Posts Tagged ‘Ashley Smith’


Roundtable Music Ed Webinar

May 28, 2014

Review of webinar

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 9.42.14 PMThe fourth in a series of webinars for the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative was held on Tuesday, May 20, entitled “Maine Music Educators Roundtable”. The webinar was facilitated by Rob Westerberg, choral director at York High School in direct response to concerns from music educators in the field around a broad selection of topics. The hour included participation by Maine’s Visual and Performing Arts Specialist at the Maine Department of Education, Mr. Kevin Facer.

Roundtable guests were: Drew Albert – vocal and instrumental, Maranacook Community High School, Andria Bacon – instrumental/strings & general, RSU #64; Corinth, Bill Buzza – instrumental & general, Edward Little High School, Jen Etter – vocal music, York Middle School, Jen Nash – instrumental/strings & general, Sebasticook Valley Middle School and Ashley Smith – vocal & general at Brunswick High School. After a brief introduction, the roundtable went to work fleshing out thoughts around topics which included:

  • Effect of common core on music programs
  • Proficiency & standards based assessment
  • Music teachers as leaders in your own schools
  • National Standards release and ramifications
  • Teacher evaluation implementation

Additional discussion prompts were also presented:

* “I feel our district is caught between common core, national standards, Maine Learning Results and our own ad lib set of standards created from the consortium of schools we belong to. It’s mind numbing that we have so many versions of what is ‘important’ in a curriculum versus what should be required of Maine students in order to receive a high school diploma.”

*How can we create an effective mentoring system for teachers who are in need of improving their pedagogical skills?

*As we deal with budget issues, our teachings loads are increasing as we are being asked to do more with individual assessments. We cannot administer these assessments without adequate time in our schedules.

Many viewpoints were presented on all of these topics, providing a practical platform for further discussion by music teachers within and between school districts. The archived recording of the session is located at Accordingly, a follow-up meeting plan has been developed to facilitate this discussion, applicable for school district professional days or regional meetings between music educators. The meeting plan is located at

On Wednesday, June 11, 3:30 to 4:30 the MAAI will be holding a webinar hosted by Catherine Ring, featuring the ongoing work of the Resource Bank team for Visual and Performing Arts. Teacher leaders on the Resource Bank team will be our guests. Please plan on joining us for an exciting conversation and a sneak peak of some of the rich resources created by the team on that second Wednesday of June. 


Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Ashley Smith

June 18, 2013

This is the 36th in a series of blog posts telling arts teacher’s stories. The first 19 were told last year by the phase I Maine Arts Assessment Initiative teacher leaders. The series continues with the stories from the phase II teacher leaders. These posts contain a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to read educators stories and to learn from others.

Ashley Smith has taught for two years at Brunswick High School where she is the Choral Director; she directs Screen shot 2013-06-17 at 7.03.30 PMthree choirs and teaches piano and guitar.

What do you like best about being a music educator?

My favorite part about being an arts educator is that I get to share my love of music with others who have the same passion. Growing up, my most memorable experiences were those created in the music classroom. It is such a joy to go to work everyday and create those same experiences for my students.

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

  1. Belief. Although there are many components to a successful arts program, this has proved to be the most important for me. You must first believe in yourself, you must believe in your students, and above all, you must believe in what you are doing.
  2. Commitment. With so much to do and so many people to take care of, it is important to stay true to yourself. As a music educator you have the unique opportunity to create a program that is reflective of yourself and your philosophy. Hold true to your vision, and it’s impossible not to succeed.
  3. Support. Nothing can be successful on it’s own. For any program to flourish, it needs the support of colleagues, friends, family, and community. Most importantly, it needs the support of your students. Support your students, and they will support you.

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

Assessment in the music classroom is an amazing thing! No matter how you do it, assessing your kids keeps them accountable for learning the information and you accountable for teaching it. I’ve found that it doesn’t have to be in the form of a big written test or a large-scale project, it’s whatever works for me. Assessment has not only helped me to re-evaluate my teaching practices, but it has been a great way for my students to realize what they have actually learned. There is nothing better than having a student say, “I didn’t know I could do this!”

