Posts Tagged ‘teacher leader’

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MALI Teacher Leader Story: Kattie Sweet

June 12, 2018

Visual Art Educator

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 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 Kattie for sharing your story!

Kattie Sweet-Shibles has been teaching grades 7-12 (soon to be K-12) at the Upper Kennebec Valley Jr/Sr High School for 11 years. She has taught Career Education, Math, Visual Arts and Theatre classes. She currently has 60 students and her courses include 2D Art, Artists’ and their Lives (Dual Enrollment Class), Freshman Seminar and a Pre Algebra class0.

What do you like best about being a music educator?

Connections-the multiple meanings of the words.

The connections I make with students, current and former. The connection of art to community. Connections I make with other artist and teachers, creating a dialogue on how to bring art and education to all students.

Also the connection, or the ah ha moments students get when they see how the world of art connects to their life or the world around them. My favorite moments are when students say, I know understand part of the world because of something we studied in your classroom.

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

  1. Focus Choice- freedom of students to choose a method to meet the classroom goals.
  2. Real World Experience with the art- via visiting museums, speaking with artist, taking part in an art show.
  3. Passion- Passion for the Arts and education from the students, the instructor, and the community.

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

Yes, because of accountability. I use it to hold my self-accountable to meet the goals of the art room, and I hope my students do the same.

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

Again Connections, with being from Rural Maine, I can feel so isolated and question if I am going in the right direction. I hope to reach out more this year especially since I am moving to a new chapter of teaching younger students.

What are you most proud of in your career?

One thing that jumps out to me is the opportunities I have been able to provide to my students to go beyond our community to see Art in the “real” world. At my time at Valley, I have had two Art Trips to NYC, two other trips to Boston, and various trips to Colby Art Museum or the Portland Museum of Art. Another achievement I am proud of is obtaining my Master’s Degree in Education and therefore being able to offer Dual Enrollment Art Classes for the last three years so our students can receive High School and College Credit for our classroom.

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

Time! Time! and Time! and a bit of money.  I sometimes wish I could clone myself to prep and experiment more with different materials and mediums plus have unlimited supply of art materials, so students can experiment without the fear of wasting money.  I believe so much of learning can come from failure and experimenting.

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

This is a difficult question because it seems as if everything in the artroom comes across as “luck” or circumstances to the outside world who doesn’t see the process of learning and teaching. I asked my students this question and they came up with the idea of how easily I sketch out my ideas, making them look like the students’ final drafts. I can remember the struggle I had learning the rules of drawing and the continuation of working on the skill, so I can sketch well on the fly. Another thing is the ability to be creative.  I think some people believe you are born creative or not. I am not naturally creative, but I understand the process of research, and am always searching for inspiration which leads to creativity when I put my own spin on something I have found.

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

Be brave, take chances, allow yourself to step back. Take care of yourself, “you can not pour from an empty cup.”

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

There is so much. I probably would want to sit on it for a year, to really make a formal plan to get as much out of the money as I could.

Education wise:  Build and Create a space for the Arts in our community would be high on the list. I would love to create more travel opportunities for our students. Plus I would love to connect more with working artist bring them into our community.

Personally wise: I would love to create an artist escape in the Upper Kennebec River Valley Region. Open up my home and barn to create artist studios. Sort of like Old Lyme in CT, or like Vincent van Gogh’s dream for the Yellow House in Provence but of course with less chaos…or should I say a lot less chaos.

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

Gosh at 94, I hope I have no regrets to list. My current regrets, I hope will be understood by a wiser self and connected more with the path I had to take to get were I am. But I do wish a bit that I could cut myself a bit more slack on the little things that go wrong. Plus I hope to look back and remember that I did the best with what I was given at the time, learn and evolve, advocate with care for everyone involved, be a little more flexible but not allow my integrity to falter.

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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: Dorie Tripp

May 29, 2018

Music Educator 

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 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 Dorie for sharing your story!

Dorie Tripp is a National Board Certified Teacher in Early/Middle Childhood Music. For the last nine years she has taught PK-5 general music and beginner band in RSU #38, (Maranacook Schools). She splits her time between Manchester and Readfield Elementary Schools where she teaches approximately 400 young students each week.

