Posts Tagged ‘Kris Bisson’

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Carol Trimble Award

October 16, 2018

Kate Smith – CONGRATULATIONS!

During the pre-MICA Arts Education conference at USM two weeks ago the Carol Trimble Award was presented to Kate Smith. The award is presented to an educator who contributes exemplary service to the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative/Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) for their commitment, collaborative spirit and contributions. Carol Trimble was an amazing advocate for arts education. She retired as Executive Director from the Maine Alliance for Arts Education. The award was established in 2013 to honor Carol and her work.

Kate with one of her third grade classes with her Carol Trimble award.

Kate is an energetic music teacher currently teaching music to 430 preK-third grade students at Central Elementary School in South Berwick, Maine where she has been since 2003. Kate earned her music education degree from USM and a Master’s degree in Technology in Education from Lesley University. Kate was honored as 2014 York County Teacher of the Year for her passion for innovation and creativity. Kate serves as a teacher leader and design team member for the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative, the Parade Coordinator for South Berwick’s annual Lanternfest and a coordinator for Central School’s farm-to-table program. Kate lives in southern Maine with her amazing husband and three children.

Music Educator Kris Bisson, Kate Smith, teaching artist Brian Evans-Jones at the MALI Mega 2018

Kate is well respected in the education world, not only for music but for her work continuing work with the outdoor classroom at Central School. Kate is a remarkable grant writer and many learners of all ages have benefited in her school and community. She has presented many workshops on a variety of topics for conferences at the local, regional and state level. Her most recent was for the Pre-Maine International Conference on the Arts (MICA) leading the music/dance session and at the MICA facilitating a panel discussion with teaching artists and PK-12 arts teachers.

Kate presenting at the MALI summer institute 2017

In 2014 Kate became a MALI Teacher Leader and willingly shared her enthusiasm for learning. In 2015 she was part of a MALI team who traveled to  Washington, D.C. for the Teach to Lead Summit. Kate enthusiastically embraced the Logic Model the team was introduced to and ever since has guided the MALI work. Kate is so engaged in how the model can impact each of us she often stays up late writing logic models. She is the
“Logic Model Guru”. Her excitement of having the then US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sit at our table at the summit was contagious. In 2015 Kate became a member of the team who guides the MALI work where she continually gives 100% with every task and responsibility. Kate has co-led the work with the MALI Teaching Artist Leaders introducing them to the many facets of teaching and learning. Her experience working with teaching artists in her school/community has enhanced learning opportunities for many. Kate is dependable, collaborative, honest, a life-long learner, has high expectations, fun to be around, and totally committed to whatever she takes on.

I had the pleasure of traveling to Islesford with Kate at the end of the summer to meet and visit with Ashley Bryan. It was a remarkable and very special gift. Kate was so inspired that on her return she incorporated what she learned to pass on to her students and colleagues. Kate has the ability to process quickly and put ideas into action without hesitation.

With Arne Duncan, Teach to Lead Summit, summer 2015

Catherine Ring, co-founder of MALI, Executive Director of the New England Institute for Teacher Education and Visual Art Educator, has worked closely with Kate and said the following about her: Kate is an inspirational leader for arts education. She is an intelligent and passionate advocate for the arts and it’s been a pleasure to work with her for the past 6 years at the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative.

Kate took a moment out of her busy schedule to answer a couple of questions for the Maine Arts Education blog readers.

On Islesford visiting Ashley Bryan

What’s your favorite part about teaching? How do I narrow it down!?!  When you see students not only master what you’ve taught them but then own their learning. Hearing students hum, sing, or whistle the songs I’ve taught them. The joy on my students’ faces when they are creating, performing, listening and responding to music. Hearing parents say how much they love hearing their children sing in the car, at the table, in the bathroom, or in bed when they are supposed to be asleep. Knowing the children are making precious memories by sharing their singing, playing and dancing with their parents (and grandparents!) makes my heart sing!

Kate Smith, 2018 Maine Teacher of the Year and MALI music educator Kaitlin Young, Argy Nestor, Pre-MICA 2018

What are you most proud of from your career as an educator? The relationships I have made. Someone once said, in order to raise yourself up you must surround yourself with people you aspire to follow. I have been able to learn from incredible educators from across the state and region through the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative, the Maine Teacher of the Year Association, USM, Lesley University, the Marshwood School District and countless other networks. There have been people who challenge me, inspire me, stretch me, believe in me. They’ve saved me a place at the table, encouraged me to use my voice, to amplify my students’ voices and have taught me to expect more from our legislators and policy makers.

CONGRATULATIONS KATE SMITH – this years awardee for the Carol Trimble Award!

Previous recipients include:

  • Catherine Ring and Rob Westerberg
  • Bronwyn Sale
  • Jeffrey Beaudry
  • Charlie Johnson

 

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MICA Arts Ed Sessions

September 8, 2018

Three amazing sessions

This is the third blog post that provides information about the learning opportunities being happening in September from the Maine Arts Commission – the Pre-MICA At the HEART of Education, Thursday, September 27 at USM, Portland campus, Abromson Center. And, yesterday’s post with the overall details for the Maine International Conference on the Arts being held, same place, on Friday, September 28. This post includes the details on the ARTS EDUCATION track with 3 sessions for your interest. Below you will find the details.

CONFERENCE REGISTRATION

Kaitlin Young

Kaitlin Young is one of five speakers that will start off the day presenting in the Maine Artists Idea Lab. It is a fast-paced and engaging peach kulcha-style format that will knock your socks off with the newest innovations.  an Idea Lab.

Kaitlin Young is the 2018 Maine Teacher of the Year and Music Educator from Sedomocha School in Dover-Foxcroft. The room will be filled with Maine’s arts community members including educators. Very exciting opportunity for her to represent arts education among arts supporters.

ARTS EDUCATION SESSIONS

  • 11:00 – 12:00 How do teaching, learning and assessment work together in a positive, productive standards-based Visual and Performing Arts classroom? 

Description

The use of “standards” and “assessments” in visual and performing arts (VPA) education have been discussed, planned for, and developed over many years. A panel of educators will share the work they have underway. Participants are invited to join the conversation – bring your thoughts, questions, and curiosity on why standards and assessments are used in the arts.

Facilitator

Jeff Beaudry

Panel

Jen Etter, Kelly Hrenko, Michelle Kaschub, Holly Leighton, John Morris

Bios

Jeffrey S. Beaudry, Ph.D., Professor, Educational Leadership, University of Southern Maine

Jeff Beaudry

Dr. Beaudry is focused on high impact, classroom and leadership strategies, and how they relate to assessment literacy, assessment for learning (formative assessment), evidence-based practices, and STEAMSS (STEM and arts and service learning). Dr. Stewart MCafferty and Dr. Beaudry just co-authored a book, Teaching Strategies to Create Assessment-literate Learners and Educators, which Corwin Press released in May, 2018. The book provides the research base and multiple examples of practices of high impact strategies of assessment for learning. He also wrote a textbook, Research Literacy: A Primer for Understanding Research, and a book of teaching case study about concept mapping and critical thinking. Jeff passionate about the use of visual thinking in teaching, learning and assessment. He is also very proud of his time as co-director of the Southern Maine Partnership, a regional collaboration of schools and the University of Southern Maine.

