Posts Tagged ‘Maine arts leadership initiative’

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MALI Teacher Leader Story: Catherine Newell

March 13, 2019

Music Educator 

This is the last of six blog posts in 2019 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 8 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 96 Teacher Leaders and 11 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 Anthony for sharing your story!

Catherine teaching

Catherine Chesley Newell is a music educator who calls herself a “Once-And-Future Elementary Music Teacher”, because that’s what she was before she had her daughter and what she plans to do again in the future. Recently Catherine said: “Right now I have the supreme joy of teaching music with small groups of children ages 2-5 at Beansprouts Early Learning Center in Freeport. From a child development standpoint, this has been the most fascinating part of my career!”

CATHERINE’S STORY

What do you like best about being a music educator?

The magic of making a song or a rhyme or a movement artful. Children’s hands become beehives or sparks or stuck in the mud. A word becomes a laugh, a shout, or a sigh. A song becomes a declaration, an adventure, or maybe a wish. Everything is transformed by imagination into what is needed in that moment. What could be better than that?

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

A passion for learning and growth, delight in the success of others, and flexibility. Maybe not THE three keys, but they’re certainly my keys.

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

If I don’t know where my students are, I can’t lift them up to where they want to go next. Assessment has an undeserved, negative reputation. It needs a rebrand! Assessment isn’t the problem; the problem is when some administrators and politicians think the data gathered should be used to punish educators.

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

There’s nothing like spending time with other passionate educators. I come away feeling energized and motivated and full of hope and inspiration. This has been one of the very best things I have been part of and I am so excited to continue our work.

What are you most proud of in your career?

All of the times I was afraid to try something new and did it anyway, or worked through a challenging experience. Especially if it was particularly scary (public speaking leaps to mind!) or the stakes were high. Those are the times I’ve grown the most as a person, musician, and educator.

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

There so very many misconceptions about who is and who is not a musical person or learner. I find that reshaping perception around this is challenging work!

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

My transformation from a “band person” to a “little kids” person. I worked incredibly hard at the Kodály Music Institute to develop the skills I use today. I spent a good part of three years learning repertoire, solfege, pedagogy, and analyzing music. I studied until one or two in the morning every night of my summer sessions in Boston. It was wonderful and worthwhile and I loved it, but it was some of the hardest academic work I’ve ever done. It was, however, luck that landed me in a district that (despite having limited means) supported my summer study. Our local Maine Education Association chapter did a wonderful job negotiating a contract that prioritized professional development!

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

Keep growing, keep learning, but take care of yourself, too. Say no when you need to, accept help when you can, and rejoice in your achievements harder than you dwell on your disappointments. Long-term goals are wonderful to have, but the climb is a lot easier if you celebrate along the way!

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

A good friend of mine passed away at 26 from a lifelong, chronic disease. Her greatest wish was to live long enough to get to be a music teacher. I have long thought that if I ever became fabulously wealthy, I would start a fund in her name to support music education. I think $500K would probably be a good start!

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

Taking so long to join MALI, of course!

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MALI Winter Retreat

March 6, 2019

Amazing day

The Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) held the annual Winter Retreat on Saturday at Waterville Senior High School. Thank you to music educator and teacher leader Sue Barre who provided and arranged for a space for us to meet, exchange and share ideas, and most importantly to learn from each other. This is the foundation of the MALI community.

2019 MALI Winter Retreat

I was curious about words that are related to community. On a recent google search I found the following: amity, benevolence, cordiality, friendliness, friendship, goodwill, kindliness. civility, comity, concord, harmony, rapport, charity, generosity. affinity, compassion, empathy, sympathy. chumminess, familiarity, inseparability, intimacy, nearness. affection, devotion, fondness, love. In Japanese the word is コミュニティ pronounced Komyuniti. In Greek the word is κοινότητα and pronounced koinótita. The Greek community is directly related to the culture and emerged and rose to great heights in 525 BC to 350 BC. The traditions that exist today are built on the original ideas.

When MALI educators come together the opportunity is about connecting with people, their idea, and all of those words in the previous paragraph that I found online. In addition, new learning is offered and depending on individual experiences educators enter the conversation from their own place. Everyone is a learner no matter how much experience they have with teaching, learning and/or living. MALI teacher leaders and teaching artist leaders range in teaching experience from 2 years to 49 years.