What do you like best about being a music educator?

The great thing about being a music teacher, is having the privilege to watch my students develop over time, and create a love for music that will last them a lifetime. I have the pleasure of teaching my students year after year, for as many as seven years. I love that I get to help plant the seeds for love and success in the performing arts. It gives me so much pride when I see my students in Middle or High School concerts, musicals, and festivals. Watching my students shine, find their voice, feel accepted, or even find a passion is what keeps me going.

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

There are so many aspects to a successful performing arts education, which makes it difficult to pinpoint any one thing. As we all know, educational strategies and practices aren’t “one size fits all” and what works for one school community may not be appropriate for another. I know this from experience, as in the last nine years of my career I have worked in two very different communities. One being a large, urban school district with challenges like over-crowded schools, homelessness and poverty, and overcoming language barriers (to name a few). The other a small, rural district, small class sizes, and a high level of community involvement. Both do a tremendous job to address challenges and celebrate successes every day, but often in very different ways. If I had to choose three overarching themes, however, I could easily name community, collaboration, and advocacy.

Dorie presenting at the MALI Mega conference, Oxford Hills, March 2018

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

I have found assessment to be helpful as an informative teaching tool. The moment I shifted my thinking in using assessment solely to “grade” my student’s achievement to tracking student growth, my practice has become much more effective. I use formative assessment every day in my classroom to understand what my students are learning, to solve problems, and provide more practice with the skills embedded in our curriculum. I use assessment data to differentiate my instruction to the needs of my students, guide my unit plans, and adjust my pacing. I have absolutely gained a more focused picture of my students, and how they learn as individuals.

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

I started with the Maine Arts Leadership initiative as a music teacher just looking for quality professional development (PD). I have always had great luck with workshops at Maine All-State Festival, but I wanted PD that I could attend earlier on in the school year. I found myself at a MALI mega conference, and was not disappointed! I was able to network with other local teachers, while taking away information and strategies that I could apply in my classroom right away, before the end of the school year.

After that, I became curious about the Teacher Leadership Initiative, and filled out an application for Phase 7. When submitting my application, I had no idea how much growth I would make as an educator in just one year. The support I received from MALI has been incredible. I was able to create a personalized plan of action, which included sharing my elementary teaching practices with others in a workshop, and saw it come to life. Through this process, I have found a network of supportive colleagues who inspire me to contribute all I can to the profession. For me, personally, the greatest benefit is that I have found my voice, and have been empowered to use it.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of my students. Although I have been in this profession for nine years, I am still humbled by my students. They grow, and learn, and change into these amazing human beings with talents and ideas that just blow me away. It’s really nice to realize that you’ve had a role in that, even if just a very small one.

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

The more obvious things that get in the way of doing a better job or being a better teacher is time and money. I feel like all educators, no matter the content area, can relate. The less obvious thing that gets in the way is the lack of collaboration or idea sharing with other educators. It’s easy to stay inside our own little bubble, and never open ourselves to other ideas or partnerships. I believe that reflective practice is best when it’s combined with observations and mentorships with other great teachers. This is often difficult to practice as arts educators, however, because even if we want to branch out and team up with/learn from others, so many of us would have to go outside our school or district. Not all of us have other colleagues in our buildings who do what we do. This is why organizations like MALI are so beneficial. We need the time and resources to get together with other educators to share ideas, network, and work together on projects that can/will help us do our jobs better.

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

As you can probably tell, I am a big fan of educator collaboration and support. I try to team up and work with others, in and outside the arts, whenever I get a chance. During my concerts each year, the majority of my school staff come back and volunteer their time to help me with set up, the shuffle of students, and tear down. I always hear “You’re so lucky to have such supportive parents, colleagues, and administrators”. Yes, it’s true that I am lucky, but I also work really hard for this fortune. I strive to maintain positive work relationships with my colleagues. I volunteer to help out with other events that are not music related. I try to stay flexible and understanding when other school activities disrupt my schedule, just like my events sometimes disrupt others. I share activities and materials with other classrooms, collaborate on cross-curricular activities, and volunteer to cover a duty now and again. I even give private saxophone lessons to our evening custodian once a week, as a small token of thanks for all the extra work he puts in setting up and tearing down equipment for our six performances each year.  All of this is extra work, but I understand that without this collaborative environment, I am just one person, and would not be able to complete all of my tasks alone. All of this is in the best interest of my students, and ultimately my program.

