Posts Tagged ‘Etna-Dixmont School’


MALI Teacher Leader Story: Danielle Sullivan

May 22, 2018

Music Educator

This is the 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 Danielle for sharing your story!

Danielle Sullivan teaches music, band and chorus at Etna-Dixmont School. This is her second year at the school and her 8th year teaching. Danielle teaches general music PreK-6th Grade, 4th grade band, 5-6 grade band, 7-8 grade band, 5-6 grade chorus, 7-8 grade chorus and jazz band.  There are about 230 students in the school.

What do you like best about being a music educator?

I love seeing students do something they thought was impossible.  At the beginning of the year they believe that there is no way they’ll be able to play/sing this song and by the end of the year (quarter, semester…) they’re able to. It’s wonderful to watch.

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

  1. Administrative and community support are huge. Without support you’re always fighting for what’s right.
  2. Teachers who care
  3. Students who want to learn

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

I love hearing students play and sing alone. The student and I learn so much about their ability when they play alone. Quiet and shy students who either need more support or other opportunities can be lost in a large group if they never sing/play alone.

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

I love all the new people I have met and the ideas we share.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of teaching young students to love music. If you can get them young then you have them for life. Being able to teach young children to love music is of the utmost importance to me.

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

All the other duties that aren’t teaching; paperwork, curriculum work, meetings, emails. Doing all these other things makes it harder for me to find time to do research new lesson ideas and work with colleagues.

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

Having older students who consider themselves ‘musicians’.  All of the students that come through the music room door are musicians. When they are young (as is the case at my school) they don’t have a choice; everyone has music class.  But as they get older (middle school and high school) they are no longer required to take music, band and chorus are optional. Having a strong music program with a lot of older students may seem like luck, but if you get students to consider themselves musicians then they will seek out music when it’s no longer obligatory.

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

Don’t be a workaholic! It doesn’t benefit you or the students!

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

For school, I would buy enough instruments so that any student who wanted to play and couldn’t afford it could use a school instrument.

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

Not learning the banjo earlier in life.


Visit to Etna-Dixmont School

February 28, 2013

Jen Nash, Music teacher Extraordinaire

5th gr For quite a while elementary music teacher Jen Nash and I had been trying to schedule a time for me to visit her school and it finally happened the week before February break. I had the full visit from meeting teachers, administrators, lunch in the teachers room, playground duty, and the best part was being in Jen’s classroom.

I arrived in time for a kindergarten class. I am always impressed with elementary music teachers and the energy it takes to teach and Jen was no exception! Moving from one activity to the next challenging the students as they were introduced to a variety of concepts and building on ones mastered from previous lessons. Ongoing assessment was evident throughout the lesson. Jen keeps her ipad close by making notes throughout.

The students went on a “bear hunt” and flipped between being a blur of movement to silent movers to climbing and slithering and sliding through different environments.  Throughout the lesson students were engaged in their learning, enthusiastic, happy, and able to move at their pace. Their motor coordination, movements, personal space, interactions with their classmates were tapped throughout the song. And all the while they were singing and dancing! Jen interwove literacy throughout the lesson providing students the opportunity to know success as they relied on each other and worked individually.

kindI had the chance to be there for an individual saxophone lesson, 5th grade band, and the middle jazz band practice as they readied for the competition scheduled later in the week. Which, by the way, they received a 1-rating and will go on to the state competition – congratulations! During my visit Jen played the sax, trombone, and the drums.

I had a chance to speak to principal Jane Stork who is proud of the work that Jen and the students are doing in music education. Superintendent Greg Potter stopped by for a visit as well. I lucked out for lunch since it was the teachers once a month pot luck. The theme was Mardi Gras and the choices were all very yummy!

A great big THANK YOU to Jen for inviting me and the opportunity to see her and the students “in action” – a wonderful day at Etna-Dixmont School!

Jen has been an integral part of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative (MAAI) as a first phase teacher leader. When I arrived in her classroom I noticed written on the board the saying: “Music… can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.” ~Leonard Bernstein. Jen told me that she had gotten the idea to write a quote on the board by phase 2 teacher leader Jane Kirton from Sanford High School. It was a reminder to me that the MAAI is about fulfilling its mission of “Creating an environment in Maine where assessment in arts education is an integral part of the work all arts educators do to deepen student learning in the Arts” AND so much more! The importance of bringing arts teachers together to exchange ideas, ask questions, provide alternatives, and share best practices is ongoing. I invite you to join the work and play at one of the upcoming  MAAI Mega-regional and/or regional workshops.

trumbone jen

jazz band

blur kind.

sax alyssa



Another Arts Teachers’ Story: Jen Nash

May 15, 2012


Featuring one teacher’s journey as an arts educator

This is the ninth in a series of blog posts telling arts teachers’ stories. The series contains a set of questions that provide the opportunity for you to read and learn from others.