Jen Etter

Mrs. Etter is a music teacher at York Middle School in York, ME.  She is currently in her 11th year of teaching chorus, general music and beginning band at YMS.  Within her district, Jen serves on the Leadership Team and played an integral role in helping to transition the York School Department to a proficiency based, student centered model of instruction and assessment.  She has presented on proficiency education at the regional and state level and is passionate about spreading the story of how this has transformed her classroom. Jen has been a teacher leader with the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative since 2013 and in 2014 was selected to featured in the Initiative’s video series on standards-based, student centered learning.  She is extremely proud of the work of this organization and feels blessed to have had the opportunity to be involved with MALI. It is a privilege to be able to work with such amazing arts educators from around the state of Maine.

Kelly Hrenko, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Art Education, University of Southern Maine

Kelly Hrenko

Dr. Hrenko’s current scholarship is within the field of integrated arts and multimodal creative literacies. She uses her position as a teacher educator in the visual arts as a place where several intersections occur; between art and culture, community and school; and interdisciplinary education. She comes from the Midwest where she worked in public and Native American BIA schools, assisting k-12 teachers as they work to integrate the visual arts and native cultures across curricula. Dr Hrenko’s recent publication, Decolonizing Vacationland (Hrenko & Paul, 2017) in Staikidis and Ballengee-Morris (Eds.) Transforming Our Practices: Indigenous Art, Pedagogies, and Philosophies, shares examples of culture based work from Maine classrooms, in partnership with Maliseet teaching artist Mihku Paul. Additionally, Dr. Hrenko works closely with Side X Side, a local arts education non-profit, to support the integration of creative teaching practices and arts-based curriculum across k-12 subject areas.

Michele Kaschub, Ph.D., Professor of Music, Coordinator of Music Teacher Education, Director-Center for Collaboration and Development, University of Southern Maine

Michele Kaschub

Dr. Kaschub is Professor of Music and Coordinator of Music Teacher Education in the School of Music, as well as Director of the Center for Collaboration and Development at the University of Southern Maine. Prior to teaching at the college level, Dr. Kaschub taught 6-12 general and choral music in Camden, ME, and elementary music in Glencoe, IL. Her research interests include children’s composition, composition pedagogy, choral music education, curriculum design/assessment, and the professional development of teachers at all levels. She is co-author of Minds on Music: Composition for Creative and Critical Thinking (Rowman & Littlefield, 2009) and Experiencing Music Composition in Grades 3-5 (Oxford University Press, 2016), co-editor of Composing Our Future: Preparing Music Educators to Teach Composition (OUP, 2013) and Promising Practices in 21st Century Music Teacher Education (OUP, 2014), and has contributed chapters to several pedagogy texts and articles to multiple professional journals.  Michele is currently the Chair & Academic Editor of Music Educators Journal, the most widely disseminated journal for music practitioners in the world. An active clinician and guest lecturer, she has presented research papers and workshops at conferences throughout the United States and abroad.  

Holly Leighton, B.S., Art Education, K-12 Mattanawcook Academy, RSU 67, Lincoln

Holly Leighton

Ms. Leighton is an art teacher at Mattanawcook Academy, RSU 67, Lincoln, Maine.  Holly began her teaching career in the district 20 years ago at the Ella P. Burr Elementary School by developing and implementing the first art program at the elementary level in RSU 67.  Holly is currently in her 4thyear as the art teacher at the high school. Over the past 4 years Holly has participated in district courses and workshops led Dr. Beaudry and Dr. Stewart MCafferty on assessment literacy which has become an important part of her teaching philosophy.  She has continued working with them by attending USM Literacy Conferences and co-presenting at workshops. Holly believes in creating a classroom environment of trust and respect where formative assessments are welcome and occur continuously between teacher and students and between students themselves.   Holly is proud to have become a MALI Teacher Leader and a Teacher Leader at Mattanawcook Academy.

John Morris

Mr. Morris is a dance educator and teaching artist based in Bridgton, Maine. Born and raised in Maine, John performed and taught dance for many years in New York City, before living in the United Kingdom for four years with his wife and stepdaughter. John promotes creative exploration and expression in his teaching, specializing in improvisation and inter-disciplinary collaboration. His writing on creativity and dance has been published in “Creativity Across Domains: Faces of the muse,” edited by James C. Kaufman and John Baer. In addition, he has created a resource for the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Resource Bank on creativity and dance. He also has a background in large-scale arts assessment, as a consultant for the NAEP arts assessment and the A.P. Studio Art assessment. John is a member of the MALI design team, and is on the Maine Teaching Artists Roster.

  • 2:00 – 3:00 When Teaching Artists and Arts Teachers Connect, Students Win  Description: During the past 4 years, teaching artists and arts educators in the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative have collaborated to provide meaningful, purposeful and authentic learning opportunities for students. Educator collaborations provide opportunities for learners that can surpass what a teacher, working alone, can offer. Hear the stories from these collaborators, bring your questions, share your experiences and imagine the possibilities in more Maine schools and communities.

Description

During the past 4 years, teaching artists and arts educators in the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative have collaborated to provide meaningful, purposeful and authentic learning opportunities for students. Educator collaborations provide opportunities for learners that can surpass what a teacher, working alone, can offer. Hear the stories from these collaborators, bring your questions, share your experiences and imagine the possibilities in more Maine schools and communities.

Facilitator

Kate Smith

Panel

Brian Evans-Jones, Kris Bisson, Tim Christensen, Lori Spruce, John Morris, Carmel Collins

Bios

Kate Smith

Mrs. Smith is an energetic music teacher currently teaching music to preK-third grade students in South Berwick, Maine. Kate earned her music education degree from USM and a Master’s degree in Technology in Education from Lesley University. Kate was honored as 2014 York County Teacher of the Year for her passion for innovation and creativity. Kate serves as a teacher leader and design team member for the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative, the Parade Coordinator for South Berwick’s annual Lanternfest and a coordinator for Central School’s farm-to-table program. Kate lives in southern Maine with her husband and three children.

Brian Evans-Jones and Kris Bisson

Mrs. Bisson is Director of Choruses and a music educator at Marshwood Middle School in Eliot, Maine. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music Education from the University of Southern Maine and has served as adjudicator and guest conductor for several district choral festivals. She is a teacher leader for the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative, and a member of the National Association for Music Education and the American Choral Directors Association. Her passion for student engagement is reflected in each class she teaches.

Mr. Evans-Jones is a former Poet Laureate of Hampshire, UK, now living in South Berwick, Maine. He studied Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick, UK, and received his MFA in Poetry from UNH in 2016. His poems have appeared in magazines and competitions in America and Britain, and he was the poetry winner of the 2017 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award from Poets & Writers. Brian has taught creative writing to children and adults since 2005, and has run poetry residencies and workshops in schools, historic houses, prisons, libraries, and other community and educational venues.

Tim Christensen

Mr. Christensen is a well known ceramic artist, and teaching artist, living in the woods of Downeast Maine. In his practice working in sgraffito on porcelain, he seeks to understand and record the complexities of the systems operating, and changing, in our world today.  In his teaching practice, he helps facilitate learning through the use of visual art as a language, supporting students, teachers, and administrators as they unlock the wonders of our world through art and visual literacy. He has worked in clay since 1999, and been teaching since 2003.