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

I would say, don’t get too caught up on standards and assessments. They are important factors of what we do, but they aren’t everything. They are just tools we use to see and reach the big picture goals. Listen to your students, and don’t be afraid to make learning fun. Make it feel good for students, and they will develop a life-long love for music.

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

After paying off some school debt (I know I’m not alone here…), I would definitely use it to help students access music. I would purchase instruments and pay enrollment fees for students to participate in music festivals, camps and programs. My family went through great hardships when I was growing up, and I was fortunate to have a music teacher who made sure that those financial troubles would not interfere with my musical potential. I am so grateful for her, and others who made it happen. Without them, I would not be the music educator that I am today.

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

I try not to have regrets. All things that have happened in my life were for learning purposes. However, I hope that I won’t look back and worry that I spent too much time working about professional evaluations and certification requirements, and that I can say I always worked hard to give my students what they deserve.

 

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MALI Teacher Leader Story: Danielle Sullivan

May 22, 2018

Music Educator

This is the 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 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 Danielle for sharing your story!

Danielle Sullivan teaches music, band and chorus at Etna-Dixmont School. This is her second year at the school and her 8th year teaching. Danielle teaches general music PreK-6th Grade, 4th grade band, 5-6 grade band, 7-8 grade band, 5-6 grade chorus, 7-8 grade chorus and jazz band.  There are about 230 students in the school.

What do you like best about being a music educator?

I love seeing students do something they thought was impossible.  At the beginning of the year they believe that there is no way they’ll be able to play/sing this song and by the end of the year (quarter, semester…) they’re able to. It’s wonderful to watch.

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

  1. Administrative and community support are huge. Without support you’re always fighting for what’s right.
  2. Teachers who care
  3. Students who want to learn

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

I love hearing students play and sing alone. The student and I learn so much about their ability when they play alone. Quiet and shy students who either need more support or other opportunities can be lost in a large group if they never sing/play alone.

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

I love all the new people I have met and the ideas we share.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of teaching young students to love music. If you can get them young then you have them for life. Being able to teach young children to love music is of the utmost importance to me.

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

All the other duties that aren’t teaching; paperwork, curriculum work, meetings, emails. Doing all these other things makes it harder for me to find time to do research new lesson ideas and work with colleagues.

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

Having older students who consider themselves ‘musicians’.  All of the students that come through the music room door are musicians. When they are young (as is the case at my school) they don’t have a choice; everyone has music class.  But as they get older (middle school and high school) they are no longer required to take music, band and chorus are optional. Having a strong music program with a lot of older students may seem like luck, but if you get students to consider themselves musicians then they will seek out music when it’s no longer obligatory.

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

Don’t be a workaholic! It doesn’t benefit you or the students!

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

For school, I would buy enough instruments so that any student who wanted to play and couldn’t afford it could use a school instrument.

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

Not learning the banjo earlier in life.

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MALI Teacher Leader Story: Lori Spruce

May 15, 2018

Visual Art Educator

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 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 Lori for sharing your story!

Lori Spruce has been teaching visual art to grades 9-12 at Brewer High School for the past 10 years.  She currently teaches Art 1, Honors Art 1, Graphic Design, Photography, Advanced Photography, Painting, Advanced Art and AP Studio Art. In the past Lori has taught printmaking and sculpture. In addition, Lori is the department curriculum leader. 

What do you like best about being an art educator?

I like empowering students through the study of art by assisting in their discovery of meaning in the visual world around them. I feel that being an art educator helps students make connections between intellect and emotion through the communication of ideas generated from that experience. It’s exciting to watch that happen and to see them make those connections in other areas of their life and learning.

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

Lori with AP student caricature study (of Lori)

I believe that the three keys to any successful visual arts education program are:

  1. to promote the discovery of new knowledge through creative activity,
  2. to motivate learners by considering the interests and activities of the particular age group I am working with, and
  3. to instill empathy by encouraging learners to solve problems that connect to the larger world.

