Posts Tagged ‘VPA education’


MALI Teacher Leader Story: Cindi Kugell

March 6, 2018

Visual Art Educator

This is the first 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 Cindi for sharing your story!

Cindi Kugell is currently teaching High School Visual arts. She was fortunate to find an open teaching position just after graduating from the University of Maine Orono and has been happily teaching art for the past 28 years. Cindi’s first teaching assignment was in SAD#58 teaching at 2 K8 schools. In 1998 my husband, 2 young children and I moved to Oxford and started teaching in SAD#17 in the Oxford Hills K6. In 2000 we added a third child to our tribe and our family was complete. Fast forward to 2010 and a position opened at our high school. I made another move to Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School to teach darkroom photography and introductory Art 1 courses. Over the past 8 years I’ve added Adaptive Arts, Drama, Yearbook, Advanced Photography, and Studio Art History to my teaching load and have taken on the roll of K12 Visual Art department chair. I am also the Yearbook advisor and Lead teacher for our Project Graduation group. I like to stay busy!

What do you like best about being an art educator?

What are the positives of having the best job EVAH!? At the K-8 level one of the “bests” was getting to see EVERY student in the school and building lasting relations with them over time – year after year after year! Most teachers don’t get the opportunity to really know their students (and their families) as they grow up. My first year teaching at the high school level I had the unique opportunity to have Seniors in my classes that I had first 13 years previous as Kindergarten students, nothing is cooler than that! I love my job, there isn’t anything that I’d rather be doing. Who wouldn’t love the celebrity status that comes with knowing so many students, building positive relationships with them and their families, building skills in talented children and getting to play with art materials all day while teaching a subject that you love?!

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

I think that one of the biggest ways that arts educators can offer their students success in the arts is in the way or the “how” that they present problems to their students. If students feel confident and non-threatened in by the process of creating and realize that there are multiple solutions to problems they feel free to flourish. Releasing students from the fear of being wrong is a great part of a successful program. Another way that

Teachers can foster success in their programs is by letting their students know that skill in the arts can be increased just as math, English or any other core subject can be build upon. By letting them know that it’s your job (and your pleasure!) to help them get better and grow as an art student, you can relieve some of the pressure they may feel while in your classroom. Meeting student where they are and moving them forward is the job of all educators, some of us just get to have more fun with the supplies that they use to get students to their best! A well rounded education is important to student success. So are the skills of creative problem solving and critical thinking. The arts are a fantastic, hands on way of fostering those skills in students. I’m fortunate in my district to be very well supported in what I do and how I teach. Teachers and administration see the value of a well rounded education and the roll that the arts play in student success.

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

My current jam in the world of assessment and reporting is a single point universal project rubric. This style of rubric has only the descriptors for the proficient level of achievement listed down the center. To the left is a box that I can write descriptive feedback to my students on what needs improvement or isn’t going well and to the right there is an area that I can write things that were amazing or outstanding in their project. Kids love the comments and the opportunity to go back and make adjustments to their work. It takes a long time to assess this way, but as it’s a universal rubric for all projects there is a clarity for students as they navigate through work in the art room.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the Maine Arts Leadership initiative? I think the biggest benefit for me is the networking with other teachers. It’s easy to become comfortable on your own little teaching Island and get stuck in a pattern or “the same old”. Learning new things, meeting others that share your discipline and making those colleague connections helps to keep things fresh and inspiring in teaching for me and for my students.

What are you most proud of in your career? The first thing that comes to mind is the fact that I had my own 3 children in my classroom K12. When they were in Elementary I taught at their schools and when I made the transition to the High School level I had them there as well. It’s a unique opportunity to see your own children as learners and know that they are great people! They also have given me great feedback on my lessons, organization and classroom routines that have been very reaffirming. Nobody is more critical than your own children on the crazy things you do to inspire students! I’m proud of my 28 years in art education and proud of the great students (and children!) that I’ve raised during my career.

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher? I think the age old comment of “time” is the biggest obstacle in becoming a better teacher. It takes a huge amount of the stuff to do your job well. Staying current with educational practices in this ever changing landscape can be exhausting. Pair that with extra curricular activities, leadership roles, teaching, parenting and family life and you’ve got a full 24 hours in each day – oh, and try to rest up in there as well!