Carmel Collins

Ms. Collins is both a visual arts and dance teacher at Lake Region High School, Maine.  She teaches a variety of arts classes that include ceramics, drawing, fundamentals and the latest addition graphic design.  The dance program offers dance showcase (primarily a performance class) and dance academy, as well as supporting a dance outreach program which serves the district schools. She has served on several educational boards and acted as teacher leader for MALI several times, and served as a member of the reviewing committee in the formulation of the NCCAS. In addition to her classroom duties Carmel also serves the district as K-12 fine arts coordinator and serves on the teacher evaluation committee.

John Morris

Mr. Morris is a dance educator and teaching artist based in Bridgton, Maine. Born and raised in Maine, John performed and taught dance for many years in New York City, before living in the United Kingdom for four years with his wife and stepdaughter. John promotes creative exploration and expression in his teaching, specializing in improvisation and inter-disciplinary collaboration. His writing on creativity and dance has been published in “Creativity Across Domains: Faces of the muse,” edited by James C. Kaufman and John Baer. In addition, he has created a resource for the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Resource Bank on creativity and dance. He also has a background in large-scale arts assessment, as a consultant for the NAEP arts assessment and the A.P. Studio Art assessment. John is a member of the MALI design team, and is on the Maine Teaching Artists Roster.

Lori Spruce

Mrs. Spruce is a visual art educator at Brewer High School in Brewer, Maine. She teaches multiple art classes including Art 1, Painting, Photography, Graphic Design, and Advanced Placement Studio Art.  Lori received her Bachelor’s Degree in Art education and Studio Art from the University of Maine in Orono. She is proud to have been instrumental in creating the digital media arts program that is now offered at her school that includes a traditional black and white photography darkroom as well. She is also the curriculum leader for the visual and performing art department at Brewer. She is a teacher leader for the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative, a member of the Maine Arts Education Association, and Art in the Heart of Maine. Lori lives in Lamoine, Maine, with her husband and son and is a painter in her artist time.

  • 3:15 – 4:15 Empowering Your Voice for Arts Education 

Description 

We often underestimate the power of our passion and voice for arts education. Yet, we’ve seen students, educators, artists, arts organizations and community members find their voice, build their stories and messages, back them up with research and evidence, and become leaders and advocates for arts education in powerful ways. In this session, we will explore ways to empower our voices, use helpful resources that are just clicks away, and be on our way to making an impact with our hopes and dreams for the arts in education!

Presenter

Ms. Ring is Executive Director of the New England Institute for Teacher Education and teaches graduate level courses to educators across the state of Maine. She co-founder of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative and has served on the core leadership team since it was established in 2010. Catherine completed her Education Leadership studies at the University of Vermont and received her Master of Arts from Vermont College of Norwich University. For her thesis, entitled “Education and the Arts, Toward Creative Intelligences,” she researched the role of the arts in learning and has worked closely with classroom teachers, helping them to integrate the arts into their regular curricula. As Principal, Catherine helped to bring to her school district the Kennedy Center’s National Partnership program. She assists school districts throughout Maine with differentiated instruction, arts integration, and gifted and talented programs. Catherine is the 2014 Advocate of the Year by the Maine Art Education Association. Catherine returned to the art classroom in 2016 and is teaching on Isle au Haut. 

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Pre-MICA Arts Ed Conference

September 6, 2018

Opportunity to learn 

At the HEART of Arts Education

Biennial conference – Thursday, September 27, 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

USM, Portland campus, Abromson Center

Arts educators, teaching artists, community arts leaders, youth advocates, and community arts leaders are invited to attend the Arts Education Pre-Conference: At the HEART of Arts Education.

The cost to attend is $50 and includes a full schedule (see below), lunch, performance by The Extension Chords, students from the Midcoast Music Academy, the Maine International Conference on the Arts Opening Reception: A celebration of the arts with Keynote Speaker Maryo Gard EwellRural Community Development in and Through the Arts, and possible 12 contact hours.

CONFERENCE REGISTRATION

The Arts Education Pre-Conference participants will:

  • learn skills to improve teaching and learning in the arts;
  • make connections among the arts disciplines: dance, media arts, music, theater, visual arts and creative writing;
  • network with other educators and reconnect with old friends;
  • make connections between school and community, including arts organizations, artists, and other arts education supporters.

Description

The 2018 Maine State Teacher of the Year, Kaitlin Young, will provide an engaging keynote and guide participants in creating action steps for educators and their work in schools and/or communities. Attend as an individual or consider bringing a team from your school or organization. The day will start and conclude with creative art and music making.

The conference will be a joyous occasion to learn together and celebrate who we are! We are educating the future, the next generation of artists, arts educators, and appreciators of the arts. To do that we need to:

  • instill purpose/passion;
  • ensure high quality instruction;
  • provide relevant and real-world learning experiences;
  • empower our students to become the teachers of their generation.

Facilitators: Kaitlin Young and Catherine Ring

Morning Session Descriptions (Concurrent)

A. Celebrate Community Through Music

Communities thrive when opportunities are given to connect, communicate, create and celebrate.  The arts are the perfect vehicle for bringing communities together. Come prepared to sing, dance, move or play, there will be something for everyone!

If you choose the Music Making session participants will have the opportunity to learn:

  • Basic African drumming and singing
  • Simplified steps to an African dance

And put it together to make an African processional and use later in the day as part of the MICA processional.

FOLI  – “Foli”is the word used for rhythm by the Malinke tribe in West Africa But Foli is not only found in Malinke music, but in all parts of their daily lives. FOLI: there is no movement without rhythm

Facilitators: Kris Bisson and Kate Smith

B. Lantern Making and Creative Exploration

Come prepared with your creative energy to make lanterns using simple materials and be ready to play with the possibilities.

If you choose the Visual Art – Lantern session participants will have the opportunity to learn:

  • How in some cultures light holds a symbolic meaning and is an integral part of traditions
  • How to create a lantern

And, use it later in the day as part of the MICA professional.

Bon Festival – In Japan this annual festival honors deceased relatives while people spend time with their living family members. At the culmination of the festival families place lanterns on the river to be carried away symbolizing the peaceful return to the afterlife.

Facilitators: Lindsay Pinchbeck and Argy Nestor

If you attend with a team from your school/district or community please consider splitting up your team during the morning sessions so the learning can be shared between your colleagues.

Facilitator Bios

Kaitlin Young is the 2018 Maine Teacher of the Year. She currently teaches music to students in prekindergarten through fourth grade and choral music to students in fifth through eighth grade in the RSU #68 school district in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine. Kaitlin graduated from The University of Maine at Orono with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education in 2010, and completed her Master’s Degree in Music Education with a concentration in Kodaly Pedagogy at The Hartt School in Hartford, CT in 2017. Kaitlin enjoys spending her free time at her family camp with her husband Bob, cat Zoe, and dog Gabby.

Catherine Ring is Executive Director of the New England Institute for Teacher Education and teaches graduate level courses to educators across the state of Maine. She is co-founder of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative and has served on the core leadership team since it was established in 2010. Catherine completed her Education Leadership studies at the University of Vermont and received her Master of Arts from Vermont College of Norwich University. For her thesis, entitled “Education and the Arts, Toward Creative Intelligences,” she researched the role of the arts in learning and has worked closely with classroom teachers, helping them to integrate the arts into their regular curricula. As Principal, Catherine helped to bring to her school district the Kennedy Center’s National Partnership program. She assists school districts throughout Maine with differentiated instruction, arts integration, and gifted and talented programs. Catherine is the 2014 Advocate of the Year by the Maine Art Education Association. Catherine returned to the art classroom in 2016 and is teaching on Isle au Haut.

