaders. CLICK HERE for Arts education resources. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past stories. There have been 61 posted to date.

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Samantha Armstrong teaches K-6 visual arts at Paris Elementary and the Hebron Station School. This is her ninth year teaching and second year in the Oxford Hills School District. She currently teaches a little over 500 students each week. Her students have art class once a week for 40 minutes and I teach either 5 or 6 classes a day. Samantha is a team member from the Oxford Hills School District that are creating integration ideas as part of the Maine Arts Education Resource Project – Integration formed by the Maine Department of Education under the direction of VPA Specialist Beth Lambert.

What do you like best about being an arts educator?

One of the things I like about teaching art is getting to see how unique each student is and how they all approach projects differently. I enjoy teaching students new concepts and techniques, exposing them to new artists, making connections between the arts, other subject areas and the world around them. It’s exciting when students can reflect and make connections between what they are learning in my classroom and the world around them.

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

  • Teachers that are passionate and excited about what they are teaching.
  • School districts that support the arts and arts education.
  • Community outreach, getting student performances and artwork out into the community and getting local artists into the schools.

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

I find assessment to be very helpful in my classroom. When students finish an assignment they each complete a reflection paper. This helps them bring together what they have learned in the lesson and how the concepts and techniques work in connection with each other. Assessment also helps  guide my teaching, the effectiveness of the lesson and my approach to teaching. Currently I have developed a checklist for students, a type of formative assessment, so that they can monitor their learning and progress and help them meet their goals.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

I have met many wonderful arts educators from all over the state of Maine and many others dedicated to the ongoing success of arts education. Through collaboration I have learned a great deal of information that has helped me in the classroom. I have become more involved in advocating for arts education and am currently working as a Teacher Leader Ambassador on the census and the arts integration resource project.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of my students and all their progress and learning that happens throughout the year. Seeing my students being successful and enjoying their learning is the best!

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

Time and not having enough of it. I am fortunate to work in two great schools with very supportive administrators and teachers. Many teachers are interested and open to collaborating but with schedules and time constraints it is often difficult to have planning time. Planning is often a quick conversation in the hall or an email, which  works, but obviously with more planning time it could be even better.

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

I feel very lucky to be an art teacher in the community in which I live. It definitely took a lot of time and patience to finally be fortunate enough to be hired as an art teacher in my community. As everyone in the field knows art teaching positions are often few and far between. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree so I did not have an education background. I had several years of catching up on classes while working. My path was winding as I first taught Special Education, then moved to a small independent school as a classroom teacher.  At the same time I taught a metalsmithing class at Lesley University and at summer arts program for kids. My teaching experience has been all over the place but I have enjoyed all of it and have learned so much from it.

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

My advice would be to be patient. Unfortunately I see many new teachers overwhelmed by behaviors. It is something that an education in teaching really can’t prepare you for. We all come to school everyday from a different place and for some the act of simply getting to school takes a lot of effort. Acknowledging the diversity in our schools and the struggles many students face academically, socially and physically is essential to creating helpful working relationships with our students. Being aware of students needs, being patient, and working with them to meet their goals is essential in helping students be successful.

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

Add more art programs and help provide teachers with more opportunities for collaboration. I would love to see more drama and dance programs at the elementary level and more access to affordable instruments for all students. The time I have had to work with other teachers this year through MALI has been great and I have learned so much. It would be great if there was more funding for this and other programs that bring teachers together. 

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

That is hard to imagine! Hopefully I still have my wonderful, crazy family around me, that I am still making art and enjoying lots of good food and wine. I’m sure I’ll have some regrets but for the most parts I love my life and how I’ve gotten where I am now. I have a simple life but that is perfect for me. I live in a great town, I have a loving family, wonderful friends, a warm home, good food to eat and I enjoy getting up everyday and going to work doing what I love with great teachers and students.

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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Josh Bosse

March 8, 2016

MALI Teacher Leader series

MALI_V1_Color_100ppiThis is the first blog post of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 5  Teacher Leader stories. This series contains a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about the work they are doing as Maine arts educators. CLICK HERE for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE for more information on the 73 of the MALI Teacher Leaders. CLICK HERE for Arts education resources. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past stories. There have been 60 posted to date.

