Posts Tagged ‘Susan Beaulier’

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I’m a Teacher, An Educator, A Professional!

October 9, 2013

Essential to Education

Screen shot 2013-10-08 at 9.26.05 PMSusan Beaulier, K-12 Art educator from Ashland was honored last year by the Maine Art Education Association as the Middle Level Art Educator of the Year. She served as a teacher leader during the second phase of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative. Recently she has expressed to colleagues her displeasure with being called and referred to as a “special”.

My question to all of you is this: Since when is something “essential” considered “special”? This post was written by Sue and it is posted here with her permission. My hope is that you think about her words and realize the passion that not only Sue, but many arts educators have for their commitment to being a teacher! Thank you Sue for your contribution to the blog and your dedication to your students providing each of them with a quality arts education.

When asked my occupation by people whom I’ve just met, I reply, “I’m a teacher”. That usually prompts the question, “What do you teach?” I then explain that I am the PreK-12 Visual Arts Teacher and Coordinator of Gifted and Talented Education for our district.  A brief discourse usually ensues regarding my work, and then moves to the life of the person with whom I’m talking. No big deal, just polite conversation.

To people outside the education field, I’m viewed as a teacher, an educator, a professional.

I have never had anyone in the general public question my role as a ”real” teacher”.  That task is left to my colleagues, who refer to me as a “Special”.  Despite my college degrees, years of training and experience, and full certification including several endorsements, many still don’t see me as an educator… and I am not alone. The Music/Performing Arts and Physical Education teachers are viewed as  “Specials” too. To our colleagues, what and how we teach really isn’t that important;  after all, we only do the “fun stuff”. To my regular classroom colleagues, “The Specials” are but a break in their very busy day.  They don’t view our time with students as integral to education. Rather, we provide a respite for them so that they can prepare for the REAL job of educating students. My role is to supplement the important and necessary teaching that they do…the real stuff.  

I guess that I should not, then, find it surprising that they frequently keep students from my class to finish up missed homework, or as a punishment for some misbehavior in the “REAL” classroom. In response to this, I invite my colleagues to step away from the photocopier or the coffee machine, and discover the learning that really happens in the art room, the music room, and the gymnasium. I invite them to join their students for art class, music class, and physical education class. Given the opportunity, we “Specials” might educate our colleagues about the teaching and learning that occurs during the course of OUR very busy day. Perhaps the REAL teachers might garner a few tips on how their classrooms and the content they present could be made “Special” too.

My classroom is special because…

  • Learners are encouraged to meet learning goals rather than finish assignments.
  • Divergent thinking is valued; even mandatory. There can be several solutions to the same problem; much like life.
  • Students are able to express who they really are, define their individuality and embrace those differences rather than try to fit into the same niche as everyone else.
  • Learners talk to each other about their work. Sharing “answers” is not considered cheating.  We call it  reflection and collaboration.
  • Learners perform both independently and cooperatively, everyday.
  • Learning is not rote.  Lectures are few.  Hands-on, authentic experiences allow learners to learn by doing.
  • Those who are often afraid of being judged, feel safe in the art room, because individuality is celebrated. Thinking that appears silly, absurd or off-task often provides a jumping off point for learning.
  • We’re not afraid to make mistakes. We teach and learn from them.
  • Criticism is constructive. Assessment is provided for improvement, not punishment. There are always chances for re-dos until one is happy with his/her work.  
  • Practice doesn’t make perfect…practice makes better. I also recognize that everyone doesn’t get better at the same time, no matter how much they do or don’t practice.
  • A textbook manufacturer does not determine the pace or delivery mode of instruction.
  • The ability to question is considered more important than the ability to answer.  Experimentation, discovery, risk-taking, flexibility, and trial and error are practiced every day.
  • Learner success is measured by individual growth, not their class standing.
  • Differentiation is inherent. The learner dictates it. I facilitate it.
  • I tailor my lessons to address the interests of my students while still imparting content knowledge.
  • And yes…I try to make learning fun… because it is.

I am a teacher, an educator, a professional. My classroom is a reflection of what I’ve learned, experienced, and believe about learners and learning.  Art education is not “special”.  It’s simply good education…

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Honoring Susan Beaulier

April 18, 2013

Maine Middle Level Art Educator of the Year

At a ceremony held recently at the University of Maine Museum of Art Susan Beaulier was honored for her years of dedication and received the Middle Level Art Educator of the Year award presented by the Maine Art Education Association. Susan was nominated by colleague Beth Ann Walker and included the following in Susan’s nomination:

Susan being introduced by her son, Jason

Susan being introduced by her son, Jordan

For the past 23 years, Susan Beaulier has taught in the same school district she graduated from in 1981. Susan is the Visual Arts teacher in MSAD #32, serving the 330 students in Grades PreK-12. Additionally, she is the Coordinator of Gifted/Talented Education for her district. Susan is a Phase II Teacher Leader for the Maine Art Assessment Initiative, and will soon begin work on the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards First Tier Review. Susan lives in Ashland with her husband John and son Jordan.

IMG_0132“Sue not only loves teaching students, but is also generous with her knowledge in teaching educators. She is practiced in many mediums and munificently shares any and all of her personal materials to enhance and achieve the lesson she is sharing. She inspired may early creative endeavors and creativity, but has imparted innovation into many of the lessons I initiated with my students as I moved from the elementary classroom to the art classroom six years ago. She is an invaluable resource that provides support in many ways.”