Kris Bisson is Director of Choruses and a music educator at Marshwood Middle School in Eliot, Maine. She received her Bachelor of Science and Master of Music degrees in Music Education from the University of Southern Maine and has served as adjudicator and guest conductor for several district choral festivals. She is a teacher leader for the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative, and a member of the National Association for Music Education and the American Choral Directors Association. Her passion for student engagement is reflected in each class she teaches.

Lindsay Pinchbeck has been teaching with and through the arts in a variety of settings for the past 20 years. Lindsay is the director and founder of Sweet Tree Arts a community arts organization in Hope, ME and began Sweetland School a K-6 Arts Integrated elementary program in 2013. Pinchbeck gained her Masters in Education through Lesley University’s Creative Arts and Learning program. Creatively Lindsay works as a printmaker and photographer. Lindsay believes the creative arts should be accessible to all. She encourages us to be active participants and keen observers with the hope of enriching our communities through the arts.

Kate Smith is an energetic music teacher currently teaching music to preK-third grade students in South Berwick, Maine. Kate earned her music education degree from USM and a Master’s degree in Technology in Education from Lesley University. Kate was honored as 2014 York County Teacher of the Year for her passion for innovation and creativity. Kate serves as a teacher leader and design team member for the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative, the Parade Coordinator for South Berwick’s annual Lanternfest and a coordinator for Central School’s farm-to-table program. Kate lives in southern Maine with her husband and three children.

Argy Nestor is the Director of Arts Education at the Maine Arts Commission. She earned a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Maine, Orono. Much of her career has been spent in a middle school where visual arts was at the heart of all subjects. Argy has been recognized for her accomplishments in teaching, leadership and advocacy including the 1995 Maine Teacher of the Year. She has authored many articles and presented workshops at the local, state, national, and international level. She serves on the education council for the Americans for the Arts. Argy is most proud of the accomplishments of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative, MALI, (formerly the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative) and the work (and play) that all arts educators do in classrooms across Maine. When she is working to further arts education in Maine Argy can be found on a pond somewhere in Maine or making mosaics.

Questions? Please contact Argy Nestor

CONFERENCE REGISTRATION

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Wisdom from Maine Arts Educators

September 4, 2018

From the voices of veteran visual and performing arts educators on starting a new school year

Make it a delicious school year!

Whether you’re just starting to teach or you’ve been add it for 50 years or somewhere in between you might be excited out of your mind to start or having the back to school dreams and asking yourself “how the heck am I going to do this?!” or somewhere in between. I asked veteran teachers “what’s your message for new and veteran teachers starting off the school year?” Here they are – WORDS FROM THE WISE and EXPERIENCED! It’s an amazing, amazing (and amazing) collection. THANKS to everyone who contributed!

Collectively below is the wisdom of 654 + 65 years of teaching. These are not in any particular order!

Kate Smith – 20 years
Central School, South Berwick Music Educator, Grades PreK-3
-The first friends you should make are the secretaries and the custodians.
-Drink plenty of water.
-Advocate for transition time between classes (see above).
-Don’t take yourself too seriously.
-Take the time to know your students.
-Find an Arts mentor. (MALI teacher leaders are great!)
-Build/maintain/reach out to a network of teachers for a sense of community and just-in-time support.
-You are going to mess up and wish you could forget it all. Write it down instead. Some day it’ll make you laugh like crazy.

Jake Sturtevant – 13 years
Falmouth High School Music Educator
If there is one thing I have learned to do over the course of the time I have been teaching it is to breathe. The power of breath is so important, and it takes moments to do. I still have those feelings of being overwhelmed and always reaching for the surface of the water beneath the pile of to-dos and hope-to-dos, but now I just try to pause and take a breathe and allow that feeling to settle and often it moves further from me.

Jen Etter – 11 years
York Middle School Music Educator 
My biggest words of advice starting a new school year and something that I am attempting to be mindful of is to not lose sight of the big picture getting bogged down in the details. Education is ever changing and constantly evolving and that can be frustrating at times. Keep focused on the big picture and what you know to be important and always keep students at the center!
Patricia Gordan – 37 years
RSU#14 Windham Raymond, Music Educator
  1. I do not just teach music to children. I teach children through music.
  2. Whenever I get to the point where I begin to think I know what I’m doing, I gain more wisdom and realize I still don’t know what I’m doing. (Keeps me humble.)
  3. When I have a student who is a behavior challenge I try to get to know them better and build a relationship with them outside of class.
  4. Music is a vehicle for expressing all thoughts and emotions. It can be scary to share the sad and angry songs with students. Will I get negative feedback from parents? “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” is a song about death! Should I use it? Of course we should be tactful and careful, but songs in music class should cover all emotions.
  5. A musician must have the heart of a gypsy and the discipline of a soldier. -Beethoven – Some students will be really good at the heart thing and some will be really good at the discipline thing. Stretch them toward the other skill.
  6. Sometimes I have a hard time with the word, “fun.” Music is fun but it is also hard work. I want the students to have more than “fun.” I want to feed their souls. I want them to feel the natural high that comes from producing a fantastic product that is the result of extreme effort.
  7. Especially for elementary teachers – Listen very, very closely. The “music” is in there somewhere. 😊
Iva Damon – 10 years
Leavitt Area High School, Turner, Visual Art Educator
Going into this year I am really resonating with going “back to basics”. We’re here for the kids as they are at the heart of everything we do. Remembering that at the end of each day, I am able to make connections and help achieve steps in their learning. At the same time, this year I am going to work harder at self-care and making sure to take time for myself.
Holly Leighton – 10 years
Mattanawcook Academy, Lincoln, Visual Art Educator
Teaching is not something you learn and then implement for the next 30 years. It is a constant.

The more I learn the more I realize what I don’t know. It is the “what I don’t know” that drives me to learn more. This is how I grow as a person and educator. It is a continuous cycle that inspires a fresh outlook to each new school year. Take workshops and conference opportunities, no matter how long you have been teaching. After 20 years of teaching I am always come back with something I can use to positively affect student learning and engagement.