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 5.41.55 AMJoshua Bosse currently teaches music, grades K-12 at the Madawaska School Department (MSD). He graduated from the University of Maine, Orono in 2011, and has been teaching at MSD since. Josh teaches almost 500 students throughout the week and am responsible in teaching them general music (EC-8), band (elementary, middle & high school), marching and pep band (7-12), guitar ensemble, and chorus (elementary). His true passion, however, lies with the high school band, because to hear the students express their feelings through music is truly amazing! “I get so excited when we learn a new piece, then as we work on it, I can see the growth and beauty coming from the students, and to have a concert at the end of the semester to show the audience how much we have grown and developed as musicians; it’s what I live for!

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

1) Passion, 2) Communication, and 3) Drive. The reason that you need passion is because if you are not passionate about what you teach, how can you instill passion into the heart and souls of these students who you are molding to become well rounded adults. Communication with other arts educators has been a saving grace for me this year! Getting different ideas, getting help with understanding of certain topics, and much more has helped me so much this year. Drive is also a must, because there are those days where it seems that everything you do is either not heard or respected, and some days you are completely stressed out! Most, if not all, of us have had those days, but what gets us through it is our passion for the arts and communication with other arts teachers in order to “vent” out frustrations and get different ideas to use for our classrooms. Having both passion and communication, definitely drives me to be a better educator.

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

Since joining MALI, I have been able to come up with my standards which I have also been able to implement in my high school band class. Since I have started using my standards, I have been more focused on the growth aspect of each student rather than the “final product.” I have also been having students keep track of their learning, and I know that they are seeing a growth in their musicality, which in turn helps for a better “end product.”

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

I have become a bigger advocate for the arts, by leading workshops, connecting with other arts teachers, and much more.

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

The biggest thing that gets in my way of teaching is having all the laws/rules and all the paperwork that we have to fill out in order to make sure that we are “effective” teachers. I feel as though there is so much happening outside the classroom, that it actually effects the inside of our classroom. I also feel that time is a huge factor in becoming a better teacher. Sometimes there is just not enough time to get to the things that you want to, which may change the outcome of a certain product.

What are you most proud of in your career?

The thing that I am most proud of and worked hard at in my career would have to be being part of MALI. The reason that I say this is because I have become a better music educator and a better advocate for the arts. Looking at myself in regards to these two things, I am seeing growth in myself and in my students. They are actually learning the material that I am presenting to them, and in turn, it makes me feel more accomplished as an educator, because I know that they are receiving a wonderful music education.

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

The best advice that I can give to other teachers would be to COMMUNICATE!!! You don’t know how many times I have had to talk to other teachers and/or professionals who actually “get” what I am going through. The good, the bad and the ugly are great things to share with fellow colleagues. I don’t know where I would be without the communication aspect of my job!

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

If I was given $500,000, the first thing I would do is pay off mine and my wife’s student loans and other bills. They have been such a hassle to deal with since starting my “real life” in the “real world.” My life would be much simpler without them, and that way, I can actually save up and do the things that I want. With a quarter of the money gone, I would definitely donate to my church, purchase some new(er) instruments and fix some of our other instruments for my school, take a nice vacation to Europe with my lovely wife, and actually start a family without financial worries. Whatever I have left, I would save up and continue working to the point of retirement.

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

I do what I love on a daily basis, and not everyone can say that. Looking over my short (but sweet) career, there is nothing that I regret doing. I look forward to being able to continue instilling my love of music into the children that I teach; there is nothing to regret about that!

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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Frances Kellogg

April 14, 2015

MAAI Teacher Leader series

This is the ninth and last blog post for 2015 on the Phase 4 Maine Arts Assessment Initiative’s (MAAI) Teacher Leaders sharing their stories. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to learn from and about others. You can learn more about MAAI at http://mainearts.maine.gov/Pages/Education/MAAI# and learn more about all 61 of the MAAI Teacher Leaders at http://www.maineartsassessment.com/#!teacher-leaders/c1qxk.

4747f3_d808375765484117b6ae1b7e8f05a0cf.jpg_srz_p_147_138_75_22_0.50_1.20_0Frances Kellogg currently teaches K-3 classroom music and grades 6-8 chorus at Ellsworth Elementary Middle School.  She has taught in Ellsworth for the last three years.  Frances has just over 400 students and sees them twice each week for a total of 60 minutes. Previously, she taught PreK-6 classroom music and 3-8 chorus at Jay Elementary School and Spruce Mountain Middle School. This is her eighth year as a music teacher in Maine. Frances received her B.M.E. from the University of Maine at Orono in 2007, and currently performs with the University Percussion Ensemble there.

