Posts Tagged ‘Troy Howard Middle School’


Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Jason Bannister

February 28, 2017

MALI Teacher Leader Series

mali_v1_color_100ppiThis is the first blog post of the Phase 6 Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teacher Leader stories. This series includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about the work each Maine visual or performing arts teacher or artist is doing.  CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 81 Teacher Leaders plus 4 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. There have been 72 posted to date. Thank you Jason for sharing your story!

screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-10-11-23-pmJason Bannister presently teaches Theater to grade  7 and 8 students at the Troy Howard Middle School, RSU 71, Belfast. He has taught for 14 years, all in Belfast – 5 years at 4th grade, 3 years middle school ELA, 6 years middle school theater. Jason teaches 250 kids each year, one trimester of performing arts (theater primarily) each year for two years. He also directs the drama club productions and created the Maine Student Acting Competition.


What do you like best about being a theater educator?

I have the opportunity to teach something I love to kids, to expose them to theater. The best thing is seeing a student develop an interest in theater from taking the class, and maybe joining the next production onstage.

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

There needs to be support from your staff and administration. You shouldn’t have to sell the importance of theater arts education to them. There needs to be a proper space to rehearse, perform and store costumes, sets and props. And the class needs to be required, but with the understanding that not everyone is ‘into it’ – so you need to find interesting ways to teach kids about theater where they aren’t worried they’ll have to get up in front of the class.

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

I have used many different forms of formative and summative assessment in my performing arts classes. Some are helpful, but sometimes the process is more valuable than the product.

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

I was given a chance to focus on a particular unit of study I was creating for my classes. I bounced ideas off other theater teachers. I don’t get this chance very often as the only theater teacher in RSU 71.

What are you most proud of in your career?

When I see a former student go on to college and major in theater. Especially when I remember them being shy or not into theater before taking my class or being in a play/musical I directed.

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

I see some teachers using old units over and over. I am always re-inventing units or coming up with new projects. I try to keep what works well and get rid of what doesn’t. When I started my performing arts class years ago lots of kids didn’t like it. This year most kids love it. If I didn’t make changes to what and how I teach I wouldn’t be effective.

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

I guess being a performing arts teacher in a middle school where the class is mandatory for kids to take. I worked hard to get this class created. There just aren’t lots of programs in Maine like what I’ve created. I am honored to have my job, but it’s been (and continues to be) a long road.

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

Fight the mindset some people have about theater arts education – it IS NOT an extra fluff type of subject. You can’t just say ‘oh, well the kids have drama club after school’ – that isn’t the same. Theater arts education is so important in so many ways to so many different kids. Don’t settle – work your hardest to get an equal footing with the ‘core subjects’.

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

That’s simple – I would put it towards building a proper theater to perform in. Enough of these cafetoriums. It’s ridiculous that there isn’t a dedicated performance space in my school district.

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

I have regrets everyday – how I could have taught that better, worked harder to connect with a student, not said something that hurt someone’s feelings. I guess I hope when I’m that old I won’t regret the time I’ve spent teaching theater and the time I’ve missed with my own children.


 Committed to the development of Teacher Leaders to ensure deep understanding and meaningful implementation of high quality teaching, learning and assessment in the Arts for all students.

If you are interested in becoming a teacher leader please email Argy Nestor at


My Last Two Weeks

May 10, 2013

What an adventure!

Some weeks are filled with excitement and adventure and some weeks are filled with excitement and adventure – yes, I repeated that since all my weeks are pretty amazing! However, my most valuable days are when I am visiting teachers and students, learning about the work that is going on in the arts in Maine schools. I am always interested in what teachers are doing with curriculum, assessment, and arts education in general! What I hear and what I see keeps me grounded in what is “real” for Maine arts education. When I do my work at the Department it is first and foremost in the best interest of all Maine kids and their visual and performing arts education. I feel so fortunate to have this job that takes me to all corners of the state. Thank you for the invitations!