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances? Starting in this district as a part time elementary art teacher, moving to full time elementary then stepping up to the High School level and finally ending up as the leader of our K12 art department has taken a fair amount of hard work and determination. I wouldn’t change a thing and can’t thank my colleagues enough for their support and hard work this year. It’s amazing to work with such a great team of educators and I’m thankful for that everyday!

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers? Get your masters while you are young and never stop taking courses or PD to improve your teaching skills. As educators we need to keep learning just as we expect our students to learn from us. Stay current, advocate for yourself and your program and LOVE what you do.

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be? Education is so grossly underfunded that I can think of a plethora of activities, programs and equipment that would be amazing to add to our district. I think the most pressing issue that I’d apply the funds to would be to increase the base pay of our new young teachers to entice them into the profession. I know teaching isn’t all about the money and has it’s own rewards, but we need new qualified educators in our field and we need to validate the importance of the profession and celebrate it accordingly.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets? I have truly enjoyed my career. My only regret is in not continuing my education by getting my masters. I’m working on it now, but do wish that I’d taken that step earlier. I can remember starting out as a new teacher and thinking to myself “I’ll do this for 5 years or so then change to something else”. Well, 28 years later I’m still here and loving every minute of it! Every day is a great day to learn something new and my students teach me something new every day.


MALI Summer Institute: Day 2

August 4, 2017


Kate Cook Whitt

Day 2 kicked off with an amazing STEAM presentation from Kate Cook-Whitt. The opening was titled This is your Brain on Art: Neuroscience and the Arts  – “Examining the World Through Different Lenses: Art and Science”. Kate is an Assistant Professor of Education at the Center for Innovation in Education (CIE) at Thomas College. Participants agreed that Kate’s presentation was outstanding!

Teacher Leaders participated in several great mini-sessions, some led by teacher leaders and teaching artists leaders themselves including:

  • Nancy Frolich, Social Justice mini-lesson

    Social Justice and the Power of the Arts with Nancy Frohlich from Leaps of Imagination

  • 7 Strategies of Assessment with Jeff Beaudry from USM and visual art teacher leaders Holly Leighton and Samantha Armstrong

  • National Board Certification with visual art teacher leader Danette Kerrigan

  • Connecting the STUDIO HABITS of MIND to the NATIONAL STANDARDS in the Visual Arts classroom with visual art teacher leader Jane Snider

  • Things Into Poetry session with Brian Evans-Jones

    Things Into Poetry with poet teaching artist leader Brian Evans-Jones

In addition Bronwyn Sale and John Morris provided a session called Teaching for Creativity. The afternoon brought all three strands together (teaching artist leaders, new PK-12 teacher leaders and returning PK-12 teacher leaders) for a session with teaching artist leader and potter Tim Christensen. We engaged with a small medallion of clay using the process Tim is so in tune with: sgraffito.

The rest of the afternoon was spent on leadership, advocacy, and putting it into action on the follow up plans for the next year. Strand 1, the Teaching Artist Leaders met with Jeff Poulin, electronically, from the Americans for the Arts.

Day turned into night and educators gathered around the Thomas College fire pit for drumming and a chance for Tim to fire the clay pieces created earlier in the day in the propane fire pit. This provided a wonderful opportunity to connect with colleagues from across the state. What a great way to end an outstanding day!

Strand 1 with Jeff Poulin, Americans for the Arts. Kate Smith, Design Team member, holds the computer during the question and answer period

Jennie Driscoll, Elise Bothel visual art teacher leaders

Jen Etter, music teacher leader

New teacher leaders David Coffey – music and Amy Donovan-Nucci – visual art

Tim Christensen firing the clay pieces

Fun around the fire pit!



June 18, 2017


I came across the youtube video below and memories came rushing back.  As we close out another school year I just had to share. I wonder how many of you remember? I’ll never forget the statewide arts education conference in 2007 held at the Samoset Resort in Rockport. It had been about 10 years since the last statewide conference had been held. The earlier ones planned for several years by the Maine Alliance for Arts Education (MAAE). Carol Trimble was the Executive Director of MAAE at that time and she agreed to partner to plan the event. The professional organizations, Maine Art Education Association, Maine Music Educators Association, Very Special Arts, and the theater and dance educators were all in on the planning. Our goal was to provide the opportunity for visual and performing arts educators to come together for professional development.