What do you like best about being a music educator?

I love to see students get inspired and have fun. I hear so many teachers say how much they wish they could do more creative things in their classrooms, but can’t because there isn’t time–often due to curriculum or testing. I get to watch my students unleash their creativity and give them the chance to think outside the box, while still teaching and giving them the information they need. I love it when my students draw a connection between music and ANYTHING else–their classroom, home, visual art, or physical education–when they make that connection, they get more excited about what we are learning and also remember more of what we are learning .

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

A supportive community is a major key to a successful arts education:  support from the students’ parents, teachers, and administration. But building that support needs flexibility and a willingness to be a part of it. Make yourself seen at a parade or a baseball game can make all the difference to a student or the community as a whole. Being willing to adapt the framing of a lesson to be more interesting to your students can make the difference between a lesson they will forget and a lesson they will ask to repeat again.

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

Assessment has given me a way to know not only what my students are learning, but also how well I am teaching. I have long used assessment as a tool for measuring student knowledge, but have more recently learned how to use assessment as feedback for my teaching. If the students aren’t grasping a concept, what do I need to change? What has worked and what hasn’t?  t has been quite the eye-opening adventure for me.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

Joining MAAI has been a huge growth experience for me. I took a leap, with both feet, into a leadership role which was new territory for me. The greatest benefit of all has been a chance to communicate and collaborate with other arts teachers around the state. I have been very fortunate to not be the only music teacher in my district, but I have often been the only music teacher at my level (elementary vs. high school or middle school). It’s been great to be able to talk with other elementary music teachers and to hear their ideas and perspectives, while at the same time being able to share my own. In addition, MAAI has given me a huge boost of confidence when talking with other arts educators which has in turn given me more confidence in working with other educators at my own school.

What are you most proud of in your career?

My growth. When I first started teaching, I taught things that I thought were fun and would interest students; a lot of them being things I remembered from when I was a kid or things that I learned in college. I tested students on the things I thought they should have learned and never really used them to learn about my teaching. Now, eight years later, I have learned to work with a curriculum, to use assessments with my students to give them and myself feedback, to adapt my lessons to interest my students while still teaching and/or reviewing the concepts that need to be learned, and to still have fun while learning. Looking back eight years, I see a transformation that I am truly proud of and I certainly hope it will continue.

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

Negativity. With all the seemingly overwhelming changes happening in education in Maine right now, it’s easy to get sucked in to people complaining or griping or worrying. The only way to fight it is to be positive!

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

A good image. I started out as a nervous and anxious, fresh out of college kid who needed guidance. I didn’t know how to run a music program, or create/work with a curriculum, or put together concerts. I needed a lot of help (or at least it felt like it) when I first started. But I worked hard: I listened to what people told me about what they thought I should do and “how we’ve always done it”, and in the end, I made my own educated choices about what to do.  Whether it was having concerts in the evening vs. during the school day, or giving students the opportunity to earn their recorder to keep (rather than just giving it to them), or taking the risk to ask for funding for a new idea; I was able to make those decisions based on what I had learned. When I left my first job and came to Ellsworth, I had already started down this path, so I had a better idea of what I should do and how I should act and ask for things.

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

Listen to your students. When my students ask if we can learn about something, I try to find a way to make it happen. Last year, one classroom of third grade students asked if we could sing a song about the environment because they were learning about the rainforest and ecology in their classrooms. So, I found a song that not only focused on saving the environment, but also taught students how to listen for a read two part harmony. Another classroom asked about rap; we discussed what students think rap is vs. what it is (and what it can be), and each classroom wrote a rap together. These two activities were some of the most enjoyable things I taught, because the students were so involved in the process.

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

I would split it. Keeping some for myself, I would do some serious house renovations: new kitchen counters, painting, a front deck with a hot tub, and a temperature controlled room for musical instrument storage and enjoyment. With the rest, I would find the right way to invest it in bringing programs and visiting artists into schools, both the school I work for and other schools in my area.

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

None. At that point, I will have had a chance to do what I always dreamed of in life:  teach. If I can inspire just one person, then I have done what I needed to do, and that is something to be proud of.

 

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