During the last two weeks I have had the chance to go to the following:

  • Ashley Smith (Maine Arts Assessment Initiative teacher leader) and Mike Scarpone, music teachers at Brunswick High School invited me to speak at their Tri-M Music Honor Society induction ceremony. I was very impressed with the music and the students. Bridget Horan, Chanel Thibeault, Ariel Bouchard, and Joe Waring played the National Anthem to start the program. Throughout the program there were student performances including: Tessa Hauptman was accompanied on the piano by Ben Flanagan. Hannah Judd played the cello. Joe Waring played the saxophone accompanied by Nathaniel Vilas on the piano. Alexis Gillis sang accompanied by Ben Flanagan on the piano. Walter Martin played the trombone accompanied by Nathaniel Vilas on the piano. Nathaniel Vilas ending the evening on the piano. It was wonderful to hear the present members (15 of them) introduce the inductees (21 of them). As these type of ceremonies go, it was very formal however, the students humor shined through which brought several chuckles to members of the audience. Afterwards, parents and students enjoyed refreshments in the cafeteria. Thank you Brunswick Tri-M students and Ashley and Mike for including me.


  • Last week I was invited to meet with the arts staff from the Gorham schools. In the Gorham schools they rotate updating curriculum and arts educators are starting this important work. Assistant middle school principal Susie Hanley has been communicating periodically during the last year with questions and information on the work of the Gorham arts teachers. It was great to have a chance to hear discuss their work and the challenges it poses. I did get a photo at the end but it was after some of the teachers had already left the meeting. Thank you to Susie for inviting me!

The teachers include:

  • Gail Thibodeau, Music  K-5, Narragansett and Village
  • Janelle Mosey, Music and Chorus  K-5, Great Falls
  • Allie Rimkunas, Art 1-5, Great Falls
  • Paula Balcom, Art 1-5, Narragansett and Village
  • Amy Stewart, Music K-5, Narragansett
  • Vicki Bove, Art  6-8, Gorham Middle School
  • Amy Cousins, Art 6-8, Gorham Middle School
  • Tracy Wheeler, Music and Chorus 6-8, Gorham Middle School
  • Kim Mathieu, Music and Band  6-8, Gorham Middle School, 5th grade Band
  • Chris Crosby, Art 9-12, Gorham High School
  • Sarah Tucker, Art 9-12, Gorham High School
  • Matt Murray, Music and Chorus 9-12, Gorham High School
  • Tim Ebersold, Music and Band 9-12, Gorham High School


  • Gray-New Gloucester High School art exhibit was held last week in the auxiliary gym on the same evening that the students were performing the comedy The Man Who Came to Dinner. It was great to see Maine Arts Assessment Initiative teacher leader Barb Weed (Barb’s Another Arts Teacher’s story) on my way in to the school. After I arrived Waterville High School art teacher Suzanne Goulet dropped in to see the show. The gym was completely filled with outstanding 2 and 3 dimensional art work and it was great to see art teachers Sarah Gould and Michaela DiGianvittorio. Talk about proficiency?! The evidence was clear! Thanks for inviting me to a great show!