On Saturday we revisited the work that teacher leaders and teaching artist leaders have underway in this phase (8) of MALI. During this session we looked at the MALI “This We Believe” statements that are each defined. The titles include Arts Integration, Advocacy, Assessment Literacy, Creativity, Effective Educators: Teaching and Learning, Student-Centered Learning, Teacher Leadership and Social Responsibility. The revised definitions will be posted soon for each topic. I’m sure you’ll all agree that these are critical topics to the success of teaching and learning in arts education.

We were fortunate to have Brittany Ray, Director of TREE (Transforming Rural Experience in Education) speak with us about ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and how trauma interrupts the brains capacity to learn. Heavy stuff but so worthwhile to learn more. I will write more about this in later blog posts.

We had a chance to paint using Process Painting as a jumping off place. Listening to music and painting provided an opportunity to think about where we were as educators. And, the day finished out with information on HundrED and the resources and opportunities the organization provides. It’s difficult not to get excited about an organization that believes that the purpose of education is to help every child flourish, no matter what happens in life. HundrED is looking for Youth Ambassadors so if you have students who are interested in leading check out their Youth Ambassadors webpage.

The last of the Phase 8 MALI Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders stories will be posted this next Tuesday on the blog. I hope you’ve had a chance to read about their journey’s.

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MALI Teaching Artist Leader: Joe Cough

March 5, 2019

Teaching Artist – Musician

This is one of six blog posts in 2019 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 8 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 96 Teacher Leaders and 11 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 Kerry for sharing your story!

Joseph Cough is a Music educator with a specialty in Voice, Guitar, Composition, Theory, Piano, Trumpet. He joined MALI this year as a teaching artist and teaches all ages at the Midcoast Music Academy.

I didn’t know right away that I wanted to teach people music.

In fact, for a long time, I was discouraged from pursuing a career in music and performing arts, either directly or indirectly. It wasn’t until I attended the College of the Atlantic where I actually thought that I was able to make anything from a music profession. I was greatly inspired by John Cooper, the professor of music there. His ear for music and ability to abstractly write out pitches that he heard (and sang back) was like watching an artist paint a canvas. I wanted to be able to do that too, if only for myself.

It was because of him that I needed to understand music inside and out. How does it work? Why does it work like that? Why is this pleasing to me aurally and this not? I wanted to know every detail about a piece of music, no matter who composed it. What scales were used? What modes? What chord progressions can be heard?

In large part, I’ve accomplished that.

Not to say that I understand EVERYTHING about music, but I’m now in a place where I have reached one goal. One goal, of many more. There are many things about music that I have yet to think about and discover. The list of what more I want to do is endless. I’ll never reach the end goal of complete musical proficiency and knowledge.

And that’s ok.

I don’t have those kinds of expectations of myself. In fact, I don’t have any expectations of myself. Well, I do expect myself to put all of my effort into what I’m doing, and to keep a positive and open-minded attitude, but I don’t have a master plan, or an end goal that, if not reached, means I’ve failed. I don’t fail.

Even when when I’ve cracked a note on stage, mistook a perfect 5th for a perfect 4th, muted a string incorrectly, or have played the same passage on the piano at a tortoise speed 28 times, I’ve learned from every one of those experiences. Learning what works, what doesn’t, what is challenging, what isn’t, these are all victories. Gaining this knowledge, despite its positive or negative effect is always and opportunity for growth. This is why I don’t fail.

This is why no one fails.

This is the most important message that I have for anyone who wants to listen.

This is more important than knowing your major scales from memory.

This is more important than having perfect singing posture.

This is more important than ‘good’ pedagogical practice.

There is no ‘good’ or ‘perfect’ or ‘best’ in music.

There is no ‘bad’ or ‘imperfect’ or ‘worst’ in music.

Music, to me, is an experiment. The great thing about this experiment is that when something goes awry, laboratories don’t explode, or things don’t catch on fire. Yet, many students that I’ve worked with over the years are so cautious around music as if one of these things might happen. The good news is, I’ve never seen anyone maimed because they squeaked when they sang, or melted because their dynamics were not interpreted correctly. This is how we learn. This is how we discover what we are. This is how we see what we’re capable of. A lot.