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

I have found that the assessment I use in my classroom has helped my students understand their own growth as opposed to comparing themselves to others. Through reflection, my students better understand the artistic process that was involved in the end product rather then just the skill. I believe it gives them the opportunity to see where improvements can be made and therefore build on their own ideas. Also, I feel that my assessments emphasize the importance of how the mistakes they made, and hopefully overcame, ultimately contributed to the learning as well. So many art students are afraid to challenge themselves because of the fear of making a mistake and by having that be a part of the assessment process, I’ve noticed more learners letting go of that fixed mindset.

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

I feel the benefits of becoming a teacher leader through the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative has mainly invigorated me at a critical point in my teaching career. My school has gone through many changes in the past few years and sometimes that can be draining. Working with other arts educators, sharing stories and teaching practices, and then applying that to my own curriculum has motivated me not only in my classroom, but to share what I have learned with colleagues even outside of my content area. This past year, I have worked closely with our science department leader by attending a STEAM conference at the RiSE center at the University of Maine and worked on developing ideas for future projects. We now have common language that we use in our classrooms. Even some of the students have picked up on it. One recent student told the science teacher during instruction he sounded like “Mrs. Spruce”!

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of the visual art program that I have helped build at Brewer High School. Since I have arrived, we have designed and moved into a new art suite with three beautiful classrooms built to accommodate a diverse art curriculum including a new digital and traditional photography program and digital media classroom. We had to really advocate for the importance of this space and our program and I am proud that the community supported it.

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

Lori Spruce presenting a workshop with Tim Christensen at the MALI Mega in March 2018

Budgets, and time. In the above question I spoke of how proud I was that our community supported our new art suite. However since that project was approved, we have lost 1 ½ art teachers. Because of that, we offer less upper level electives then we used to which means students can’t always get in to the classes they want or need if they are interested in pursuing a career in art. It is not just our department affected by these budget changes but it still is hard to see happen.

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 twin boys, now young men, one of which has cerebral palsy. My son has a lot of physical needs and still lives at home with my husband and I. He has an amazingly busy life that requires much of our assistance. I went back to school to get my art teaching certification when my boys were in elementary school. I started teaching full time when they were in high school. I can say for sure that supporting my family and their needs along with starting a new career took a lot of energy and commitment. I can also say that so much of that experience has contributed to the type of educator I am today.

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

Lori making art at the MALI summer institute

To continue making art and taking courses. I could use the ‘making art more’ advice myself. I find it really hard to find the time but in the rare event that I do, I am so much calmer and patient with my own students. Remembering what it is like to be a student and take part in a creative process is important. A few years ago I committed to a collaborative art show with one of my AP students. I regretted it the minute I said yes but I knew there was no turning back. It was one of the most amazing experiences and it meant so much to my student. After it was over, I got an incredible thank you letter from him. It was worth every minute I stressed over preparing artwork for it!

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

Hmmmm….boy I think this has been the toughest question. I would have to say that I would like to bring back the art position that we lost. Our classes are much larger now and we are unable to offer as many upper level electives which are really important in a high school visual arts program. I have to teach more preps which makes it harder to focus on curriculum development. This past year I have spent much of my teacher leadership working on arts integration at the high school level. With another position, I’d love to see an arts integrated or design thinking class where students can combine content areas to come up with solutions to real world problems.

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

I’m pretty politically active but I always wish I had done more. Especially when I see decisions made that I don’t agree with or that negatively affect our students and our schools. It’s so important to education, our environment, our communities and beyond!

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MALI Teacher Leader Story: Hope Lord

May 8, 2018

Visual Art Educator

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 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 Hope for sharing your story!

Hope Lord has been the Art & Design teacher for 300 grades 6 through 8 students at Maranacook Community School for the last 7 years. She also teaches and inspires 16 gifted and talented art students and is the co-advisor for the school’s yearbook. Prior to that Hope taught in RSU #38 for 19 years, 12 as a special education teacher.

What do you like best about being an art educator?

It’s wonderful when I see my students make connections between art & other content areas. I love watching my students take risks in their art and grow as artists. I enjoy being surrounded by young artists and presenting them with opportunities to explore, develop, challenge, and create art. The best part of being an art educator is witnessing a student’s success, as they become and see themselves as artists.