Sarah, Argy, Michaela

IMG_3277 IMG_3283

  • This week I’ve had more opportunities to visit schools. Debi Lynne Baker and I were at Biddeford Intermediate School to videotape Maine Arts Assessment Initiative teacher leader, music teacher Andrea Wollstadt. (Andrea’s Another Arts Teacher’s story). The last of a series of 4 that Debi is creating showing standards based arts classrooms in action. We had a great day in Andrea’s 4th and 5th grade classes. Her superintendent, Jeremy Ray, popped in to give her an apple for Teacher Appreciation Week. We interviewed Andrea’s principal Debra Kenney, music colleague Jillian Cote, and two of her students. Thanks to the students and staff at Biddeford Intermediate School!
  • I visited Belfast High School and Troy Howard Middle School and the classrooms of Heidi O’Donnell and Lynnette Sproch. Heidi has a lesson where students wrote an artist statement after research and created an artwork that depicted the style of the artist. They were created in small shadow-like boxes. The pieces were fascinating to look at and really made me think. I was glad to see the “man coming out of the ceiling” in real life that Lynnette had created with her middle school students. I also stopped to see my dear friend science teacher John Thurston who is responsible for the garden program at the middle school. It is always great to see John who works with Lynnette on integrated units. You might remember the one that they did on creating posters for the Belfast coop. They were beautiful with bright red giant tomatoes and a great example of service learning. I stopped to see theatre teacher Jason Bannister who caught me up on the event they just held at the school for middle level theatre students – Maine Student Acting competition. Thanks for the visit to both schools!
  • I traveled up the coast to Hancock Grammar School and stopped to see Maine Arts Assessment art teacher leader Janie Snider (Janie’s Another Arts Teacher’s story). We critiqued the video that Debi has created of Janie in action earlier this spring.  We spent some time talking about the idea of writing “power standards” and perhaps rubrics to make available for all arts teachers. What do you think of the idea? Thanks for “great food for thought” Janie!
  • Onto Machias and the Rose Gaffney School to visit Maine Arts Assessment music teacher leader Bonnie Atkinson. (Bonnie’s Another Arts Teacher’s story). When I arrived her middle and high school band were rehearsing their pieces for the spring concert. Bonnie has many thought provoking sayings in her classrooms. I loved hearing the students practice and I also had a chance to listen to the chorus practice before I left for the Washington county superintendents meeting at University of Maine at Machias. Thanks for letting me pop in Bonnie! The artwork everywhere in the halls is stunning.




Troy Howard Middle School

March 30, 2013

“I say Tomato ,You Say Tomato”

DSCN2203 The students and staff of Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast has used their collaborative creative energy to combine two facets of the school’s program to form a fascinating art exhibit at the Belfast Co-op.  The title of the show, “I say Tomato ,You Say Tomato” reflects the ecology department as well as the art department. Each year the two departments coordinate using a theme to represent Troy Howard Middle School’s philosophy. This includes Ecology as one of it’s three Academies and the Art Department as an essential piece to all criteria of Education.
The show is comprised of 12 Tomato projects. Mediums include clay, paper mache, paint, pencil, ink, and a full sized farmer!  Pieces are for sale and six have been sold!  The show runs until the end of the month-don’t miss it!

Thank you to art teacher Lynnette Sproch for sending the information and photographs for this blog post. 




Artwork Bigger Than Life!

February 1, 2013

Troy Howard Middle School

DSCN1986I recently received an email from art teacher Lynnette Sproch describing exciting description of the artwork  just completed with 13 students who are involved in “art enrichment”. The students meet with Lynnette during a time that is set aside for homework and some also meet during their scheduled art time to go beyond the planned curriculum.

Students pondered and determined that they wanted to collaborate using papier mache to create large sculptures. They created tightly wound newspaper armatures that are held together with masking tape and covered with strips of paper dipped in papier mache solution. One is a man that was hanging in the art room during the time of covering. The student who created it then took home clay and molded a face which was attached. His problem solving skills were enriched while working on the leg angles, so that once hanging against the ceiling there would be no gaps and he would appear to be bursting through the ceiling.

DSCN2155Lynnette had to use a ladder with a “bucket” to get high enough to install the artwork in the foyer 15-20 feet from the ceiling. She said that the goose and the guitars were fairly easy to hang and added brilliant color. The blimp is hanging down the art hallway and no one has touched it (low enough to jump and hit).

She took the students on an in-house field trip to the foyer and on arrival they looked up in amazement. One student wrote a huge sign that says LOOK UP! It took about three months to complete the sculptures. To celebrate the completion of the sculptures they took an out of school field trip to the Farnsworth Museum. Before their departure from Belfast to head south on route 1 to the Farnsworth they had a yankee swap and breakfast at McDonalds first. (does this sound like middle school?!)

Lynnette said: “What a lovely treat to work with this most excellent group of kids.”

You might remember the Mt. Rushmore that Lynnette’s students created last year

Thank you to Lynnette for sending me the information and pictures of the artwork. Perhaps you have an idea that you’ve been working on that you’d like to share. Please email me the information.


Troy Howard Middle School Art Show

May 19, 2012

Artwork at the Belfast Co-op

Thirteen paintings, 24″ X 28″ are on display until at the Belfast Co-op. The work was done by Troy Howard Middle School students. Thank you to art teacher Lynnette Sproch for sending me this information. She and science teacher Jon Thurston collaborated working with the Ecology club to create these posters. They are on display until the end of May.