We have preconceived notions of what music should be, and what it shouldn’t be.   

If Schubert didn’t do this, it shouldn’t be done.

If Hendrix did this, it’s the right thing to do.

This is nonsense.

When I teach, I don’t show students what they should do to be a musician. We’re all musicians. We’re born that way. I strive to show them what they’re already capable of doing. Take risks, experiment, make ‘mistakes’ (if there is such a thing).

I’m not advocating that we shouldn’t or needn’t learn from the musicians of the past, and learn music in an academic way.

Schubert was a ‘master’ of German lieder, this is what he did and how he did it.

Hendrix transcended the guitar. This is what he practiced and how.

It’s important to learn all 12 major scales backwards and forwards.

It’s important to train your ear to hear all possible intervals on our tempered scale.

It’s vital to practice the physicality of your instrument.

There are many things someone studying music ought to know.

This is how we communicate with other musicians. This is a way to work with and collaborate with other music artists. If we all speak the same language, we can create stories together and understand them. Does this mean if someone isn’t ‘100% fluent’ in music that they won’t be able to speak and be understood?

No.

But the more we learn, the more we explore, the more curious we are, the more we can teach others our language, and they can teach us theirs. We can share our stories.

It has taken me a long time to truly understand this. Nothing about my musical experience came quickly, or easily. But instant gratification to me is cheap, and contains no substance. I’ve enjoyed every moment that I’ve picked up the guitar, sat at the piano, sang a self-created vocal exercise. I’m thankful that I can do it as often as I do. I wasn’t born with innate knowledge of music and ‘how it works’. We all have the ability to be musicians, but do we all have the time to invest in the craft? I’ve been told many times that I’m ‘talented’ or ‘gifted’ because I do what I do.

I’m not talented. No one is. Talent implies some divine deity bestowed a gift to me that I didn’t have to work at. I wasn’t born an experienced musician, but the hours that I’ve put into the craft give me that experience. This is the other message I have for any learners: our mindset dicates how far you can take your musical journey. Your thoughts tell you your story.

I hear this often in lessons. “This is too hard”, or “I’m just not good enough”, or “if only I started when I was 6 taking lessons, then I’d be good now”. These few word sentences are stories, and we often tell ourselves these stories over and over and over again. They become our story, our reality. The story ends, but is played on a loop. Again, and again, and again.

But what if we changed our stories to “this is challenging, but with more time, I’ll get it”, or “I’m not where I want to be yet musically, but I’ll continue to strive toward what I want to be”, or “this is what I’m capable of now, and I take stock of my accomplishments and will continue to add to them”. These stories don’t end. They are ever evolving. They have substance. They don’t just stop.

So, in a roundabout way, this is where I am now. Even for teaching, I continue to write and edit my story of what I want to be as an educator. In anything really. I literally can do whatever I want to artistically, professionally, etc. It just depends on how much time one has/wants to invest in it. I cannot create professional singers, or guitarists, or composers. But with time, anyone can create the artist within themselves. Any student can write the story in their own mind. Once in the mind, it can manifest itself in any way imaginable.

This is but a small sample of my story. A chapter. I don’t have all the answers. I’m not even sure I could give sound advice to a new incoming Teaching Artist. My style is different than everyone else’s. Maybe the only advice I could give would be to be kind to yourself. Teaching is, an art. Like anything, it needs to be practiced, tried, retried, reworked, adjusted. No one is born a ‘gifted’ educator. But I’ve learned and received some gifts along the way from my colleagues and mentors and teachers. This is why I’m happy to be a part of the Maine Art Leadership Initiative as a Teaching Artist Leader. I can learn from other’s experiences, and they can learn from mine.

What I learn from my colleagues and students in the coming years will all be included in the next chapter of my story.

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MALI Teacher Leader Story: Anthony Lufkin

February 26, 2019

Art Educator

This is one of six blog posts in 2019 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 8 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 96 Teacher Leaders and 11 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 Anthony for sharing your story!

