Posts Tagged ‘President Obama’


National Arts and Humanities Month

October 1, 2016



“The arts embody who we are as a people and have long helped drive the success of our country.” ~President Barack Obama, National Arts & Humanities Month 2016

Celebrate October as National Arts and Humanities Month. President Obama has already kicked things off by issuing an official White House Proclamation that articulates the importance of the arts and culture in our history and in our future.

Here’s how you can promote the arts and culture:
Share the President’s proclamation on your social media pages with the following link: If you’re inclined join the Arts Action Fund for FREE by going to

#ShowYourArt – take a picture of something that you created or just love. Don’t forget to tag @ArtsActionFund so we can retweet!


Happy New Year

January 1, 2016

Impact of the Arts

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 9.28.07 PMPerhaps you were fortunate enough to see the annual Kennedy Center Honors earlier this week. The recipients, selected by the Center’s Board of Trustees, singer-songwriter Carole King, filmmaker George Lucas, actress and singer Rita Moreno, conductor Seiji Ozawa and actress and Broadway star Cicely Tyson were recognized for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts. The primary criterion in the selection process is excellence.

“The Kennedy Center Honors recognizes the extraordinary and unparalleled talents of individuals whose impact and genius have left an indelible mark on civilization,” stated Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein.

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 9.48.31 PMEach of the five recipients were saluted by great performers. Aretha Franklin honored her colleague Carole King by playing the piano and singing “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” in an incredible performance that brought tears to President Obama and absolutely thrilled Carole King.

If you didn’t have a chance to see the show you can take a look at the video below. Listening to Aretha Franklin and watching Carole King’s excitement reminded me of the power of the Arts to touch our hearts. What a wonderful video to help ring in the new year and remind us why we are in the field of Arts education. My best wishes to you for a happy and healthy 2016!


What 4 Teachers Told President Obama Over Lunch

July 17, 2014

Lunch in the Blue Room at the White House

This is the text from Justin Minkel’s blog. He writes two blogs: Teaching for Triumph and Career Teacher.

President Obama sat down this week for lunch at the White House with Education Secretary Arne Duncan and four teachers to talk about education, teaching and school reform. What the teachers said to Obama is explained in the following post by Justin Minkel, the 2007 Arkansas Teacher of the Year, a board member of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, and a member of the Center for Teaching Quality’s Collaboratory. He writes two blogs, Teaching for Triumph and Career Teacher. Follow him on Twitter:  @JustinMinkel

By Justin Minkel

President Obama has often been described as an eloquent speaker. I learned this week that he is an eloquent listener, too.

The table in the West Wing was set for six: the president, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and four teachers. The hour-long conversation was serious but relaxed. The four of us have each been teaching in high-poverty schools for over a decade, and the president asked us to respond to a few questions that were on his mind.

The president wanted to know: Why had we stayed in our schools? What could he and the secretary do to support teachers in high-need schools? What policies could ensure that students who need the strongest teachers receive them?

This is what we told him:

1. There’s nothing wrong with the kids.

I asked Dwight Davis, an African-American fifth grade teacher born and raised in Washington, D.C., why he has stayed with teaching. He didn’t hesitate: “The kids and the families.”

We told our students’ stories to the president. I talked about Cesar, a second grader who won $10 in a writing contest. When I asked what he planned to do with his winnings, he said, “I’m going to give it to my mom to help her buy food for our family.”

I told the president about Melissa, a second grader who became the only literate person in her family through a home library project and plenty of school-wide support. When we were reading together one day, Melissa told me, “Now when my mom and little sister and I are watching TV, they tell me, ‘Melissa, turn off the TV and read to us,’ so I do.”

Students like Melissa and Cesar, who walk into the classroom with greater challenges than more affluent students, are not the obstacle to attracting skilled teachers to high-poverty schools. They’re the motivation.

2. “Responsibility and delight can co-exist.”
The No Child Left Behind era still taints the system at every level. The creativity, curiosity, and sense of wonder that make students such a joy to teach have been stripped from students’ experience at school, particularly in low-income schools desperate to raise test scores.

In place of literature, science experiments, and engineering design challenges, students in these schools often receive scripted curricula, test prep booklets, and worksheets. Drudgery has been substituted for rigor.