Jen Nash currently teaches K-8 music at the Etna-Dixmont School and has been there for the last 4 years. There are approximately 220 students from K-8.  Classes include: K-6 general music, 3rd grade recorders, beginner band, second year band, and middle school band, jazz band and chorus. Jen is a teacher leader with the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative, phase I.

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

Watching the learning phases that students go through. I love being able to teach students the skills to become independent and self driven. The advantage of being a K-8 music teacher is watching them grow up, and mature in all things musical. It is wonderful when a student can identify mistakes, plan out a way-of-attack, and smile at what they have accomplished. When given the opportunity, students can be inquisitive, insightful and take ownership in the process.

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

  1. Direction                                                                                                                              – long term and short term goals (educator produced and student produced)
  2. Drive

-a clear philosophy of why the program exists and who it serves

-after setting goals, planning how to accomplish goals

3.    Gas

-Students fuel the program.

*recruiting, helping in events, sharing with younger students,     student leaders

*establishing expectations and creative assessments

-Parents and community

*without their support, arts programs would not exist

-Making sure your teacher tank does not hit “empty”.

*we run ourselves ragged for what we believe in. We must find balance.

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

I have student self reflect at the end of every class. Most the days I ask them to assess their overall performance for the day. Examples: Where you on task? Did understand the topic? Did you apply the new concepts? Did you follow directions? Did you put forth 100% effort?

I used to give them an overall individual assessment at the end of every class last year (no input from students). Since using the student driven method for the 2011-2012 school year, I have had students practicing more, on task, and asking about how they may improve.  I use a chart labeled 1-4, and clothes pins with students names on them.  It takes less than 2 minutes to take note of their scores, and I use GoogleDocs to keep it organized.

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

It has been said over and over again: collaboration. Collaboration among all arts educators is essential to the survival and growth of programs across this state. I have learned so much from the many effective, wise (I do not mean “old”) teachers. Imagine what a truly unified front of Maine arts teachers would look like? How could we fine tune, or, perhaps revolutionize our methods, to reach this new generation of students?

What are you most proud of in your career?

Keeping students first. Teaching means trying things, and when I find they do not work, I do something else to reach them. I am content in knowing that I will always be seeking answers. Oh! And keeping a smile. Even on the tough days.

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

 Attitude.  If one does not like a situation: “fix it” or “get over it”.  If one can not, “fix it” or “get over it”, then move on.  Life is too short, and the people in immediate proximity suffer.

Apple or PC?



Always have my Droid Incredible (PC based) close by.

Use what works for you.

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

“You’re such a techie”. Back in middle school, I remember taking my first computer class.  We learned all about floppy disks, Oregon Trail, and typing. At some point, I was hooked on Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing.  Occasionally in high school, I would be asked to type out a paper.

In college, I received a very, very old laptop that had the worst screen of any computer at that time. It worked-I could AOL instant message, so all was well.  The Form and Composition class I took, demanded computer lab time in the music building. This is where I learned about Sibelius (a music notation software). Third year of college, thanks to Mom, a wonderful Dell desktop graced my dorm room.

So, I received my first MLTI laptop 5 years ago.  Since then, I have spent hours just trying out new software, playing with spreadsheets, web browsers and etc.  Last summer, I took the UM Summer Technology Institute course where I learned all about Google and it’s endless blessings.

What intrigues me is finding a program that can make my job more organized, and communication easier.  I also love being able to help other people when they feel they just can not handle this whole “machine” thing.  I almost feel like it is part of my job to share all the stuff I have learned. So, yes, it seems as if, being young equals understanding computers.  It mostly has to do with the fact that I want to learn and I have had lots of practice.

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

Love what you do. Find joy in every day. Have peace knowing that most situations work out. Be kind to every student. Faithful to your friendships and family. Self control, even when it is a full moon and the kids are wild.  Compassion and gentleness in approaching all difficult situations.

I think back to all of the leaders that had an impact on my life. They were patient, calm, sincere in their intentions and slow to temper. I really think those people had it figured out.

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

            Take a tropical vacation

            Buy a really nice piano

            Start a string program

            Give to missionaries

            Pay off student loans and mortgage

            Start college fund for niece and nephew

            Refinish the school stage

Links with resources: Etna-Dixmont School Webpage

Jake Sturtevant and Jen Nash Web Resources

Thank you Jen for taking the time to tell your story!

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