Anthony Lufkin

Anthony Lufkin currently teaches art in RSU #40, at three small schools, including Friendship Village School, Prescott Memorial School, and Union Elementary School. In addition, Anthony teaches a weekly class at Rivers Alternative Middle School which is on the same premises as Union Elementary. This is Anthony’s 12thyear teaching; 4 years at Sedomocha Elementary in Dover-Foxcroft, 4 years at Appleton Village School in Appleton, and the rest in his current position. Presently, he has about 300 students that he sees once a week for about 40 minutes.

What do you like best about being an arts educator?

I like to create, whether for aesthetics or function, it is a gratifying experience for me to use my hands, to think visually, and experiment with ideas. The collaboration of ideas that comes with teaching and learning is as exciting for me as the creation process. Teaching art in my opinion, is visually capturing what already exists in students. It is harnessing the innate characteristics of art that drive creativity, expression, innovation, investigation, and the ability to develop fine motor skills.  It is a powerful tool, and a great opportunity. It is being immersed in the subject, refining skills, pushing creative boundaries, sharing ideas, and celebrating successes. While the logistics of the educational field may have its difficulties, I find the interaction with students, the development of ideas, and the growth in understanding and skill development in both students and myself, very rewarding.

One other thing I appreciate most about art education, is that I can help students respond to ideas through artistic mediums by developing their skills, knowledge, and understanding of the materials and therefore begin to understand the potential for communication. When students are able to make connections, transfer and apply their learning outside of the art room, it is both a fulfilling and motivating experience. Knowing what I am teaching them has application and seeing them utilizing it not only justifies what I do, but inspires me to develop more thought provoking, interconnected, and inspiring teaching practices

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

Three important components to a successful VPA program in my opinion, are resources, flexibility, and support.

Having access to quality resources will help define how students perceive art. This does not necessarily mean having the cake made for you, but having the materials and tools to make it.  There is a distinct difference in feeling if you are working in a shared space versus having a designated studio space. The same applies to materials. We don’t need to give oil paints to kindergarteners, but we need to use materials the same way we project high expectations on students if we expect them to value the experience.

One of the nice things about teaching art is that it is more expansive than linear, allowing for more flexibility in curriculum than most subjects. It does not mean just doing whatever, but rather having the ability to experiment, to find new ways to connect with students, and to try new methods and materials. Making progressive and relevant changes is important in education and requires at least some experimentation to implement. This flexibility also allows room for educators to connect more with their students interests, making the information relevant and creating applicable associations for students. I firmly believe there is still a linear progression to art education, however, there are many pathways to getting there. Having the ability to customize it to a specific audience, will create a more relatable and impactful experience.

Similar to resources, perception of the art program is important to student engagement. Having the support of administration, colleagues, parents and community members, not only makes our job easier, it also creates a positive assumption in students that there is value in what we do. When parents and teachers are engaged with what is happening, students naturally develop a stronger sense of importance. What a community values can easily be seen in its children. If we are to have a successful VPA program, we need to build and foster support.

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

I have found informal assessment to be an invaluable tool in developing student growth both in skills, and conceptual understanding. Being able to respond to students throughout the process allows me to interject when students are struggling, and to provide support to help them understand the components of techniques and expression of ideas. With the limited amount of time I have with students, I have found verbal formative assessments to be the most beneficial and productive to students’ growth. I also include some critiquing components such as visual thinking skills when looking artwork to help students analyze and create meaning. Helping them create meaning is as important as helping them create.

MALI Critical Friend Day, November 2018

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

I joined MALI this year after talking to several other VPA educators that recommended it. I was aware of its existence but not really sure about its application. Becoming involved with MALI has been motivational, providing a platform for creating improvements. Through the collaborative exercises, the processes of feedback, and the access to resources, it has helped me begin a pathway to creating improvement I would have otherwise thought incapable of happening. There is always room for improvement. Using MALI as a platform has already helped foster more impact on making some of those improvements a reality. There is a lot of work to do within my logic model, but I feel confident through this process that I will be able to influence the necessary stakeholders to move in a positive direction.

What are you most proud of in your career?

As I continue in the teaching profession, there are a few things that really motivate me, and keep invested in my work. Visual culture is such a huge and underrated component of society so creating awareness has always been a driving factor for me. To create awareness, I have sought to create opportunities for students to see how art is integrated throughout life experiences and give them the tools to actively participate in communication through visual literacy. I am proud of the integrated, collaborative, and extracurricular opportunities I have been able to provide students.