We wanted to make it a celebratory event to highlight the impact that arts educators had across the state. First Lady Karen Baldacci welcomed everyone, Scott Shuler provided the key note on assessment, the Downeast Brass Quintet performed, the Maine Learning Results were rolled out, about 45 workshops were included on a variety of topics, we had an amazing gathering at the Farnsworth Art Museum with musicians from Camden Hills High School and Karen Montanaro performing, and the closing was a dance event with the Planet Pan Steel Drum band performing. We were pleasantly surprised to have 300 educators attend and we turned away 100 teachers.

One of the highlights and what triggered my memory of the conference this week was Mike Davis leading the participants in “rain making”. It was amazing! The power of the arts. If you were there I hope you remember the collaboration and the fun!


Excellence in VPA Education

January 18, 2017

Call for student artwork


First Lady Ann LePage with a young artist at the Excellence celebration on December 21, 2016

For over ten years, the Maine Department of Education (DOE) and the Maine Arts Commission have been fortunate to celebrate arts education by hosting rotating student art exhibits. During the past two years Beth Lambert from the Maine DOE and I have worked together on this collaboration which celebrates the excellence of students in visual and performing arts education in Maine.

The rotating exhibits are displayed throughout the State House complex and in the Department of Education. Each exhibit features art work from three districts from three superintendent regions. Each district provides 21 pieces representing student art from grades PK-12. During the period students’ artwork is displayed, the artists and their families will be invited to the Hall of Flags in Augusta for a Celebration of Excellence in Visual and Performing Arts Education reception. Each student is recognized by the First Lady of Maine Ann LePage for their accomplishments. The reception will feature performances from the districts represented in the art show.

Under the direction of music teacher Cynthia Streznewski, musicians from Woolwich Central School perform at the State House for the celebration

Under the direction of music teacher Cynthia Streznewski, musicians from Woolwich Central School perform at the State House for the celebration on December 21.

In order to have equitable representation we are seeking artwork from the superintendents regions of York, Mid-coast, Western Maine, and Aroostook. Please consider submitting your students’ artwork. The exhibition guidelines are located at If you are interested in displaying your student artwork, please contact Beth Lambert at 624-6642 or



Happy Thanksgiving!

November 24, 2016


I have so much to be grateful for this year! Taking time today to think about what Thanksgiving means to me, includes my work at the Maine Arts Commission (MAC). I feel so fortunate to work at MAC and to be doing the work that I do. I often say that I am exactly where I am meant to be, and today that rings more true than ever.

So, what I am grateful for? Let me share the ways…

  • I am so very grateful for the work that visual and performing arts educators do to provide an excellent arts education for all students!


  • I am grateful for the opportunity to visit schools and teachers and students of the arts across the state of Maine on a regular basis. (If I haven’t visited your school please don’t hesitate to invite me)!
  • I am grateful for the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative and the collaborative spirit and willingness of teachers to step up and take on a leadership role – sharing their learning and knowledge in the name of Maine Arts Education.
  • I am grateful that so many teachers and administrators completed the Maine Arts Education census survey so we could have data from 95% of Maine schools.
  • I am grateful to live in Maine where in spite of daily challenges, the health of Maine Arts Education is in a really good place! In many school districts the arts are at the center of education and arts teachers are leading the proficiency based education work that is underway. The census has shown us that almost all schools in the state offer at least one arts discipline for learners.
  • I am grateful that so many visual and performing arts educators are committed to always moving forward and participating in professional development to expand and build on their knowledge.
  • I am grateful that the student is at the heart of visual and performing arts education.
  • I am grateful for this blog and list-serv so I can communicate with you and learn about the outstanding work you do every day for all Maine learners and learners throughout the country.
  • I am grateful that you’ve put your trust in me!

Best wishes for a very happy Thanksgiving, wherever you may be today! Thank you for everything that you do to provide an excellent arts education and access to it for every learner!