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

The greatest benefit of joining the MAAI has been meeting so many passionate arts educators. It has been so encouraging to collaborate with other teachers who face the same challenges on a day to day basis. I am an infinitely better teacher for having worked with such devoted arts educators. It’s good to know I’m not alone!

What are you most proud of in your career?

My students. Their hard work and dedication never cease to amaze me. They continually go above and beyond what is expected of them and they truly embody my vision of what the BHS Choral Program should be. They have embraced me and my philosophy and they are always ready and willing to accept whatever challenge I throw their way. I learn something new from them everyday, and they are a continual reminder of why I love what I do. I couldn’t be more proud of all that they have accomplished in the past two years, and I greatly look forward to all of their future successes.

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

Honestly, being a teacher is what gets in the way of being a better teacher. There are so many tasks and duties to fulfill that the most relaxing part of the day is actually TEACHING. With so many things pulling us in different directions, it’s nice to know that our time in front of the students is really our time. It’s not the actual teaching part that we have to worry about, it’s everything else that goes along with it.

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

I must say that my biggest accomplishment has been the atmosphere that the students and myself have worked to create in the choral department here at BHS. I have always been a firm believer that the music classroom should be a place of mutual respect in which all students feel comfortable to express themselves freely. I have been lucky to learn alongside my students, working to create a space that fosters growth and creativity. I have found that the students take real pride in this environment, and they will work tirelessly to protect what they have worked so hard to create

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

You can do it! So often when you are teaching music or art you may be the only person in that discipline at your school, and as a new teacher that can be very overwhelming. There is no doubt that you are going to make mistakes, but that’s what it’s all about. We always encourage our students to take risks, and we have to push ourselves to do the same. Don’t lose sight of the big picture, you are doing what you love and you are making a difference.

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

After our exciting riser collapse last week, I would have to say that my first order of business would be purchasing new risers for my kids! I would use the rest of the money  to travel with friends and family and to create opportunities for my students like the ones that I was lucky enough to have growing up.

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

As a second year teacher, I can’t help but stress about the small stuff. I get so worried about doing everything right that I often forget to enjoy each moment as it is happening. At the end of each year, I find myself looking back and realizing just how lucky I am to have had such amazing experiences with so many amazing young people. Fortunately, I am far off from 94, and if this is my biggest regret than I daresay I have lived a pretty fulfilling life!



My Last Two Weeks

May 10, 2013

What an adventure!

Some weeks are filled with excitement and adventure and some weeks are filled with excitement and adventure – yes, I repeated that since all my weeks are pretty amazing! However, my most valuable days are when I am visiting teachers and students, learning about the work that is going on in the arts in Maine schools. I am always interested in what teachers are doing with curriculum, assessment, and arts education in general! What I hear and what I see keeps me grounded in what is “real” for Maine arts education. When I do my work at the Department it is first and foremost in the best interest of all Maine kids and their visual and performing arts education. I feel so fortunate to have this job that takes me to all corners of the state. Thank you for the invitations!

During the last two weeks I have had the chance to go to the following:

  • Ashley Smith (Maine Arts Assessment Initiative teacher leader) and Mike Scarpone, music teachers at Brunswick High School invited me to speak at their Tri-M Music Honor Society induction ceremony. I was very impressed with the music and the students. Bridget Horan, Chanel Thibeault, Ariel Bouchard, and Joe Waring played the National Anthem to start the program. Throughout the program there were student performances including: Tessa Hauptman was accompanied on the piano by Ben Flanagan. Hannah Judd played the cello. Joe Waring played the saxophone accompanied by Nathaniel Vilas on the piano. Alexis Gillis sang accompanied by Ben Flanagan on the piano. Walter Martin played the trombone accompanied by Nathaniel Vilas on the piano. Nathaniel Vilas ending the evening on the piano. It was wonderful to hear the present members (15 of them) introduce the inductees (21 of them). As these type of ceremonies go, it was very formal however, the students humor shined through which brought several chuckles to members of the audience. Afterwards, parents and students enjoyed refreshments in the cafeteria. Thank you Brunswick Tri-M students and Ashley and Mike for including me.


  • Last week I was invited to meet with the arts staff from the Gorham schools. In the Gorham schools they rotate updating curriculum and arts educators are starting this important work. Assistant middle school principal Susie Hanley has been communicating periodically during the last year with questions and information on the work of the Gorham arts teachers. It was great to have a chance to hear discuss their work and the challenges it poses. I did get a photo at the end but it was after some of the teachers had already left the meeting. Thank you to Susie for inviting me!