Cindi Kugell – 29 years
Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, South Paris, Visual Art Educator
Know your “Why”. When we focus on our reason for teaching, and for me it’s because there is nothing cooler than working with kids, it gives our lives purpose, clarity and focus. Working with kids keeps me young, inspired and energized and the gratification that I get from students excitement centered around the arts fuels my passion. I truly feel that teaching is my purpose.
Hope Lord – 28 years
Maranacook Community Middle School, Winthrop, Visual Art Educator
Each school year is a new opportunity for teachers to inspire students, innovate, take risks, collaborate, and celebrate the arts.
Adele Drake – 15 years
Hampden Academy Visual Art Educator
I believe in always being open to learning and receiving help and support from others.
Jane Snider – 26 years
Hancock Grammar School Art Educator
While working outside all day in my gardens to end my summer season I was thinking about all of my gardens, how much they had grown since early spring. I realized how much my teaching is like my gardening! Many plants are now in need of a rest, much like my students and I are in late Spring! I have nurtured the seedlings, plants and bushes throughout the season. I have carefully and thoughtfully helped them showcase their beauty! They’ll be back next year, bigger and brighter! Tomorrow I return to school to nurture my students and showcase the beauty of their learning through their art! I’ve had my rest and restored my spirit, I’m ready to carefully and thoughtfully begin a new season for my students! What do they need to grow and flourish?
Sue Barre – 25 years
Waterville Senior High School Music Educator 
Every year (on the advice of my first principal) I work to learn something about each of my students that has nothing to do with music. This process keeps me on my toes and it is also fun for my students to share their non music passions. I am often uplifted, sometimes saddened, and every so often astounded, to the response I can get from “share three things you did this summer.” My personal goal this year is to greet my students every day at the door……they deserve my attention, whether they are making music or not.
Carmel Collins – 20+ years
Lake Region High School, Naples, Dance Educator
Education today is like working with a living breathing organism. It is forever in a state of flux; morphing, refining, retracting, reshaping……Practice being flexible, adaptable and innovative, learn to let things go and move on, keep light on your feet and don’t get stuck in the mud!
When a parent or guardian becomes angry or frustrated with you, always remember that to them they are fighting for their child, a child they have loved and nurtured since birth. Most of the time they are not angry with you, rather it is the situation they are frustrated with and they are looking for help. Try to stay focused on the issue and don’t make it personal. Practice this and they will become your friend and loyal advocate.
Melanie Crowe –  16 years
Marshwood Middle School, Eliot, Visual Art Educator 
The anticipation of a new school year brings up so many emotions – a changing of the seasons, realizing summer is coming to an end, wiping sand off of my sandals for another season, and the vegetable garden bearing fewer treasures. Although, the excitement of meeting new students and having a chance to bring in a fresh approach and atmosphere to the classroom is a just as much a welcome adventure today as it was entering my first year 17 years ago. I am honored to share the art studio with my middle school artists, the opportunity to engage, challenge, and expand their minds is such a precious experience. The years go by in a blink of the eye, the students faces change, but the desire to light the flame of love for art grows stronger each year. I look forward to working with my colleagues integrating art in as many avenues as I can, bridging the gaps from one content to another so students can see how their learning is not in isolation but interconnected. When students can see how valued they are in the art studio, they begin to believe how valuable their art making experience is. I wish you all a wonderful school year working with the youth of Maine and beyond!
Lindsay Pinchbeck – 12 years
Sweetland School, Hope, Founder, Director, Teacher 
New Beginnings
An opportunity to start again
Still jitters – every year, conditioned since a child
Now knowing
The mix of wonder, unease and transition
Breathe
Fear not the unknown
Anthony Lufkin – 12 years
Friendship Village School, Prescott Memorial School, Union Elementary School, Rivers Alternative Middle School, RSU 40 
Every year is similar, but never the same. Each summer goes by faster and faster, but despite wish for more R&R, I always look forward to the new school year. Art and teaching are similar to me in that they are both all about making connections. In art we attempt to connect with artists of the past to understand their ideas, or we try to connect people with our own ideas and perspectives through creation. Teaching effectively requires making connections with students in a way that they can relate to, understand, and appreciate what we are teaching. If we lose connection, not only does artwork become insignificant to us, so does the purpose for learning. Each school year is an opportunity to make connections in new ways. Being in relatively the same position for several consecutive years gives me the insight for identifying ideas and processes that will relate to specific students. As I prepare to start my 12th year of teaching art, I am looking forward to “reusing” successful lessons, opportunities, and connections I have been able to make thus far.  However, I am also looking forward to experimenting with new ideas to better convey ideas, and give students new ways to understand, and more importantly connect, to what art has to offer.
Andrea Wollstadt – 20 years
John F. Kennedy Memorial School, Biddeford, Music Educator
Allow yourself to get caught up in the excitement. Students involved in music have a passion for music. Their joy and excitement is infectious. These kids are PUMPED UP about playing in an ensemble or participating in a music class. Whatever worries or anxieties you might have about the upcoming school year, make sure you give yourself a chance to catch some of their enthusiasm.
Lisa Marin – 22 years (and this is her last)
Jonesport-Beals High School & Jonesport Elementary Visual Art Educator     
Words of wisdom for the new teacher: I remember that first year being very excited, nervous and worried about doing a good job for my new students, the school system, and my colleagues. I tried to get as much input as I could from my fellow art teacher friends, who were very gracious and generous with advice and materials. I was told to relax, have fun, and realize that it takes a few years to make the program your own. So, cut yourself some slack and you’ll be great. Oh yes, and make friends with the custodial staff. Their help over the years has been invaluable.
Words of wisdom for the veteran teachers: It may sometimes be hard to keep up the energy and enthusiasm in the face of new and increasing demands on your time that have little to do with quality teaching for students. I’ve tried to combat this by finding ways to shake up my lessons. I’m looking for ways to incorporate materials I’ve been unfamiliar with or slightly intimidated by to blow out the cobwebs! It’s been fun and I often find I am helped in my success by my students. We say we are all in this together!
For the soon to be retiring teachers (like me): Plan ahead for what you’d like to do post retirement. That will make the transition so much easier. This sounds like a no brainer but is often overlooked. As much as you might love your job remember, you do the job, you aren’t the job. A new teacher’s approach can be wonderful. We were once new teachers as well with fresh ideas. Enjoy your new year!
Shalimar Chasse – 25 years
Wiscasset Middle High School Visual Art Educator rk Middle School Music Educator 
I like to start right off with hands on- avoiding the loooooonnnnnnnngggggggg and boring “expectations” talk that mostly sounds like “wha wha wha wha, wha wha, wha wha” to students just waking up after a summer of sleeping in until noon. I refer students to my on-line site and a unit binder that holds class expectation information. I send them home with a parent guide to art class and encourage them to review this with their parents and return with a parent note confirming their time together and comments or questions. I encourage students to ask me any question to help them acclimate to our space and class while we are doing our first day art activity. Students know what is expected, some need reminding or clarification or simply to know they might not get away with something they have tested. They come to art to Do art- so I like to meet their expectations hoping they might return the gesture.I love the newness of a brand new school year- with no mistakes in it. I like to think of the upcoming year and classes as the best we will experience yet.
Allie Rimkunas – 14 years en Etter
Great Falls Elementary School, Gorham, Visual Art Educator 
Love your students. The most difficult ones need the most love. As an art teacher, I rarely know the home situations, or past trauma that these little ones might have or are still dealing with. I try to keep that in mind when I know a difficult student is coming into my room. Every day is a new day and a possibility for new positive interactions.
I have been teaching for 14 years, and every August brings a new batch of school anxiety dreams. Never fails. I figure that if I didn’t get them then I am not doing my job and changing it up enough.
Catherine Ring – 65 years
Isle au Haut Visual ArtEducator 
Share your passion for learning with children. It’s contagious!
Jane Kirton – 20 years
Sanford High School Music Educator 
Be Compassionate . . . Be consistent . . . CommunicateBe compassionate – Music is one of the few subjects that connects the heart and the brain. Showing compassion towards my students and my colleagues is who I am. The world is filled with so much pain, we don’t know what our students are going through at home. I take great pride in the fact that from day one I tell my students that my classroom is their home and we are a family.  No bullying is allowed. If there is a drama free atmosphere in the room, our music will sound better!  Show you care, smile (even though you are a nervous wreck). Don’t forget to be kind to yourself.  Take care of you – exercise, drink plenty of water, yoga, anything to relieve stress.