Maine Arts Education Census

January 5, 2016

Survey for principals underway

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 2.10.09 PM

Maine’s Award winning singer-songwriter, Noel Paul Stookey, is serving as the Champion for the Statewide Arts Education census. Mr. Stookey of Peter, Paul, and Mary fame, is acting as honorary Chair, advocating for the census and arts education throughout the process.

During the 2015-16 school year the Maine Arts Commission is leading a statewide inventory of ALL arts education resources in the state’s 759 PK-12 schools currently recognized by the Maine Department of Education. The Maine Arts Commission is collaborating with the Maine Department of Education and a steering committee comprised of representation from the Maine Principal’s Association, Maine Superintendents, Maine Alliance for Arts Education, Maine Art Education Association, the Maine Music Educators Association, the cultural and arts organizations, and PK-12 educators.

All the details and information the statewide arts education census is located at

This is very exciting and critical that all 759 schools participate. We need every principal to complete the survey which will take no more than 15 minutes IF they have all the information that they need. So, we need your help in making this happen. What is your critical role?

  • Please ask your principal if they are aware of and have completed the survey census. If they’ve completed the survey please let them know how much we appreciate it.
  • If they are not aware or have not completed the survey please do the following: Download THIS PDF which are the survey questions. Read the questions and give your principal a copy of the questions. (They may need your help gathering some of the information in order to answer the questions.)
  • Provide the link to the survey monkey at
  • To view the video created for principals about the survey please CLICK HERE. The video was created by the members of the Student Leaders in the Arts Movement (SLAM) from MSAD 33 under the direction of Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Teacher Leader Theresa Cerceo.
  • Once you know that your principal has the information that they need please check in with them to learn if they’ve completed the online survey.


If you or your principal has questions please contact me at


MALI Critical Feedback

August 11, 2015

A favorite part


Teacher Leaders working on their posters creating their action plans and logic models for sharing

The Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) continues to use a Critical Friends model to provide feedback to each other as the work progresses. This years new Teacher Leaders created Action Plans that start with Essential Questions. For example, Why and how should we assess students in instrumental ensembles? The questions vary depending on what each teacher leader is learning and needing in their classroom. The template that is used helps the teachers formulate their ideas so they can present a workshop on the topic for other visual or performing arts teachers during the 2015-16 school year.

Along with the question(s), the template includes the following categories:

  • Rationale
  • Workshop Objective
  • Workshop Description
  • Timeline 1-6 months out
  • Resources Needed
  • Student Impact

You can imagine once the above are fleshed out, a plan develops for the workshop format. This is not to say that the plan is simple. In fact, some teachers really struggle to bring the plan together. It is amazing to watch the progress.

The returning Teacher Leaders used a different format this year – new to MALI as well. Teachers started with a Problem and a Goal.

From there they developed the following:

  • Inputs
  • Activities
  • Outputs
  • Outcomes
  • Student Impact
  • Rationale

A Logic Model poster with comments on stickies

The MALI team that went to Washington, D.C. for the Teach to Lead Summit in July learned about the Logic Model template and decided hands-down that it was the way to proceed with the returning Teacher Leaders.

On the third day of the summer institute held at USM, Portland on August 3-5 all the Teacher Leaders shared their ideas in small groups with critical friends and received feedback that they could immediately apply and make any of the changes.

The frosting on the cake comes during the afternoon when teachers participated in a gallery walk reviewing the plans of each teacher. It was silent for 90 minutes while each Teacher Leader provides thoughtful feedback on stickies that the teachers use to make further changes. Both groups produced an amazing amount of high quality work during the 3-day institute.

In addition, the Critical Friend assigned to the MALI team while in DC for the Summit joined us electronically to provide feedback to Teacher Leader and music educator from Bonny Eagle High School, Jake Sturtevant. It was great to watch the process in action.


Jacob Bruno from Corwin, MALIs Critical Friend, providing feedback to Jake Sturtevant

On August 20 the MALI will have a Critical Friends Day to provide feedback for the last time before they take their workshops and plans “on the road”.

Just a reminder that on August 3, 2015, MAAI, the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative, announced its new name, MALI, the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative. You can read about it at Please let me know if you have any questions.

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