Posts Tagged ‘Warsaw Middle School’


Caitlin Hunt’s Story

November 29, 2018

Samantha Smith Challenge

Thank you to Caitlin Hunt, Warsaw Middle School teacher, who shares an amazing story about her students participation in the Samantha Smith Challenge. Yesterday’s blog post provides an overview of Americans Who Tell the Truth and the Samantha Smith Challenge and how you can participate this year. This is a powerful statement that Caitlin shared from her experience of bringing art into her classroom: “Perhaps it is this empathy borne out of their art that helps them to better understand the true meaning of social justice.” Below is Caitlin’s, and her students, story in her own words…

Artist Robert Shetterly speaking to students

I have been a middle school teacher for 13 years, and I can honestly say that the Samantha Smith Challenge, (SSC) which my students and I participated in last year, provided some of the most important and exciting learning we have ever had in my class. SSC is a program of Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) established by artist Robert Shetterly. Many of the 70 students I taught in my 8th grade social studies class last year were not academically motivated and struggled just to complete assignments. Many of them required considerable support, and had completely lost interest in school. However, I noticed those who had become apathetic were constantly drawing during my class and I realized that art might be a motivator for my students. At that time, I had no idea that bringing the arts into my social studies classes would dramatically improve my students’ knowledge, their confidence, and their ability to empathize with people in situations much different than their own. And perhaps it is this empathy borne out of their art that helps them to better understand the true meaning of social justice.

Student created flyer for gallery opening


Together the students and I studied the United Nations document, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights as our anchor text. After they developed an in depth understanding of the 30 basic human rights outlined by the document, they chose the one that was most meaningful to them. Each student was charged with researching current events around the world, to see if the human right which they chose was being denied anyone, or any groups of people around the world. They focused in on this particular event, and learned as much about it as possible. It was interesting to me how much the information they discovered shocked them. Many of them had no idea about the extent of these injustices. After my students showed a full understanding of the injustice, they designed and created works of art, and wrote artist statements, based on their understanding of the denial of this human right.

Art in the Lobby

We titled our project You Be The Judge: Justice Through Art. Our mission statement, the art work, news and images of the students’ work in gallery displays, and our thank-yous can be viewed on the website the students and I created after we finished the project.


The students knew their work would be shown in at least one gallery display. We were fortunate to be able to set up our week long gallery display in an old school house that we named that currently serves as an office building in our town of Pittsfield. We named it Lancy Street Gallery. The students became docents, showing community members around the gallery, and explaining individual pieces to anyone visiting. Their understanding of

Bailey Working

this authentic audience, along with their commitment to the issues they researched, helped them create and participate in quality work throughout the project. We all worked extremely hard to complete pieces, edit artist statements, hang the gallery display, and show the work. What was so different about this project was that the students were no longer struggling with motivation. They saw the importance in what they were doing. They understood that they could teach their fellow community members. Their work reached beyond the local gallery we created with showings at the Universalist Meeting House in Pittsfield, Waterfall Arts  “Young Artists’ Gallery Takeover” exhibition in Belfast, and Art in the Lobby at Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville.

Holocaust and Human Rights Center, Augusta

Along the way, as we were in the thick of the rigorous work it takes to pull off a project like this, it was connections to the real world outside the classroom walls that kept us going. We were able to visit the Holocaust and Human Rights Center in Augusta that, at the time, had an amazing exhibit called America Now… A Dialogue. We also visited the Portland Museum of Art where students participated in case studies to look into other works of art connected to social justice.


Universalist Meeting House

As a part of participating in the Samantha Smith Challenge, artist Robert Shetterly visited our school. His talks inspired many students to dive deeper into the current events they found. He challenged them to look at situations from multiple perspectives and he helped make connections between my students and some of the “courageous citizens” he painted. These experts shared their first hand knowledge with my students. It was so powerful for the kids to hear from people who work on the front lines of the issues they had become so passionate about.


Visit to Portland Museum of Art

Before we started the project I identified the district standard we would be addressing throughout, “researching, selecting, and presenting a position on a current social studies issue by proposing and revising research questions, and locating and selecting information from multiple and varied sources.” I used our district learning targets, to create a rubric for assessment. In order to meet standards, students had to do the following: 1. Summarize and interpret information found in varied sources and from fieldwork, experts, and interviews. 2. Distinguish between primary and secondary sources. 3. Evaluate and verify the credibility of the information found in print and non-print sources. 4. Make individual and collaborative decisions on matters related to social studies using relevant information and research and discussion skills. Of course, along the way we participated in mini-lessons geared towards each part of these learning targets as well.