As students develop, there is a gradual shift from the creativity and skill development of traditional art mediums to a more social awareness that tends to start a gradual decline in participation and eventually interest in art. I know most students enjoy creating, but it becomes a balance of time, a self-conscious view of abilities and self, and drive towards financial stability that stifles their continued growth.  Creating opportunities that make connections for students, has helped to keep them engaged, and helped them see the relevance and possibilities that art can have on their lifestyle and career. Not everyone will make a career out of art, but everyone can and should appreciate it for what is, as a reflection of humanity.

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

Currently, one of my biggest obstacles is the logistics of my position. Being an itinerant teacher, and only seeing students once a week makes it very difficult to create any continuity. Just working in separate spaces, toting materials between schools, working in a gymnasium for the majority of my classes are a few of the difficulties of the position.

Another difficult component to teaching art in my position are the natural interruptions that cause missed classes. There have been times that I have not seen students over the course of a month due to snow days, field trips, sick days, etc. It is very hard to maintain sequential learning without continuity and to teach transferable concepts, when students don’t have enough time and access to the material.

And, of course time.

Anthony at the Gala celebrating the Maine Teacher of the Year educators. Anthony is the 2018 Knox County Teacher of the Year.

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

Something I have spent a lot of time on is the development of curriculum and lesson plans that are both relevant and engaging. The more times I teach something, the more connections I can make, and the more clearly I see the effectiveness. My “curriculum” is as it should be, is in constant flux.  There are some tried and true lessons I do not change much, but most are adapted regularly and I am constantly on the lookout for better ways to build skills and convey concepts. I am sure it looks like any other art class to most, but there are many details and research I have put into my process.  Understanding developmental levels, how to have high but reasonable standards, how to structure building blocks of learning both over the course of a year and over several years, are all important aspects that may not be noticed but I believe make a huge difference in how effective and art education can be.

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

Teaching is a social service. It is not a lucrative job and success is not based on a financial scale. It is though, one of the most rewarding occupations one can have. You are given the opportunity to influence the future more than anyone else. It is a powerful and humbling experience.

There is the saying that there are two types of people, those that work to live, and those that live to work. There should be a balance though, being self-aware and allowing time to step back, is crucial to the longevity of a successful teaching career. It is also important to work in a field you enjoy. However, to truly appreciate something, you need to be able to see it from other perspectives as well so it is important to take a step back every once in a while. There is the quote by Marc Anthony, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”. True to some degree, though I would argue that all success requires hard work. Being able to see the big picture and being passionate about it, gives a sense of accomplishment and gratitude to the work that is being done. I like the quote by Dr. J a little better: “Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don’t feel like doing them”.

Some other advice, be passionate. If you’re not excited about it, neither will your students. Even if it’s not your favorite thing to teach, teach it with enthusiasm. Being passionate is projected and will create interest.

Finally, have a plan, and a back-up plan, and maybe even plan C. There can be many difficulties to teaching whether it is specific students, administration, parents, access to materials or resources, etc. If you are not prepared for these, they can derail you. If you are though, you can take them in stride, and not let them cripple your perspective on teaching. You’ll also look good doing it.

MALI Summer Institute, August 2018, USM

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

I feel like the most fiscally responsible thing to do with such a large amount of money would be to invest it. Using the interest, I would think I would be able to create a system of sustainable growth contributing to the enhancements of the art programs and facilities in my district and community first, then possibly expand to other areas of the state.

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

I do and would regret opportunities I was not able to take advantage of. We only have one life to live so I think it is important to make the most of it. However, if we are always trying to take advantage of opportunities, it is easy to get burnt out and lose focus on what matters. It is important to see and appreciate the little things that make life so great. One of the benefits of having a job directly focused in art, is that it encourages me to take time to look closely at things, to identify and appreciate the subtleties that make life so interesting.

So, my regrets don’t mean I am disappointed with the direction my life has and will go. The events in my life have shaped who I am. The path I have taken has sculpted the way I think, interact, and of course teach. Therefore, it is the destiny I have put forth. Plus, I teach art for a living. I think that’s hard to beat.