The teachers include:

  • Gail Thibodeau, Music  K-5, Narragansett and Village
  • Janelle Mosey, Music and Chorus  K-5, Great Falls
  • Allie Rimkunas, Art 1-5, Great Falls
  • Paula Balcom, Art 1-5, Narragansett and Village
  • Amy Stewart, Music K-5, Narragansett
  • Vicki Bove, Art  6-8, Gorham Middle School
  • Amy Cousins, Art 6-8, Gorham Middle School
  • Tracy Wheeler, Music and Chorus 6-8, Gorham Middle School
  • Kim Mathieu, Music and Band  6-8, Gorham Middle School, 5th grade Band
  • Chris Crosby, Art 9-12, Gorham High School
  • Sarah Tucker, Art 9-12, Gorham High School
  • Matt Murray, Music and Chorus 9-12, Gorham High School
  • Tim Ebersold, Music and Band 9-12, Gorham High School


  • Gray-New Gloucester High School art exhibit was held last week in the auxiliary gym on the same evening that the students were performing the comedy The Man Who Came to Dinner. It was great to see Maine Arts Assessment Initiative teacher leader Barb Weed (Barb’s Another Arts Teacher’s story) on my way in to the school. After I arrived Waterville High School art teacher Suzanne Goulet dropped in to see the show. The gym was completely filled with outstanding 2 and 3 dimensional art work and it was great to see art teachers Sarah Gould and Michaela DiGianvittorio. Talk about proficiency?! The evidence was clear! Thanks for inviting me to a great show!

Sarah, Argy, Michaela

IMG_3277 IMG_3283

  • This week I’ve had more opportunities to visit schools. Debi Lynne Baker and I were at Biddeford Intermediate School to videotape Maine Arts Assessment Initiative teacher leader, music teacher Andrea Wollstadt. (Andrea’s Another Arts Teacher’s story). The last of a series of 4 that Debi is creating showing standards based arts classrooms in action. We had a great day in Andrea’s 4th and 5th grade classes. Her superintendent, Jeremy Ray, popped in to give her an apple for Teacher Appreciation Week. We interviewed Andrea’s principal Debra Kenney, music colleague Jillian Cote, and two of her students. Thanks to the students and staff at Biddeford Intermediate School!
  • I visited Belfast High School and Troy Howard Middle School and the classrooms of Heidi O’Donnell and Lynnette Sproch. Heidi has a lesson where students wrote an artist statement after research and created an artwork that depicted the style of the artist. They were created in small shadow-like boxes. The pieces were fascinating to look at and really made me think. I was glad to see the “man coming out of the ceiling” in real life that Lynnette had created with her middle school students. I also stopped to see my dear friend science teacher John Thurston who is responsible for the garden program at the middle school. It is always great to see John who works with Lynnette on integrated units. You might remember the one that they did on creating posters for the Belfast coop. They were beautiful with bright red giant tomatoes and a great example of service learning. I stopped to see theatre teacher Jason Bannister who caught me up on the event they just held at the school for middle level theatre students – Maine Student Acting competition. Thanks for the visit to both schools!
  • I traveled up the coast to Hancock Grammar School and stopped to see Maine Arts Assessment art teacher leader Janie Snider (Janie’s Another Arts Teacher’s story). We critiqued the video that Debi has created of Janie in action earlier this spring.  We spent some time talking about the idea of writing “power standards” and perhaps rubrics to make available for all arts teachers. What do you think of the idea? Thanks for “great food for thought” Janie!
  • Onto Machias and the Rose Gaffney School to visit Maine Arts Assessment music teacher leader Bonnie Atkinson. (Bonnie’s Another Arts Teacher’s story). When I arrived her middle and high school band were rehearsing their pieces for the spring concert. Bonnie has many thought provoking sayings in her classrooms. I loved hearing the students practice and I also had a chance to listen to the chorus practice before I left for the Washington county superintendents meeting at University of Maine at Machias. Thanks for letting me pop in Bonnie! The artwork everywhere in the halls is stunning.



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