The teachers I know are willing to work harder on behalf of kids like Cesar and Melissa. But they are unwilling to teach in sterile classrooms stripped of literature, the arts, and critical thinking in order to drill students on which one of four bubbles to pick. Given the low quality of many of those tests, it doesn’t matter what bubble they pick. Passing poorly designed tests will not give them greater knowledge, skills to succeed in college and careers, or the opportunity to lead a meaningful life.

The writer Philip Pullman said, “Responsibility and delight can co-exist.” If we want students to excel—and if we want skilled teachers to seek positions in high-poverty schools—we have to restore some of that delight.

3. It’s not about good and bad teachers. It’s about good and bad teaching.

The teachers at my school are dramatically better than we were five or ten years ago. The reason is simple: we’ve worked with our principal to design a culture of collaboration, innovation, and peer observation, with time built into the school day for purposeful professional development to take place.

You never hear teachers say of a student, “She’s a bad learner—we need to get rid of her.” Yet that is often the go-to solution for reformers outside the system when it comes to “bad teachers.”

There are a handful of teachers who can’t or won’t get better—but they are a scant sliver of the profession. If we provide mentoring, collaboration time, and job-embedded professional development, the vast majority of teachers will continue to improve. Most people want to be effective at what they do. That is particularly true of professionals who have chosen to work with children.

I wasn’t good at teaching when I started, and I’m not where I want to be five years from now. I’ve gotten better the same way that everyone—from doctors to pilots to presidents—gets better at their job: through reflection, collaboration, and mentoring.

Yes, we want to recruit talented new teachers who walk in the door with high potential for perseverance, intelligence, and compassion. But we don’t need to swap out all the bad and mediocre teachers for better teachers, anymore than we should swap out our struggling students for more advanced students. We need to build systems that support every teacher willing to put in the work it takes to move from novice to competent, competent to excellent, and beyond.

4. If we want students to innovate, collaborate, and solve real-world problems, we need to make it possible for teachers to do those same things.

The systems we create for teachers have a profound impact on the classrooms we design for students. Teachers have long been seen as consumers of policy, professional development, curriculum, and research, when we should be partners in creating it.

The working conditions that matter most to teachers in Generation X and Y have to do with intangibles like autonomy, collaboration time, and the potential for innovation. Scripted curricula, test prep, and micro-management are anathema to that kind of school culture, and they have a devastating effect on both teacher recruitment and retention.

The hopeful news is that we can create the conditions for excellence in lower-income schools. They exist where I teach: Jones Elementary, a school with 99% poverty and virtually 0 percent teacher turnover.

Every year, we receive students who come in angry, disrespectful, and ashamed of their struggle to learn. These same students become thoughtful scholars and compassionate human beings once their needs are met and their trust in teachers has been earned.

There’s nothing wrong with the kids. There is plenty wrong with the system—but none of it is inevitable. An invitation to classroom teachers from the holder of the highest office in the land won’t cure all that ails that system. But it’s a damn good place to start.

The last thing the president said to us was, “You all make me feel hopeful.” President Obama, you left us hopeful, too.


Teachers at the White House

May 5, 2014

President Obama Welcomes teachers

This is the second in the series of blog posts in celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, May 4-10, 2014. Thank you for the work you do supporting quality arts education!

Screen shot 2014-05-01 at 8.44.19 PMOn May 1st President Obama welcomed the 2014 state teachers and National teacher of the year to the White House. I share this information with you today since it is the first day of Teacher Appreciation Week. In the photo above with President Obama is Sean McComb, the 2014 National Teacher of the year. On the President’s right is Maine’s very own 2014 teacher of the year Karen MacDonald, from King Middle School in Portland. Below is a snippet from the White House blog:

“Today is a chance to thank not just the teachers on this stage but teachers all across the country,” said the President. “We really can’t say enough about how important their role is in making sure that America succeeds. So thank you for what you’re giving our children and what you’re giving our nation.”

After emphasizing the significant role that teachers play in our society, the President honored the National Teacher of the Year, Sean McComb.

Sean, a teacher at Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts in Baltimore, works with students in a program called Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) — a college-readiness program aimed at capable students who just need that extra push.

You can read the entire post by clicking here. More importantly I suggest that you watch the (entire) video embedded in the post where Sean McComb speaks. I am proud to be an educator when a teacher speaks so distinctively about our profession.

In Sean’s own words…

“I became a teacher because I had incredible teachers who were able to shine a light of hope and possibility into a dark time in my life. Teaching is my calling to do that for others, and an opportunity to spend my career living purposefully — helping children fulfill the promise of their lives.”



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