Maine Student Acting Competition

May 13, 2012

Middle school students, acting opportunity

The 2012 Maine Student Acting Competition was held at Troy Howard Middle
School on Saturday, April 28. There were seven schools competing with 80
students: Bangor, Searsport, Pittsfield, Belfast, Lincolnville, Camden,
and Riley School. It was a great success! If any middle school in Maine is
interested in learning more information about how to compete in the 2013
Maine Student Acting Competition, please contact Jason Bannister at
338-3320 x101.

Group Musical: 1st place-Belfast, 2nd place-Bangor, 3rd place-Searsport

Group Acting: 1st place-Bangor, 2nd place-Belfast, 3rd place-Pittsfield

Overall Team: 1st place-Belfast, 2nd place-Lincolnville, 3rd place-Riley


Mt. Rushmore in Belfast

January 11, 2012

Troy Howard Middle School

Last summer Troy Howard Middle School, Belfast art teacher Lynnette Sprooch traveled out west. She was inspired by Mt. Rushmore and brought that inspiration right into her classroom. During the last 2 months Lynnette’s 8th graders spent time recreating an over five feet tall and over six feet long Mt. Rushmore. Lynnette emailed including the photo below and said:  this wonderous piece of art is permanently displayed in the hallway of the school for all to see.

Lynnette started an art enrichment team and it was this group of students who worked during their study halls, lunches, and after school to create the large sculpture. I look forward to stopping and seeing it for myself when I have a few minutes. There is nothing like monumental creations for students. They will never forget the event. Congratulations Lynnette and 8th graders!

Please tell us about large projects you have done or are doing. Send photos, and a blurr describing the work.


In Today’s News

April 26, 2011

Middle School acting competition

Tanya Mitchell has written an article for the Village Soup on the middle school acting competition scheduled for this Saturday, April 30th, at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast. Several area middle school students are participating. Read more by clicking here.

Troy Howard Middle School drama students Ethan Campbell and Tina Hill in 'Thoroughly Modern Millie"


Maine Student Acting Competition

April 22, 2011

Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast

Thanks to middle school teacher Jason Bannister for providing this post.

The first ever Maine Student Acting Competition will be held Saturday, April 30, from 9-5 at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast. The middle school acting and singing tournament is the brainchild of Jason Bannister, English and Drama teacher at Troy Howard, as well as the drama club advisor.

The Maine Student Acting Competition offers students the opportunity to perform scenes, monologues, and musical theater numbers in front of an audience, compete against their peers, and receive constructive feedback on prepared theatrical material. The goal for participating students is to find their talent, strengths, and weaknesses and to be another tool to help them grow as theatre artists.

The participants compete in 2 rounds of up to six events. They are ranked in each round, and the top ranked competitors move on to the finals, which is performed, on stage, in front of everyone. It is a great opportunity for kids, who love acting and singing in front of a crowd, to pick their own material and share their talents to the world!

This is the first year of the MSAC. Jason Bannister has spoken to over 20 middle schools along the mid-coast, from Bangor to Tenants Harbor. While
there is an overwhelming interest in competing in the future, this year’s
tournament will see Belfast, Bucksport, Lincolnville, North Haven, and
Medomak compete in individual and team events (complete with trophies and bragging rights). With the success of this year, Bannister hopes more
middle schools will gather together their young, enthusiastic actors and
singers and register to compete next year!

If you would like to learn more about the Maine Student Acting Competition, you can contact Jason Bannister at Troy Howard Middle School (207-338-3320 x118) or email him ( You are also
welcome to attend the competition and see what it’s all about! (it’s free)

Directions to Troy Howard Middle School
From Rt. 3 in Belfast get on Route 1 as if you were headed south toward
Rockland. At the intersection of Route 1 and Route 52 (This is where
AthenaHealth/Hannaford are and there is a traffic light) turn right and
head down Route 52 about 1 mile. The school is on the right just after the
YMCA. From the South on Rt. 1 the intersection of 1 and 52 is the first set of lights in Belfast. Turn left at intersection and school is about a half mile on right after the YMCA.

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