Sue is a consummate creator of beautiful things from any medium she touches…She is a key player in the development of our local art educators’ group – Northern pARTners and is sharing her knowledge of quality assessment in art education.
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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Susan Beaulier

March 5, 2013

This is the 21st 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.

sue beaulier2Susan Beaulier is in her 23rd year of teaching and is presently teaching PreK-12 Visual Arts Teacher in MSAD #32 in Ashland. Additionally, she has been the Coordinator of G/T Education for that same amount of time. In addition to Visual Arts classes, Sue offers a Digital Photography elective, and an Independent Study Seminar for High School students. Ashland Schools are a small school district in Aroostook County. Our district serves 6 communities. She is responsible for providing services for the 338 students in the district. Susan is a phase 2 Teacher Leader with the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative!

What do you like best about being an art educator? 

I like the fact that the students (for the most part) want to be in my classroom.  I think that the arts provide a platform for teachers to be more than lecturers. I like the honest interactions that occur within the realm of an art classroom.  The kids are comfortable sharing their thoughts, and usually appreciate my input as well. I like walking into my room in the morning and finding it already full of kids who feel comfortable there and who are actively engaged without being reminded to get started. I like that kids who don’t have art class sometimes drop in during a study hall and ask if they can draw or paint or sculpt. I like that kids choose to stay after school to work on art projects or just be where they are comfortable. I like the energy of the art room and I like providing a place where kids feel happy and successful. I like working across all age levels.  My job is never boring.

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

  1. Creating an environment where kids know that there’s no such thing as getting a “100” in art.  I think it’s important to let kids know that it is through mistakes that they learn. Taking risks is more valued in art class than “getting it right” They need to know that they always have the chance for improvement and growth…no grade is final.  Giving students the time and permission to plan, experiment, play, reflect and re-do is really important.
  2. Creating a place where learners feel productive and successful, and where they feel supported by their peers and instructor.  Allowing for flexibility in pace, practice, and product is also valuable.  Making learning fun doesn’t hurt either.
  3. Highlighting for the students, the problem-solving skills that they are learning and exhibiting, and how these skills can be applied to other areas of their lives. Sometimes they don’t recognize these qualities until we point them out. This connection adds validity to what they’re doing everywhere

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

 Refining my approach to assessment has influenced my instructional practices .I used to think that adherence to a set of pre-established criteria might lead to “cookie-cutter” art products. Now, I am working to include the students as much as possible in developing assessment tools for their work. Creating the rubric  together  is now part of our introduction to the process. Assessment has proven to be a very valuable conversation starter in our classroom.  When students are involved in the assessment process, they begin to “talk the talk” of art and art education. I think that kids inherently know what a “successful” project looks like, but sometimes they lack the descriptors to communicate that. When they have the criteria and vocabulary to express them selves, they are empowered to create, analyze, improve their own work, and justify their artistic choices. When students know what is expected of them, and they have the chance to define levels of achievement in language that means something to them, their work improves. Assessment opens up dialogue about art. 

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

 My involvement with the Arts Assessment Initiative has provided many benefits. It has invited me to step out from my isolated domain, and share my thoughts with other colleagues in the art education field. It has allowed me to gain feedback about things that I do well, as well as those areas that need revision and improvement. I have met an entirely new group of people who share the same passions, worries, tasks, as I, and it feels good to be part of a group. My involvement has reinforced me in what I am doing, but has also offered suggestions for improvement. I have made new friendships and bonds over a short period of time. I feel like we are a family.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am at the point in my career where I am teaching the children of my former students. Additionally, I am teaching the grandchildren of some of my former classmates. I am heartened by the positive response I have received from all involved. It delights me when high school students or even parents tell me that they still remember and/or have an art project that they made in one of my classes. That makes me feel like I made an impression on their lives. One of my former students recently joined our staff as an Ed. Tech. She is also a dance instructor in our town. She told me that the opportunity I gave her in high school to participate in dance class changed her life. I recently received  e-mail from a student who I had during one of my first years of teaching. She was very kind in her remembrances of art class. She made me feel proud that I had an impact on her life. The accomplishments of my kids make me proud.

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

TIME gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher.  I do relish time away from the responsibilities of school, but those responsibilities never really go away. I always feel like I’m behind the eight ball! We live in a fast-paced world. There are many demands upon every person today, and achieving a balance is difficult. I think that, despite our efforts, there is never enough time to accomplish what we want.

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

I’m not sure that I’ve made much of an impact  on many of my colleagues through my hard work and determination. My fellow teachers often comment on how “creative” I am, and that I “do things so easily.” I have even had teachers tell me that I am “wasting my creativity” here at school. I truly think that they are speaking from a naive view of what creativity truly is. I feel that they think I am accomplished at my job because I possess artistic skills, and can demonstrate those to the students. They often comment that I “make things look so easy…”  Though they recognize my artistic abilities, many of my colleagues fail to see me as an equal in terms of being an educator. I think that they still see the arts as a “special”  (A term I detest!). They don’t recognize that my artistic skills are really just an extension of who I am as an educator. What they fail to see is that I face all of the same difficulties with educating kids as they do. Visual Arts is a language.  So, when I am introducing the tenets of the visual arts, I am essentially teaching students a new language. That does not just happen because I can draw well. The skills that are developed and fostered in the art room may not be practiced anywhere else in the curriculum. I don’t think that regular ed. teachers know this or appreciate its impact on all other learning. Much of what I teach is really taught “through” art, not” because” of it. The critical/creative problem solving skills, life skills (working collaboratively, taking risks, working through a process, observation, reflection, revision, perseverance, etc.) aren’t really the by-products of an arts education. They are at the core of arts education. I often think that my students understand the benefits of a quality education in the arts better than my adult colleagues do.

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

Don’t let technology replace human interaction…kids crave it.  If all else fails, Play Power Ball!

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

I would add it to my Maine State Retirement Account because Teacher Retirement is abysmal.

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

Of Course!  I should have sung louder, danced more, and afforded myself more time for my own art.

Thank you Susan for telling your story!

 

 

 

 

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