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Midcoast Music Academy

February 20, 2019

Creating new music

Midcoast Music Academy (MCMA) provides strong opportunities for learners of all ages to learn music and in addition, they support and encourage ‘out of the box’ thinking.
An example of this recently took place when instructors Tom Luther and Joe Cough co-taught a lesson with the intention of coaching students to create a new piece of music. Tom and Joe are both Teaching Artists Leaders with the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI). The students, Cameron Pinchbeck (alto sax) and Aili Nell Charland (guitar), improvised and performed an amazing piece. They started with Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”, and their improvisation took them to a totally new work. Tom said: “I think that this is a great example of what can happen when you give students choice, and help them to believe that their story is worth telling.”

LINK TO THEIR PIECE

Midcoast Music Academy (MCMA) is a community music school founded in January 2012 and located in downtown Rockland, Maine that provides the highest quality music instruction to students of all ages and skill levels in a fun, relaxed, and creative environment. MCMA emphasizes access to music education regardless of financial constraints and combines the fundamentals of music – theory, notation, and ear training – with a contemporary approach to learning. At MCMA, we believe students should learn to play what they love and love what they play.
If you have questions please contact Tom Luther and Joe Cough.
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MALI Teaching Artist Leader Story: Kerry Constantino

February 19, 2019

Teaching Artist – Dancer

This is one of six blog posts in 2019 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 8 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 96 Teacher Leaders and 11 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 Kerry for sharing your story!

Kerry Constantino

Kerry Constantino began teaching dance to kids right out of college when she graduated college in 2003. Even though she really enjoyed teaching, Kerry felt like she needed more time and experience just creating art. She stepped away from teaching and turned her focus towards developing her technique, studying movement and choreographic theory, and participating in the practice and creation of dance for herself and others. Nearly a decade later, Kerry found herself wanting to teach again, so she applied and was accepted in the San Diego Young Audiences Teaching Artist Training, where she re-learned a lot of things that would prepare her for her role as  a teaching artist. And, she loved it! Kerry really feel at home working with all members of the community. Whether through a school residency or at a private studio, she finds that working with dancers of all ages is so satisfying.

What do you like best about being a teaching artist?

I love being a teaching artist because people, especially young people, are natural dancers.           Giving people permission to move, when so often in a school and work setting, we are told to stay sedentary, is one of my greatest joys.

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

I have no idea what would be the key to having a successful arts education, however, I think the thing that stops people from having a successful arts education is a pressure from society that the arts are not valid, or that they are superfluous. The arts give us tools to be creative problem solvers, to think three-dimensionally, and to have the confidence to improvise if we need to. I think all kinds of industries and workplace environments benefit when there are artists at the table.

Have you found assessment to be helpful in your classes, workshops and residencies, and if so, how?

Assessment is part and parcel to being a teaching artist. Whether I’m teaching 3 year olds or 70 year olds, having tools to assess how my students are understanding me is important. When teaching dance, so much is dependent on being a clear communicator, I want my students to dance articulately, safely, and joyfully. Knowing how much of my information is getting across is accomplished through using assessment throughout class.

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

I have loved my experiences learning with the other educators in the MALI. It has been inspirational to hear their stories and learn from what they are currently practicing in their classrooms. Learning from other teachers and seeing how they organize and strategize their teaching techniques is invaluable.

What are you most proud of as an artist and/or a teaching artist?

I think what I am most proud of in my art is that I haven’t gotten stuck with just one medium. I began as a dancer, but over the years I have continued to be a voracious learner in many different mediums. I don’t think I will ever be satisfied just practicing and teaching one thing, there is so much more to learn. As I have learned new mediums I’ve incorporated it into my own art and into my teaching as well. Sometimes it feels like I’m a bit of a “Jack of all trades” it’s during those times that I remind myself that if I stop learning new things, then I have stopped growing.

Kerry Constantino

What gets in the way of doing a better job as a teaching artist?

I think that the biggest challenge for me as a teaching artist is navigating the process of finding residencies. I still feel really new to teaching, so I’m hoping this gets easier the more that I do it. I tend to retreat a bit when it comes to pursuing residencies because I feel like there are other people who are doing what I do, but with more experience and better. I talk myself out of things a lot and I think this is all born out of fear.

