Posts Tagged ‘Bonny Eagle Middle School drama club’

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Another Arts Teachers’ Story: MaryEllen Schaper

April 24, 2012

Featuring one teacher’s journey as an arts educator

Representative David Webster, MaryEllen, Maine Alliance Chair Elizabeth Watson

This is the sixth in a series of blog posts telling arts teachers’ stories. This series will contain a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to read educators stories and to learn from others.

MaryEllen Schaper teaches dance, physical education, adapted physical education and dance. She co-directs the Bonny Eagle Middle School Drama Club, and directs and choreographs the spring musicals for Bonny Eagle High School in SAD/RSU 6. She is responsible for about 260 students in class, and about 100 more for both drama clubs. MaryEllen is in her 36th year of teaching.

MaryEllen was on the team who developed the first set of Maine Learning Results in 1997 and she served again on the writing team for the Visual and Performing Arts 2007 Maine Learning Results: Parameters for Essential Instruction. MaryEllen was recognized by the Maine Alliance for Arts Education this year for her many years of commitment to arts education as the recipient of the 2012 Bill Bonyun Artist/Educator Award.

What do you like best being an arts educator?

I like moving all day. I love teaching others how to use their bodies as the medium for creative expression. Sometimes as they’re working I see a “moment” that I will never see again, and I feel so honored!

Tell me what you think are three keys to ANY successful arts ed program?

  1. Skilled and knowledgeable teachers who understand and can interface the creative process, child development, and the corresponding pedagogy.
  2. Excitement about your art form and excitement about your students and their work is vital, as well as respect for the students to push them to their full potential.
  3. Community interest and support certainly help!

What specific way(s) do your assessment practices tie into the success of your program?

Primarily that my students are part of the assessment creation and implementation. I provide them with essential questions, and they decide how to answer them. We develop a rubric for good, better, and best work. The students rate themselves on their work habits and their products with justification, knowing that if I don’t agree (which is very seldom…they’re remarkably accurate!), I win. 🙂  Until the final day they can edit their work so that they turn in their best. If they want to put in the extra time to continue to refine their work (which doesn’t happen often, but it does happen), they can until the end of the quarter. This gives me more time with individual students as the students are doing  the “heavy lifting”, not me.

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

Having a cohort of people to work with who are interested  in improving learning in the arts through better assessment practices. Sharing best practices and the learning that goes along with that is so valuable. It’s wonderful knowing that I have a group ready and willing to improve as an arts educator.

What are you most proud of in your career?

That I have been able to introduce students to dance and theatre, and see them “run with it” not only as students, but often into adulthood.

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

I wish I still could teach with the freedom I could 30 years ago. Kids really were the center then, and I was more able to take the time to mine their skills and creativity in a way that isn’t possible in the same manner now. Today everything is so scrutinized for unimportant things before it can even leave the launch pad, that it’s much more difficult to take the calculated creative risks that I once felt empowered and supported to take.

Apple or PC?

Apple

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

Teaching dance to as many students K-college as I have, and making sure that dance education is always invited to the table at the local and state levels for as many years as I have has always been an ongoing accomplishment through hard work and determination. Dance isn’t valued on the same plane as other art forms. It’s cultural worth has declined precipitously in the last few generations. It presumes certain things about the dancer’s body image or sexuality that makes many uncomfortable. And no one seems to “understand” modern and post modern dance! There’s no “luck” or “circumstance” against those odds. It takes stubborn passion and the willingness to often quite literally go it alone so that my students have the opportunity to learn the joy of using their bodies as the tool to make art, and grow from that experience.

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

Be passionate about what you do and those you’re doing it for. Be willing to fight for that passion. There will be politics, budgets, ignorance, and sometimes isolation in your work, but focus on your purpose. Take your work with your students seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously. Have a sense of humor. Make sure your life has balance. Did I mention a sense of humor?

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

$500,000 before or after taxes? (Sorry I’m writing this on Tax Day!). A half million dollars would be good seed money for an endowment to keep the arts in my school district for a long time (there are currently proposed cuts), or for an arts scholarship. It could also feed or house a lot of people, or help a lot of animals. I could help out my family. It would also make my retirement much more comfortable than it looks now. I would like to think that it would be one of the more altruistic things I’ve mentioned.

Thank you MaryEllen for taking the time to tell your story (and for always using your sense of humor in your work and play)!

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