Be consistent – Consistency, in my eyes, is critical in good parenting. Set your classroom code of cooperation on day one and stand by it! Treat everyone the same. Discipline can be challenging for a new teacher. Discipline allows a successful start for the entire class. I always remind myself I can always ease up a bit as we get into the year but hold firm to your rules. Keep up with the paperwork (yes, there are certain things we need to do as part of the job which doesn’t have anything to do with what we teach – just “get it done,” don’t put it off.)

Communication – I always tell my students that I’m not a mind reader. I encourage them to tell me what’s going on. It is also important to communicate with them and their parents – concert schedule, paperwork, etc. Communicating with your colleagues is also important. I recently read a post where a new teacher was critical of older teachers in their district in the ways they were teaching. Not a great way to start!  We’re all in this together. Reach out and communicate.  Communicate with your administration, janitors, secretaries, etc. Ask if you don’t know!!

Rob Westerberg – 32 years
York High SchoolMusic Educator 
It’s not about the product, it’s about the process. Precious few are going to remember your concert or art exhibit or play or dance recital three years from now. But dozens of years from now every single participant will remember their journey with you to create that product, and whether or not you caused them to flourish academically and blossom personally. If you take care of those two things – on a daily basis – the rest will take care of itself. Academic without personal is tedious. Personal without academic is cheating them. Both combined is spot-on and will leave you at the end of the day feeling like it was all worth while. Because it will have been.
Charlie Johnson – 44 years
Mount Desert Island High School Visual Art Educator 
Get to know your learners; it is through positive connections that a teacher can discover that which is not always overt from an individual. We are all unique and we are all special, and if you endeavor to learn about your students in a positive manner, it goes a long way toward developing a teacher/learner relationship that benefits both parties.
I’m just starting my 45th teaching year, and I’m just as excited about my new students and classes as I was my first year, because I haven’t fallen into “the same old thing” trap and have many new pieces to explore with my students!
Barbie Weed – 14 years
Gray-New Gloucester Middle School Visual Art Educator 
I always find that the best way to begin a new school year is to forge connections with students as soon as possible. Whether students are returnees for new to the school, taking a little time to get to know something about them sets a positive tone for the whole year. I’m excited for the new experiences that students will bring to my classroom.
Jean Phillips – 30+ years
Wiscasset Middle High School English and Drama Educator
Life is an occasion; rise to it.
Lisa Ingraham – 12 years
Madison Elementary School Visual Art Educator 
Plan meticulously, but keep your mind open to teachable moments. Some of the best learning experiences in my art room began with a student question, interest, and/or aha! that changed our direction for that day.
I’m looking forward to a great, creative, messy year!
MaryEllen Schaper – Retired in June with 42 years
Dance Educator 
Take your work seriously; don’t take yourself too seriously. The work is VERY important, but you can be replaced.
For new teachers, yes, you want to develop positive relationships with your students, but they are NOT your friends. If you need friends at work, develop friendships with your colleagues.
My former superintendent, used to say, “we are there to teach ALL children. Parents send us their best. They don’t keep “the good ones” home”.
We never know the baggage a student brings to school, so listen and be kind. Help students learn that that baggage may be a reason, but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse by the student, the teacher, or the parent. There’s a difference.
Applicable Lin Manuel Miranda “Hamilton” quotes:
“Why do you assume you’re the smartest in the room?” You might not be. I have learned A LOT from my students.
“I am not throwing away my shot.”  You have amazing opportunity to influence lives now and beyond anything in your wildest dreams, so go in EVERY DAY and give 100%.
“I am looking for a mind at work”. Teach your students to think outside the box, ask questions, and how to find answers, even if they might not be what you had in mind.
“Talk less. Smile more.”  Breathe. listen. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll see and hear.
“I wanna be in the room where it happens”.  You ARE in the room where it happens every day. Savor it. It goes by quicker than you’d think!
Lori Spruce – 10 years
Brewer High School Visual Art Educator 
Contribute to the knowledge and skills that you have not only in your own content area, but also expand out to involve your colleagues content areas as well. By doing so, you help not only yourself,  but also students and teachers can learn and grow in the same way. By getting out of your comfort zone and content area, the relationships that you build are invaluable and help build the confidence needed to model what you learn.
Pam Chernesky – 26 years
Mt. Blue High School, Farmington Visual Art Educator 
Start each school year open and ready to build a new community! Bring your best self and a positive attitude to what you do. Every year there will be new initiatives and demands on your teaching and your time, but the real focus should be meeting your students and sharing the excitement of creating and learning with them. Remember that you have content knowledge, passion, and experiences to share and that your students want to learn from you. Don’t become bogged down by the initiatives, administrative demands, or even the details of lesson plans. Offer challenges and take risks in your classroom! Laugh with your students!  Have fun!
Kris Bisson – 16 wonderful years!
Marshwood Middle School, Director of Choruses 
No matter what type of learners you have in your classroom, every student needs understanding.

When I’m excited about what I’m teaching, my students are excited about what I’m teaching!

Theresa Cerceo – 15 years
Dr. Levesque Elementary School & Wisdom Middle High School, MSAD # 33 Visual Art Educator
Trust your instincts, value your strengths and keep yourself open to learning new things.
Danette Kerrigan – 13 years
Sacopee Valley Middle School Visual Art Educator 
Every year is different, but poses the possibility of new discovery and greatness. Every year is the same – the same bright expectant eyes, sleepy heads, hugs and growth. Starting a new year is never boring, always keeping me on my toes, yet is as exciting as opening a new box of crayons… the possibilities are endless. Fashions change, expectations change, requirements change, students stay the same – still needing reassurance, encouragement, celebration and a champion.
For new and veteran teachers – breathe. Embrace each day and reflect at the end on what went well and be honest about what did not. Remember that everyone has something to offer, even those adults who may try your patience. They too, got up this morning, hoping to do the right thing. Assume good intentions. Always apologize – even to students – especially to students – when you have had a bad day and spoke shortly when you shouldn’t have. Remember that you are making an impact you don’t even know about yet.
Rick Osann – 15 years (retiring this year!)
Bonny Eagle High School Media, Theatre, and Visual Arts Educator 
Be sure to be yourself. Teaching can be really stressful and it’s easy to try to be different to either be the “perfect teacher” or to get your students to “like” you.  The most important thing is to feel comfortable in your own skin.  Students of any age recognize quickly if you’re not being true to your core beliefs. Students will respect you if you just be yourself.
Bill Buzza – 25 years
Edward Little High School Music Educator 

Some words of advice for the beginning of the year:

#1 – Take time to get organized. We get so busy and there are many demands on our time. Using an organizational system that works for you allows you to spend more time teaching.
#2 – (New teachers) Find a mentor and don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s much more efficient to learn from others than trying to reinvent the wheel.

#3 – Don’t be afraid to say “No” but keep an approachable demeanor. Many times students try to learn / push a teachers limits. We need to be committed to our response and consistent so students know what to expect.

#4 – Build relations with everyone; students, administrators, parents, colleagues, custodians. There will be a time when those connections will pay great dividends.
What’s your advice to new and returning educators? Please email me yours and I will collect them for a future blog post. How will you include and support new teachers in your school/district? Please introduce them to the Maine Arts Education blog – its easy to subscribe (on the right side, half way down). And, invite them to join the community by joining the arts education list-serv by sending me their email address.
Before we get to the “wise words” from Maine, Nancy Flanagan taught K-12 music for 30 years in Michigan. She blogs for Education Week, the TEACHER section called TEACHER in a Strange Land (you may want to follow her on twitter) and on August 6 she wrote a post called Ten Non-Standard ideas About Going Back to SchoolIt’s worth the read (after you read what Maine arts educators have to say)!
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Storytelling in the Arts Classroom

August 27, 2018

How might you use storytelling?