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

Everything. I have spent years pushing and finding a way to continue as a dancer and movement artist. Sometimes it feels too hard, like if being a dancer and choreographer is this hard, then I just shouldn’t do it, but for some crazy reason I keep going. Every piece of choreography I have shown, every informal performance, every single time I have made dance and shown it there has been a period during my creative process that has felt impossible.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a teaching artist or is just starting out?

Go for it! Practice saying what you want to say to your students before you are actually in front of a class. Write down everything. Get a calendar and use it. Don’t worry if you get flustered on the first day and forget your whole lesson plan, you will be ok!

MALI Summer Institute, August 2018, USM

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

There is so much I could do with $500,000. I have always hoped to own a home that would have a dance/art/movement studio in it. Dance requires a lot of open space, so I think that would be a big thing for me, to have a proper studio where I could hold classes and have informal performances in my own home. One of my first dance teachers lived in a huge old victorian house and the “ballroom” was her dance studio. It is definitely a dream of mine to do that. Oh, and more travel, I have terrible wanderlust.

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

If I make it to be 94, I hope that I can see that all of my choices were what made my long beautiful life. I can’t say there would be any regrets at this point.

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MALI Teacher Leader Story: Shalimar Poulin Chassé

February 12, 2019

Art Educator

 

This is one of six blog posts in 2019 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 8 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 96 Teacher Leaders and 11 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 Shalimar for sharing your story!

Shalimar Poulin Chassé teaches students in grades 6 through 12, visual art at Wiscasset Middle High School. This is her 4th year facilitating a full choice high school program. Shalimar also is the studio art director at Buker Community Center in Augusta.

She was honored to sit at the table in the early stages of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative (MAAI), and now to join the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative. She is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with motivated, educated, and curious colleagues. This blog post is in Shalimar’s own words from here…

Chapter 1 of my story was my first year at Wiscasset High School, soon after leaving Gardiner Area High- many moons ago. While I followed the required format in Chapter 1, I offer here in Chapter 2 a freestyle review of some background and update in the form of briefs (perhaps a suitable fit for we busy arts educators): 

Twenty-five year veteran engaged in modified to full choice-based art programing for students grades 6th-12th grades at Wiscasset Middle High School. Aiming to continue developing resources for students and colleagues wishing to engage in or offer their students a self-directed study that meets program and state standards for current, quality art education. 

When school is not in session, enjoy working with Augusta area community members of all ages, ability and means as director and instructor for Buker Studio Arts- also a choice-based Augusta Recreation program. This program began in the summer of 2014 and continues to be kindly supported by families who value art education extensions beyond that which area public schools offer.

Raised in Maine, one of three siblings- all who went to college for art. From a four generation line of artists- mother a painter and father a craftsman. Interest in learning a diversity of media is reflected in my personal artistic journey- Visit Shalimar Corneille Noire on Facebook. Favorite relaxing work- Maine wild flowers and landscapes- pastel spiritual work with an expressive, narrative, multi-media and sometimes collaborative approach combines wood carving, weaving, mosaic and collected personal artifacts. 

Always had an interest in teaching- it comes naturally. Love to learn. Find learning and teaching to be symbiotic.

Recently married to fifteen year partner, best friend and special education teacher, Scott. Favorite activity: family time- hanging with Scotti and our Standard Parti Poodles Skye and Ruby. Value sharing time with family and friends- especially when school is out of session and we can relax and enjoy.  

Love Maine outdoor activities including: walking, biking, snow shoeing, x-country skiing, swimming/aqua fit, kayaking, sailing. Enjoy Qi Gong, Yoga, and quiet meditations. Love to write, drum, and explore new media types and techniques to share with students and use in my own practice. Special interest in sharing my love of water exercise with others returning to active lives after an injury, illness or a busy lifestyle- I teach Aqua Fit classes a couple of evenings a week. Scott and I have a seasonal campsite at Green Valley Campground, Vassalborough and seasonal passes to Quarry Rd Nordic Ski Center- we are grateful to have beautiful placesto spend time with the outdoors.

 

Teacher of the Year MSAD 11 ’08, Maine Art Educator of The Year ’09, MAAI Keynote Speaker (with Rob Westerberg and Jeff Beaudry) for Arts Assessment For Learning Conference ’11, Former Fifteen Year Triathlete, Kidney Donor (2011 for my Dad who is doing very well enjoying life in his mid 70s), Stage Three Breast Cancer Survivor (diagnosis 2015, difficult treatment, approaching end of three year recovery- clean imaging and hope for a healthy future.)