Jackson, Docent at Lancy Street Gallery

After completion of the entire project, I sat down one weekend to assess their work using the rubric I had created at the beginning. When I came back to school on Monday, I told the students how fun and exciting it was to assess their work. Authentic, real-world application of their knowledge had earned nearly all them 4s or “exceeds standards” on their work. I told them I felt like Oprah doling out 4s instead of cars, “You get a 4, and you get a 4, and you get a 4!” Although, as I write this, I realize how ironic the term “exceeds standards” is. It was always my expectation that students would apply their new found knowledge in a real world situation; that was the whole point of the project. If we set our expectations high, students will rise to meet them, and then we can all be proud of the work we accomplish. Perhaps one of the most difficult, yet important parts of teaching is finding a way to inspire students to rise to those expectations. The Samantha Smith Challenge helped provide that inspiration for my students.

Part of the exhibit at Waterfall Arts, Belfast

Lancy St. Gallery Pittsfield

Ruby Working

Lancy Street Gallery Pittsfield


Honoring Marisa Weinstein

June 1, 2013

Music Educator of the Year

I attended the annual banquet at the Maine Music Educator’s Association All-State conference at USM and was delighted to watch and listen as educators were recognized for their contributions to music education in Maine.

IMG_3341Visual and Performing Arts Department Head at Maine Central Institute, Dean K. Neal, nominated his colleague Marisa Weinstein for the Maine Music Educator of the Year. She was honored at the banquet along with others. Below is a segment of the nomination papers that Dean submitted. They are re-printed below with Dean’s permission.

Congratulations Marisa!

I have had the privilege of being a teaching colleague of Marisa’s for 23 years. This is her 24th year of teaching at Warsaw Middle School in Pittsfield where she currently teaches general music, beginning band, intermediate band, concert band (7/8 grade), 5/6 grade chorus, 7/8 grade chorus, jazz band 1 and jazz band 2.

As examples of Marisa’s interest in the total music education of the students of MSAD #53 I will begin with her saving a choral program that was in desperate need. The choral program of Warsaw Middle School was superb for the first half of Marisa’s tenure. Marisa’s area of concentration is instrumental music and she was not the choral educator during this time. The program then encountered changes in staffing for a period of three to four years. It was in this time that the choral program suffered greatly. As administration sought solutions Marisa offered that she would restructure her schedule to absorb teaching the 5/6 and 7/8 Choirs. Marisa whole heartedly applied herself by studying choral education literature, consulting with other choral educators and doing all she could to prepare herself to meet the needs of the choral students. In the several years since, she has taken the 7/8 chorus from being a group of 8-10 students that struggled to sing two part pieces, to an ensemble of 50-60 students performing three part literature. The choral students of Warsaw Middle School are now represented in a strong way in the regional auditioned honors festival. Throughout this process, she has somehow managed to maintain all of the performing ensembles she was teaching prior to taking on the choral curriculum and keep the education and performance levels to high standards of excellence.  

Marisa’s interest in the total program is not limited to the students of Warsaw Middle School though. She continues to follow them into the secondary level by consistently attending school concerts and events. More impressive is the fact that it is common for her to take the time to travel across the state or even out of state to see these students perform in festivals or at an event such as the Berklee Jazz Festival.  

Marisa has continually sought to better herself as an educator and performer by enrolling in workshops, masterclasses and performing ensembles. Last year she was one of a handful of Maine music educators selected to conduct for a nationally recognized conductor in a masterclass setting. Over her tenure she has consistently performed with numerous community and professional organizations throughout the state. She clearly understands the connection between the art and craft of making music and delivering that to youth through education.  

The respect afforded Marisa by fellow educators is evident through the many invitations to conduct regional honors festivals.  It is possible that she has guest conducted in every MMEA district but I know for certain she has guest conducted in Districts 3,4,5,6, and 7.  Her presence in MMEA has been felt more than through her conducting though.  Marisa has also been at the forefront of leadership by holding positions as District Chair, District Manager, Festival Host, (KVMEA President, Manager, Auditions Host as well.)

I must also mention that Marisa’s love and care for the school community go far beyond the music program.  During her time at Warsaw she has been Yearbook editor and advisor, served on committees and currently serves as 7/8 grade girls soccer head coach, 7/8 grade girls basketball head coach and 7/8 grade softball head coach.  It seems her commitment to the students of MSAD #53 and MCI knows no bounds.  Her passion for education and her love for music combine to make her one of the finest educators I have witnessed in my career.  I am proud to teach with her in our school system and believe her to fit in every way the honor of “MMEA Educator of the Year”.


In Today’s News

April 10, 2013

Congratulations Marisa!

In today’s Morning Sentinel Marisa Weinstein is highlighted for the surprise award she was presented at the Warsaw Middle School where she teaches music, Music Educator of the Year! YAHOOOO! You can read about Marisa and view the marvelous photos that were taken at the school assembly by clicking here.




In Today’s News

June 24, 2011

Warsaw Middle School students design t-shirts for Central Maine Egg Festival

Art teacher Colleen Lancaster at Warsaw Middle School had students create designs for the 39th annual Egg Festival t-shirts. Seventh-grader Jamie Wone’s design was selected out of 21 designs submitted for the festivities which will be held on July 20th. Read the article and see the design by clicking here.

The articles written by Ryan McLaughlin was in the Bangor Daily News today, June 23rd.

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