At the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Summer Institute “Storytelling” was the overarching theme. It was interwoven in many aspects of the 3 days.

Storytelling session led by Jake Sturtevant and Lindsay Pinchbeck

Falmouth High School and MALI Design Team member Jake Sturtevant and Sweetland School founder and director and MALI Design Team member Lindsay Pinchbeck provided a workshop on Storytelling and they set up a Story Corps tent where teachers could visit during the institute and have a conversation, similar to the National Public Broadcasting Story Corps.

We listened to musician and MALI Teaching Artist Leader Tom Luther tell his story of the stroke he had almost a year ago. He worked his way back and to almost full recovery using a ‘beginner’s mind’ and his music.

Brian Evans-Jones and Kris Bisson

MALI Teaching Artist Leader Brian Evans-Jones and Marshwood Middle School music educator and MALI Teacher Leader Kris Bisson shared their story of their incredible collaboration during the 2017-18 school year where they composed a song about an all but forgotten bridge in South Berwick.

Elementary visual art teacher and MALI Teacher Leader Elise Bothel shared her story and research on self-care tools and how they are enriching her life and positively impacting her teaching.

A panel on Leadership included stories from Catherine Ring, co-founder of MALI and art educator, teaching artist and MALI Design Team member John Morris, MALI Teacher Leaders: music from York Middle School Jen Etter, visual art from Brunswick High School Jenni Driscoll, and music from SeDoMoCha school and Maine’s 2018 Teacher of the Year Kaitlin Young. All unique!

Stories in the Leadership session

In a recent edition of the eSchoolNews from NAfME music educator Lori Schwartz Reichi reflects on her college wind ensemble rehearsal when her conductor would pause to tell a story. She wondered why he would take time out of rehearsal to share details of his personal life.

Years later when she started teaching it made perfect sense to her. The stories her professor told were intentional ‘pauses’ in the rehearsal. READ the entire article and learn more about the power of storytelling in the music classroom. (Storytelling has potential in any classroom)!

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MALI Summer Institute Day 3

August 3, 2018

Hard at work

Brian and Kris

The day started with Teaching Artist Leader Brian Evans Jones and Teacher Leader Kris Bisson sharing their story. For several years the Great Works Bridge in South Berwick, where Brian and Kris live, has been closed. Last year at the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) summer institute Brian and Kris decided to collaborate and shed light on the bridge by composing a song. Brian is a poet and creative writing teacher and Kris is the music educator at Marshwood Middle School; they each brought their expertise to this year long project and the results are amazing. A true integrated unit that involves real life learning and students making a difference. Kris and Brian shared their inspirational story with the participants at the institute.

The day continued with teachers working independently and collaboratively on their Logic Model which outlines plans for the next year (and some longer). Intervowen in the day was the opportunity to watch the Ashley Bryan film “I Know a Man” and to slip into the home made story corps booth with one other person to share a story.

The end of the day included a gallery walk to take a close look at the participant’s plans and provide feedback to each one. Some expressed that a 4th day should have been included as participants left excited and feeling accomplished.

Speaking of storytellers, some educators extended the day by hearing the panel discussion on Ashley Bryant’s work and seeing his show at the Portland Museum of Art (PMA). Mr. Bryant is quite the storyteller and his children’s books are exemplary; marrying the words and images beautifully! Quotes from Ashley in the film were good reminders for all of us: “Don’t lose in us it’s the one thing we have in common.” “Be reminded of the child in you…you sometimes suppress it….” Thanks to the PMA for providing the opportunity that directly connected with our summer institute theme: Storytelling!

 

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Marshwood Middle School

June 4, 2018

Performing tomorrow

Maine Arts Leadership Initiative participants, teacher leader Kris Bisson and teaching artist leader Brian Evans-Jones have collaborated on a project that will be premiered tomorrow night, June 5 at Marshwood Middle School.

The premiere performance of “The River Sings its Song”, funded by the Marshwood Education Foundation will take place on Tuesday, June 5, from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Marshwood Middle School’s seventy-six member chorus has worked the entire school year to research, discover, and collaborate to create a unique curriculum-based study of our local community through the Great Works River and Bridge in South Berwick, Maine. The students worked with artist-in-residence, Brian Evans-Jones, to create their thoughts and then with their Choral Director, Kristine Bisson, to take their words and compose an original piece of music to be sung by the Grade Seven and Eight Marshwood Middle School Chorus.
The students are donating $200.00 from their annual Middle School Talent Show to the Great Works Bridge Brigade to help support the fundraising efforts of the Brigade to build a timber-frame footbridge where the bridge once was accessible. They will be presenting the check to members of the Brigade this Tuesday evening at the concert.
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MALI Teacher Leader Story: Kris Bisson

March 20, 2018

Music educator: Kris Bisson

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 of blog posts 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 Kris for sharing your story!

Kristine (Kris) Bisson, Music Teacher and Chorus Director for Marshwood Middle School, grades 6, 7, and 8, in Eliot, Maine. She has been teaching a total of 16 years, all of them at Marshwood Middle School. Kris teaches 350 students throughout the school year in six classes: guitar/ukulele, piano, Composing Music, and three grade level Chorus classes (Grade Eight Chorus, Grade Seven Chorus, Grade Six Chorus)In addition, Kris offers several music classes as extra-curricular groups after school. These are always offered as multi-age ensembles open to all students and we have had students participate from grades four through twelve join us for Select Chorus Ensemble, Rock Band, Guitar/Ukulele Ensemble, Piano Class, and Songwriters Workshop.

A unique fact is that I taught here ten years, then had my maternity leave and decided to stay at home to raise my children. After nine years I returned to my position at Marshwood Middle and have been here since. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to return to the teaching position I have always loved. She also is very fortunate to teach my own two children in my music classes.

What do you like best about being a music educator?

I absolutely love my profession. I love music and am reminded every day of why I love it. I have the amazing opportunity to share what I love with young people and help them embrace what they love about music, too. We do a lot of reflection in class: “Why did the composer choose this note? this rhythm? how would you sing this if you were really feeling these lyrics? how would you sing this differently?”

I love to personalize music making and music creating. Everyone can respond and it can be different to each and every person, and that is acceptable. This is personalization.

Every day we laugh, learn, make music, and work together to discover new things about ourselves. My favorite phrase in the classroom is, “Who else is having this much fun?”

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

  1. Personal expression is unique to the performing arts. Every day and every item of study should carry an aspect of how there is a human response. I try to establish an environment of trust and respect between teacher and students and foster this every day. We work together as a team and support each other. I remind my choruses that this is what an ensemble does: we work together.
  2. Passion is an important element in the classroom. Being able to explore music as an art means being able to share first-hand experiences and giving students that opportunity as well. When you create music you have a story to tell. Tell it!
  3. Taking time to process what we are learning has been a key part of reflection in learning. Taking time to listen and hear my students respond to what they are learning is important learning. Why are we learning this? How does this moment in our learning affect other areas of our lives? I strive to help students continue to think about music beyond our classroom walls.