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

Three keys to a successful visual arts education program are creativity, perseverance, and collaboration.

  1. First of all, creativity is important because an arts educator is always looking for creative inspiration for new lessons and challenging their students to innovate and take creative risks in their artwork. Art educators also have to be creative in obtaining the resources they need for their art classrooms and for adapting materials and lessons to challenge and meet the needs of all their students.
  2. Perseverance is also key to successful arts education. The process of creating art requires the artist to experiment, revise, and rework their art numerous times. Students need to learn perseverance because students often experience failed attempts in communicating their message or executing their design. By encouraging students and supporting them through the revision process, students learn to persevere and develop a life-long skill. Perseverance not only helps students become artists, it also helps them work through any difficult task they face in school and future careers.
  3. The final key to a successful arts program is collaboration. Seeking and receiving feedback and collaboration is crucial in planning, developing, and creating artwork. When students collaborate they gain insight and new perspectives that they wouldn’t if working in isolation. Collaboration also challenges and inspires an art educator. Collaborating with other educators and community members enriches an art program, providing greater resources and connections that working alone cannot. Collaboration teaches vital 21st century skills that prepare students for life.

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

Quality assessment helps me understand how a student is learning and the degree to which they comprehend a concept. It also helps me plan my instruction based on concepts students need more instruction or may have misunderstandings and need clarification. Assessment also provides students feedback on their learning and how they can improve their work. 

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

MALI has provided me the support, encouragement, and skills I needed to become an arts leader in my school, district, and state. I have the confidence to take creative risks in my teaching. My teaching has improved because of those risks and the collaboration with teachers throughout my district. My professional growth has enabled me to become an arts education leader and mentor to new teachers in my district. Additionally, I have the confidence to share my teaching experiences with other art teachers and receiving constructive feedback. MALI has been a great inspiration. 

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of the work I’ve done with some of my most challenging students. I love seeing these students grow creatively and find success in art, when they have not been successful in other content areas. As I watch their art confidence grow, I also see their self-esteem improve, and it warms my heart. I know the extra investment and encouragement these students need, is well worth the effort. Every student needs to feel they are good at something. I am proud that I have been able to assist students in finding success in art and also building their self-esteem.

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

The day to day politics of education interfere with being a great teacher. The increasing demands of our time and ever changing policies, hinders educators. The lack of support & funding for the arts from administrators, school boards, community, and legislators, all interfere with being a great teacher.

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 spent the last seven years developing an arts curriculum that is engaging and fosters creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication, while connecting the arts to other content areas. It is hard work and requires continuous revisions and alterations, as I teach each group of students. When a well planned and integrated art unit is executed, it seems effortless. However, it requires numerous hours of planning, research, collaboration, and support.

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

I would tell them to trust their instincts and take risks. Share your ideas with colleagues and get feedback and support to act on those ideas. Reach out to your community and colleagues throughout the state for resources and support to bring your ideas to fruition.

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

Making drums at the MALI Summer Institute, August 2018

I would take some of the money to build a new art and design studio and gallery at my school. I would also establish a grant that would be available to art teachers to help fund art materials and equipment, field trips, and artists in residence programs throughout Maine.

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

My only regret would be that I didn’t start my teaching career as an Art Educator. Even though I enjoyed the challenges and successes of a Special Education teacher, I wish I would have taught Visual Arts from the beginning. I would still have had the opportunities of teaching students with special needs, but through the arts lens. Teaching art and mentoring young artists has been very rewarding and my only regret is I didn’t start sooner.

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MALI Teacher Leader Story: Laura Manchester

May 1, 2018

Visual Art Educator

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 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 Laura for sharing your story!

Laura Manchester teaches visual art at Montello Elementary School in Lewiston. She has been teaching the entire school population of just over 750 children, 32 classes a week for 7 years. Laura also teaches the after school art club, 4 days a week for an hour. Each session runs for 6 weeks which includes a rotation of 15 students from grades 1-2 and 15 students from grades 3-6.

What do you like best about being an art educator?

