Posts Tagged ‘Belfast High School’

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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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Art and Music From Belfast High School

March 26, 2018

Sharing their passion

At Point Lookout in Northport on a beautiful day in February the Maine Arts Commission provided an opportunity to hear about Maine’s most recent arts and cultural economic impact data from two studies. Speaker Randy Cohen, Vice President for Research and Policy at Americans for the Arts (AFTA) shared the national Arts and Economic Prosperity 5(AEP5). Dee Schneidman from the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) shared the highlights of The Jobs in New England’s Creative Economy and Why They Matter.

In addition, Arts EngageME was introduced, the nonprofit support and advocacy organization.  The organization is building an environment that engages all sectors, public and private, across Maine to promote the awareness and value of the creative and cultural sectors, and to invest in their sustainability. We envision a state that values the impact of arts and culture on Maine’s livability, vitality, and prosperity.

We were honored to have beautiful center pieces created by students from the Art Honor Society at Belfast High School. Thanks to art teachers Caitlin Algers and Heidi O’Donnell. Music teacher David Coffey brought four musicians from his  Modern Band class. The  students learn to play and sing, perform, improvise and compose using the popular styles that they know (and don’t know) and love (and might come to love) including rock, pop, reggae, hip hop, country and other modern styles. Modern band utilizes guitar, bass, keyboard, drums, vocals, and technology. They were awesome. The students included Jesse Kulbe, guitar and vocals, Macartney Wyatt, keyboard and vocals, Taylor Kinney, bass, and Jesse Perry, drums. All four students are seniors at Belfast High School. Thank you all for your contributions to remind those who attended what the reports are really all about – students and the future!
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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.

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  • 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

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  • 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!
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Sarah, Argy, Michaela

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  • 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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3rd Annual RSU 20 Art Show

May 10, 2012

Artwork on the poster is by Kimberly Gatz, Art Portfolio class

RSU 20 is made up of the students from Belfast, Belmont, Frankfort, Morrill, Northport, Searsmont, Searsport, Stockton Springs, Swanville and students from all schools, K-12 are included in their annual art show. About 170 pieces of artwork are on display at the Hutchinson Center in Belfast until May 25th.

Thank you to Chuck Hamm, Belfast High School Fine Arts Department Coordinator, for providing this information.

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National Art Honor Society

February 17, 2012

Belfast High School

The National Art Honor Society Chapter at Belfast Area High School held its first annual Family Fun Night on February 1st and from all reports it was a huge success! Art teacher, Heidi O’Donnell’s students rose to the occasion by planning and carrying out a fun event.

The three side-by-side art rooms and adjacent gallery space were set up for a variety of activities for all ages. People could try their hands at throwing a bowl on the wheel, building a coil project, photograms in the darkroom, polymer beads (with guest artist, Barb Berry-Palm), animation (with guest artist Jay Hoagland), finger painting, a food art contest with pieces created by the students from the Introduction to Art class, and an enjoyable cookie decorating station.

Thirty one honor society students, 4 art teachers, 60+ students, and 30+ parents participated. Participants left with happy faces! For more photos of the event pleaase click here.

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