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

Teaching performance-based classes (Choruses, creating compositions in Guitar, Piano, and Composing Music classes) can sometimes create some confusion around the subjective and objective qualities present. Authentic assessment has created a more objective and transparent method of demonstrating learning. Students can compare the rubrics we use with those similar in every class at our school. It validates the arts. It also provides measurement that can be effectively reached by various means. There are multiple pathways to learning, thus creating a broader spectrum of learning. This has been extremely rewarding to me as an educator and likewise, to my students.

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

MALI has provided a generous amount of support and enrichment to my teaching career. Being able to collaborate and learn from highly motivated and skilled teaching artists and teacher leaders has awakened a new area of growth for me. It has reminded me of the risk I ask my students to make daily to try something new and take a leap of faith into the unknown. MALI has brought that desire to succeed closer to me and I carry this with me in my classroom.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Kate Smith and Kris at the summer institute, summer 2017

With the help of my extremely supportive husband and two amazingly awesome children I earned my Masters in Music Education at the University of Southern Maine last year. It was an incredibly busy four years, but everything I studied and researched and learned I have used directly in my teaching classroom. The best lesson from this has to be that while I was working on my Masters, my husband was working on his MBA and our children witnessed first-hand how dedicated we both were to our goals in our careers, in our studies, and with our family. From our example both of our children have expressed how valuable education is and I know they will always remember this.

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

Time

  • I always make time for a student who wants to keep improving or delving deeper during lunch breaks or after school.
  • Researching new material or reading up about improving learning or my own teaching takes time.
  • Getting the word out to the newspapers or parents about the goings on of our trips, activities, and concerts takes time.
  • Sending out “I got caught being awesome!” emails to students and their families takes time.
  • Needing the sleep for the energy my job demands sometimes gets in the way, but is absolutely necessary time! 🙂

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

When I returned to classroom teaching after a nine year hiatus I hadn’t touched my resume, my certification had expired, and I hadn’t interviewed in nineteen years. I put my full effort into the entire process and committed myself fully. This took a great amount of work and I knew it was the absolute thing to do.

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

Love what you do. Love giving that thirst for knowledge to others. Love being with the age group you work with. There is no greater satisfaction than loving what you do and sharing and seeing that grow in others.

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

I would love to start a music school that extends our learning for Marshwood students – and our surrounding community – giving scholarships to children and adults who want to learn beyond their classroom music experience and grow more music in their lives. Choruses, rock bands, jazz bands, and private lessons on instruments they love or haven’t even explored yet would be definite possibilities to so many people. Having intergenerational ensembles where the people you sit beside are sharing the same love of learning is an amazing experience for any human being. I attended small schools that did not have any band experiences and now I conduct four choruses and a Rock Band. The experience one learns in an ensemble is unique. Every person should experience being a member of a music ensemble.

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

Kaitlin Young and Kris at the MALI summer institute, August 2017

I really hope I do not have any regrets. One of my favorite rewards of teaching is the surprise meeting with former students and their family members. I sincerely love finding out who they have become, where they are, and what they are doing. It means so much to know that they look back fondly on their learning in my classroom and have taken some of our learning with them in their pursuits. I can honestly say that I have made music, laughed, and learned every day and hope my students do, too. For this, I have no regrets.

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Another MALI Teacher Recognized

October 6, 2017

Congratulations to Marshwood Middle School’s Cathy Locke and Kris Bisson

The Charles S. Hatch Post ’79 awarded Cathy Locke and Kris Bisson the “Americanism Award” in memory of past Post Commander Mark Pilgrim from Berwick, Maine. The award was given in recognition and appreciation for patriotism, citizenship and dedication in honoring our local Military Veterans and First Responders for the past 16 years at the “In Honor of Our Veterans” ceremony at Marshwood Middle School.

Kris is the Marshwood Middle School music educator and a Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teacher Leader! YAHOOOO!

Kris and the work of MALI Teaching Artist Leader Brian Evans-Jones was highlighted on September 25 on this blog with a description of a collaborative project they have underway..

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Marshwood Middle School

September 25, 2017

MALI Teacher leader and Teaching Artist Leader collaboration

It’s been a lot of fun planning, and an idea that began as a seed back in snowy February, but Marshwood Middle School Grade Seven and Eight Chorus is embarking on a new curriculum to compose an original work that will be premiered at their June concert with guidance and instruction from two MALI teachers.
Thanks to Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Teacher Leader, Kris Bisson and Teaching Artist Leader, Brian Evans-Jones. Below is the description of this fabulous work!  

Bridging Adolescent Learners – A River Runs Through Us: Composing our Story is a year-long chorus composition unit that will be explored by the Grade Seven and Eight Choruses throughout the 2017-2018 school year. Through weekly classwork, a field experience, and working with a guest poet-in-residence, students will create their own original lyrics, melodies, harmonies, and accompaniment for an original piece to be performed in their June concert.

An important aspect of this project will be the S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) inter-disciplinary explorations students will make throughout the project. Also critical to an authentic learning experience will be the integration of our work with poet, writer, and MALI Artist-TeacherBrian Evans-Jones, a local resident of South Berwick, who will lead the students as Artist-in-Residence in finding their writing, speaking, and singing voice.

An early piece of our project is to bring the entire chorus (seventy students) and Mr. Evans-Jones on a field trip to the bridge on Vine Street in South Berwick, the Great Works Bridge, at Leigh’s Mill Pond and the Great Works River. This trip will take place on SEPTEMBER 19 from 8:15 – 9:50 a.m. Here the students will be able to have a direct experience with the river as well as with the condemned bridge structure in order to create more meaningful and informed writing for their musical composition.

Coincidentally, the existing bridge, closed in 2007 due to deterioration beyond the state of Maine’s repair, is being removed in 2018 and a grassroots effort to construct a footbridge is already successfully raising funds to support the effort through their group, The Great Works Bridge Brigade. The Chorus students will have the opportunity to discuss their work with them and take action to make a difference financially, musically, and ethically in their local community.

Goals of this project include science, mathematic and technological integration; collaborative learning, creative thinking, listening skills, reflective writing, problem solving; exploratory composing techniques, music theory, form and analysis; various recording platforms, and online manuscript technologies.

Students will keep worksheets, reflective journal sheets and videos, and e-journals in Google Classroom to record thoughts, reflections, and developing lyric and melodic ideas.

The opportunity to have an artist-in-residence is a wonderful enhancement to the curriculum being explored. Having an expert help students with their learning is always a beneficial experience for all. Last year was the first time Choral Director and MALI Teacher Leader, Kris Bisson, and her students composed in the choral ensemble and the experience was amazing:

“Through composition in the chorus classroom, students are able to explore their own individual and collective ideas that help them express themselves personally as well as musically. Students elevated and increased their musical knowledge through the composition process and it was such an engaging and advanced learning experience for all. I am very excited to have the students reflect on their sense of place in their community, the history of our rivers and towns, the importance of keeping a bridge to connect our community, and have the opportunity first-hand to directly influence change around them.  At our Spring Concert, June 5, we will be sharing an informance, or interactive performance, where the students will have the opportunity to share their learning and conduct audience participation at our premiere performance.”

A very special recognition of appreciation is extended to the Marshwood Education Foundation for supporting this project.

Updates throughout the year can be found on our website:  https://sites.google.com/a/rsu35.org/mms-chorus-music/
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