The best part of my job is when teachers bring their classes back to me in a week and tell me that their students made connections between what they’ve learned in my room and what they’ve been learning in their general classrooms. Seeing that art is influential and valid throughout a student’s day is integral to keeping art alive and relevant. It’s very rewarding when the kids can make their own connections, independently.

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

  1. Relevance. Keeping what students learn relevant to their world keeps them engaged and excited. It’s natural to want to know WHY you are learning something or how it connects to you.
  2. Consistency in routine. When students know where things are and what to expect, they can focus their energy on learning new things. This doesn’t have to be boring. By having clear, positive expectations you allow students to “own” their experiences and be more adventurous when learning new ideas and processes in the art room.
  3. Get excited. If you’re excited about what you’re teaching, the students will be as well.

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

Assessment helps me to check what students know and need to learn. By using a variety of summative and formative assessments throughout the year, I can see how close students are to meeting specific overarching curriculum goals and where they need practice or support. I use a lot of student self-assessments to help kids make connections between lessons and curriculum goals.

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

As the only visual arts teacher in such a large school, it has been difficult to get connected with other arts teachers. By joining MALI, I’ve opened so many more opportunities to collaborate and celebrate my craft. MALI inspired me to try new things in the classroom, refreshed my approach to assessment and overall given me the chance to approach this school year with my best foot forward.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of the connections I have made with the school’s community during my time here in my current teaching position. Attendance in after school events is quite low at our school- with only 4 parents participating in our parent-teacher organization and typically less than 50 attendees at any given event. Several years ago I joined our parent-teacher organization and have consistently made calls and had conferences with parents to engage them in what their child is doing in my classroom. I think it is because of this, and because of the genuine interest and excitement that art can bring to people that our annual art show is the best attended event of the year. As I mentioned earlier, many events are not well attended after school. The art show has consistently brought in over 500 attendees for the last 6 years. Those numbers alone are something to brag about- let alone the enthusiasm that parents have when they see the incredible work their children have done. While my work here is exhausting, the connections and results of those connections with families are priceless.

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

Laura works with Jen Nash at the MALI summer institute, August 2017

The number one challenge for me is that our school simply does not have enough arts staff to appropriately accommodate its high volume of students. My schedule is packed at 32 classes a week, some of those classes having students from multiple classrooms crammed in for a single 40 minute block. With this tight schedule, I have limited planning time at school- which is never used for planning but usually a time to catch up on grading, hanging artwork, providing additional time for students to finish their work, etc. This schedule is so exhausting that it truly inhibits what I can do outside of school to continue my own education or continue as an artist. I rarely have time to plan additional fun activities and because of limited staffing elsewhere in the building, I am very limited in the amount of professional development time I can take.

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

In my classroom students are absolutely a joy. I run a tight ship with a lot of student responsibility with materials and procedures. Although many might say it is because I teach a fun subject that students are so responsible and receptive, I believe that it is just as much (if not more) due to the idea that I set high expectations for students and reinforce positive behaviors. Allowing students to “own” the room by providing access to material shelves and student-led responsibilities as well as facilitating student choice is imperative to giving kids a chance at finding a sense of self in a classroom that they only get to visit for 40 minutes, once a week.

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

Take the time to reflect on what is truly important about your role in your students’ lives. Messes can be cleaned up, rough days come to an end and eventually all that’s left is the impact of the experiences you gave and allowed to happen while you were there teaching. If nothing else, be able to say that you were kind and allowed something special to happen while you were together.

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

If I was given $500,000.00, I would pay off my student loans and then buy a few groceries. Haha! Just kidding… I would invest in an unused building- probably one with some cool history to it- and design the interior to accommodate a bunch of arts-based classrooms and studios. There would be a gallery and performance space on the main floor. I would run the building to have classes throughout the year for students of all ages to explore and experience different art forms. Classes would be facilitated by local artists, musicians who would teach their craft to the public in exchange for having a free space to showcase their personal works. There would be some sort of annual fundraiser that would help sustain funds to keep the project running and progressing. Oh, the possibilities!!

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

Most definitely: If I live to be 94 years old, I’ll regret not having dessert every day. That’s a lot of wasted ice cream and cake.

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