Recovering Over-Achiever + Often Hard on Myself = Tendency to have High Expectations for my students and lean towards being hard on students and can be demanding if I am not careful. To address this trait, I aim to pay special attention to the balance between achievement and relationship nurturing; and, carefully facilitate appropriate challenges and support for each student’s process, growth and level of study. One day at a time, I aim to be kind to myself and surround myself with those who model a healthy balance in their lives.

Best Classroom Moments- A student “gets it”, turns on to art, believes they can be creative, recognizes talent is not necessary to learn about and enjoy making art; and, without the advantage of talent, the skills of art can be learned with practice. A student, who has been accustomed to “spoon feeding” and who is most comfortable with recipes, embraces the opportunity to sit in the driver’s seat, take charge of their learning, think outside the box, and approach problem solving with curiosity, courage and humility. A student learns for maybe the first time the value of art in their lives and the lives of others. A passerby takes time to “really look” at the student art in the halls, reaches out to student artists, and begins a conversation that might help both participants grow. My students and I learn together new processes, techniques, media types and their success far surpasses my own and our expectations. A student’s passion is infectious- and our class operates like a well oiled engine rich with supportive peers, student leadership, creative conversation, and enjoyment of the creative process.

Special interest in supporting at risk students- those without IEP or 504 supports and often with limited resources and less supportive home situations. Those that might slip under the table, unnoticed and less apt to self advocate. Current facilitator of the Student Success Team for which I have been a member during my tenure at WMHS.

Why Choice? As a student and person, and much like many students I work with daily, I have often felt confined by project criteria and recipes that dictate a particular process and perhaps result. At a critical point in my teaching journey, I recognized I was restricting my students to pre-conceived and teacher-preferred art types. While this approach guaranteed quality, it limited student’s opportunity to solve the blank page. What it came down to for me was this primary thought, “If my students might have only one semester of art in their post grammar school lives, let it be one to remember, the creation of a piece that they identify as theirs– something they want to take home. And with any luck, a creative experience born from courage, sustained with grit, and woven with moments of pleasure such that they might make time to create in their futures. Compromises? Sometimes students spend less time with isolated and comprehensive foundational Art Basics, sometimes there might be a reduction in Quality- as the scholars define it, and sometimes fear and confusion rise in the vastness of choice. A messier classroom climate where independence is a critical skill necessary to navigate- some less ready than others to drive through the creative process need tender nurturing to build skills and confidence necessary to navigate mostly solo. Flexibility and effective strategies to support these developing student artists is helpful.The choice-based classroom is unpredictable, exciting, rewarding, challenging, not always initially 100% successful for all- but memorable for most. 

As our choice-based ride is constantly morphing, I welcome conversations with art educators who offer choice in their classroom studios. I wonder how you manage a messier approach to management and instruction or better yet, facilitation. Several of we MALI folk are interested in forming a Maine chapter of the NAEA Choice Cohort. Want in? Contact me at: Arted4all@gmail.com or schasse@wiscassetschools.org. 

Will be in attendance at this year’s NAEA Choice Interest Group and multiple Choice-based workshops at our Boston Convention beginning March 14th. Hope to return with a tool box of successful approaches tried and true by our colleagues across the Nation. If you wish to engage in an excellent study of historical and current trends in Choice-based Art Education, consider enrolling in an ArtofEd Choice-Based Art Class. Course description.

Distancing in from NAEA Boston, MALI Phase 8 Teacher Leader, Shalimar Chassé and her generous colleague and Choice-based Art Workshop facilitator Molly Carlson (Wiscasset Middle High School former Middle School Art Educator and current Special Education Instructor) will be presenting at the March 15th Oxford Hills High School MALI Mega Conference for those interested in learning more about approaches to Choice-based art education. Go here to register for a professional development opportunity, the MALI Mega, Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, Friday, March 15, that promises to be filled with great ideas, passion for teaching and learning, and inspiring conversations lead by some fabulous art educators I have been so privileged to collaborate with through MALI 8.

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