Posts Tagged ‘Sacopee Valley Middle School’


Danette Kerrigan’s View

June 2, 2014

Going away to understand what is happening right here in Maine arts education

Thank you to Danette Kerrigan for contributing this post and sharing her experience and her ah-ha moments while on a trip to Washington, D.C. earlier this Spring. Danette is an art teacher at Sacopee Valley Middle School.

Danette and her two colleagues in Washington, D.C. at a Chagall mosaic.

Danette (in center) and her two colleagues in Washington, D.C. at a Chagall mosaic.

As part of our district’s participation in the Schools for Excellence Grant, three colleagues and I were chosen to attend the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Teaching and Learning Conference in Washington, D.C. this past April. Our group consisted of an ELL teacher, Special Educator, First Grade teacher and myself (middle school art). We seemed an unlikely bunch, but we share a passion for teaching and learning, so in retrospect it was a pretty fantastic fit.

The amount of professional development available to us during three days was staggering. Plenary speakers ranged from Arnie Duncan and Doris Kearns Goodwin to Bill Gates and Bobby McFerrin.  While a star studded event, the content was serious, meaningful, and frankly, game changing for me and my colleagues.

There was a very clear message throughout……

Teachers are the best resources for educational change and Teacher Leaders can be the conduit for that change.

I attended a number of sessions devoted entirely to leadership. One in particular, Teacherprenuers: Leading teachers that don’t leave was amazing and featured 2013’s Teacher of the Year, Jeff Charbonneau. As I listened to him, he could have been any one of the teacher leaders of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative (MAAI). His passion, innovation and energy have changed his high school and district by enabling students to receive as many as 27 college credits in the sciences. He shared how when he created a hybrid position for himself that splits teaching with coordinating the college interaction within the district he had to give up nine other extra curricular positions do so. Just as so many of us with a passion for change, he had spread himself quite thin.

I also attended a session with Jen Nash, held by the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards for a glimpse of those newly developed National Core Core Standards and the different plans for support of them. I know that many of us have seen and explored their site, as well as taken part in their public review.  What I would like to share with all of you are my observations about the presentation and discussions therein.

As I listened to the speakers present and the audience questions I was struck by a thought. People were speaking in a way that lead me to believe that they are still scared, searching for the thing that is going to cement relevance for the arts in education. In all of the meetings and workshops that I have attended for MAAI, the tone was different. I thought carefully about what was being said and I realized that MAAI and its members have moved on to a more sophisticated advocacy. No longer are we on the convincing side of persuasion. We don’t have to extol the virtues of an arts education. WE PROVE IT.

We do so every day with actions both within our schools, districts and statewide. With the many presentations we have brought to others we are providing a road map to the future of the advocacy of the arts. During the presentation I thought, MAAI is so far beyond this!

Another sneaking thought crept in….we are not fearful.

MAAI is making strides I don’t think others are. I think we are making a presence and setting the stage for advocacy that is based in fact. I think we are unique and powerful. I want to let Argy and Jeff and Catherine and Rob and all of our people know that we are on the right track….

It was an amazing conference and I encourage any of you to try to attend in the future. But know, we have a solid route to leadership and success in advocacy for the Arts right here in Maine.

To become a teacher leader with the MAAI, applications are now available at this link with a deadline of today, June 2. All teacher leaders need to attend the New England Summit on Arts Education. In addition, all educators are invited to attend the Summit being held at USM, Portland, July 29-31. Registration is available at this link.   Please email Argy Nestor at if you have any questions. Thanks for considering this opportunity!



Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Danette Kerrigan

May 28, 2013

This is the 33rd in a series of blog posts telling arts teacher’s stories. The first 19 were told last year by the phase I Maine Arts Assessment Initiative teacher leaders. The series continues with the stories from the phase II teacher leaders. These posts contain a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to read educators stories and to learn from others.

SONY DSCDanette Kerrigan is a Visual Arts Teacher at Sacopee Valley Middle School. She has been teaching in the district for seven years, initially as a traveling elementary teacher in four schools, for two years. Danette then moved into the middle school and currently teaches grades 5-8, approximately 360 students. Her main responsibilities include those grades and she also assists in Response to Intervention (RTI) services in grade six.

What do you like best about being an art educator?

There are moments of such clarity when students gain insight, learn a new skill; experience the joy of success in the shadow of a failure.  It is a privilege to be apart of those moments.

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

  1. The passion and commitment of the teacher.
  2. A well thought curriculum that is multidimensional, interdisciplinary and accountable.
  3. Students!

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

Assessment has been monumental in my ability to provide a rich and individualized experience for students. It has informed my instruction and helped me understand the impact of that instruction.

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

Getting involved with the Arts Assessment Initiative came at a crucial time in my career. That 5-6 year period where the shine has come off a little bit, where the politics of education seems to bite a little harder. I was beginning to languish and was primed for being re-energized as a teacher. Being involved in the initiative has re-ignited my passion for the quality of my students’ experience, a renewed energy to reach beyond the school day and explore the possibilities of things I haven’t even yet thought of. It has informed my learning and supported my work as a National Board candidate. It has pushed me to reach out and network with others so that I can be reminded of all the reasons we do what we do.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of the experiences with my students. Our district is one of the districts working with teacher evaluation and we are constantly reflecting on goals and outcomes. One of the reflections I have been working with this year has been…”What do I want them to learn?”

As a test, I asked a student…”What do you think you learn in this class? ”  She responded, “I learn to think for myself.  I learn to try something I haven’t tried before. I learn that even if something doesn’t work out, I can get something from it.”

It made my day.

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

My inability to say “no”.

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

I have truly put much hard work into creating an environment in my classroom where students can have respite in their day, whether it is during the art class, or recess, or free time. I believe we all need a place to go where the work we do is valued and that we are appreciated. We all need a safe and welcoming space to create, and not simply art; middle school students create friendships, character and sometimes a little chaos. It is work, it isn’t just circumstances or class lists or the luck of the draw that creates an environment that students can grow, I have to facilitate it.

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

Take care of yourself financially. Put 10-15% of your money away every paycheck and after a few months, you’ll never miss it. Plan ahead. Advocate every chance you get.

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

Pay off my daughter’s student loans; they are just starting off in their lives and already in so much debt. Then mine. Set up a charity. Invest the rest.

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

I certainly hope not, I’m working on the bucket list now!

Thank you Danette for telling your story!








Schools That Shine – WCSH6

May 9, 2012

Sacoppee Valley Middle School

“Sacopee Valley Middle School is fighting hunger in their community with the first annual Empty Bowls and Fine Arts Showcase. As part of this community service project, students stay after school to craft clay bowls. These bowls are symbolic of the those who are hungry in our own country, state, and community. They are sold the eventing ofthe event and all proceeds are donated to the local food pantries. This project is headed by Danette Kerrigan, Art teacher at Sacopee Valley Middle School.”

You can view the clip by clicking here.

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