Posts Tagged ‘Wiscasset High School’


Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Jean Phillips

April 11, 2017

MALI Teacher Leaders Series

This is the seventh 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 77 posted to date. Thank you Jean for sharing your story!

Jean Phillips has been a teacher at Wiscasset Middle High School for fifteen years. Originally hired to teach English, but, in 2008, when the drama coach and director left, she picked up the three drama classes. In 2010, when the person hired to direct the One Act Festival play suddenly quit, the opportunity to direct came along. The following year, Jean was “hired” to teach three drama classes: Acting Workshop, Children’s Theatre, and Tech Theatre Design and to direct the two yearly productions. She has been doing both “jobs” ever since. Presently, Jean also teaches the 8th Grade drama component of their Allied Arts program. Her  yearly responsibilities include two public performances – one in the fall and the One Acts Festival piece – creating, building, or procuring all the sets, costumes, and props, as well as the maintenance, storage, and upkeep of the lights and the stage. She usually teaches nine to twelve 8th graders per quarter and 10-15 students per year in the Acting Workshop class per year; 8-12 students per year in the Children’s Theatre class; and 20 – 30 students per year in the Tech Theatre Design class. Jean’s Acting Workshop class involves teaching the terminology specific to theatre, stage positions and body positions – creating characters through analysis and fulfilling the performance standard by producing a public performance piece. Children’s Theatre begins with each student reading a children’s book, creating a story board for the book, a group decision of which play be the best to produce, writing a script, practicing together, and putting on a public performance – sometimes with children in the audience. Tech Theatre Design involves the technical aspects of theatre – specifically the design and construction off a set, sometimes the design of costumes, if time permits lighting and makeup.

What do you like best about being a theater educator?

My most favorite part of being a theatre teacher is watching students become hooked on working on the stage – either behind the scenes or as actors. I love that many disenfranchised students have found a home in theatre and even if they don’t pursue it any further than high school, they will have gained skills that will carry them throughout life.

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

The three essential things to a successful performing arts education is full support by administration, parents, and state; less interference by outside agencies; and fewer budgetary constraints.

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

I am just beginning to utilize more formative assessment in the classroom. The public performance has always been the summative assessment, but I have found it important to the success of the summative assessment if more formative assessments are given.

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

Before becoming involved in MALI, I taught my three classes and directed my plays. Now, I have never been as involved with professional development for the arts as I have this year. I have made more contacts and found advocates. I have also been able to engage more students in advocacy for the arts, too.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of two things: first, that I have been directly responsible for having students opt to become theatre arts majors in college; and two, that students who have not normally found a home in high school have found a safe haven on stage.

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

For me there are two things that get in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as an educator: people who have no idea what happens on stage telling me how to do my job – the more constraints put on me by bureaucrats makes connecting with students harder because I’m spending more time with pointless paperwork than working directly with the students; and my own inhibitions. I am not a risk-taker and feel safer with the tried and true.

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

My whole life has been about hard work and determination. I have major anxiety and live my life in stress. In spite of this, I have earned two BA’s and an MA – all because I do not believe in quitting. I broke my leg my third year of getting my MA and learned to drive with my left foot so I could continue going to class because I knew that if I took the rest of the semester off, I would never go back. I set my sights on a goal and just push forward since I’ve never been very lucky or relied on circumstances to get what I want.

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

Wow – I’d tell them there’s a fine line between keeping discipline and being a hard nose about following the rules. I’d tell them that there will be times when you won’t sleep because you’re worried, or you’re scared, or you’re frustrated, or you’re stuck – and all of those sleepless nights will be worth it when just one student comes back to thank you or remembers you fondly later in life. I’d say that no matter how much your budget gets cut just keep on keeping on. Arts education is important and students need this creative edge as well as a haven – be these things and more.

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

If I had $500,000 I would build a separate arts facility for Wiscasset Middle High School – one with adequate space and light for the visual arts, a clean, soundproof room for band and chorus, and a dedicated space for the construction of sets, the construction and storage of costumes, and a place for all performances. If this isn’t feasible due to budget constraints, I would overhaul the stage lighting, build a space for the construction and storage of sets, maybe get more tools, and have someone come in and design a much cleaner, more organized space for the lights.

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

Who doesn’t have regrets? I guess my biggest regret would be that I didn’t reach more students, especially since many of them shied away from my program because they were anxious about performing or because they were afraid of me because of what they had heard from other people. I hope to have worked on the latter before I’m 94.


Another Arts Teachers’ Story: Shalimar Poulin

July 17, 2012

Featuring one teacher’s journey as an educator

This is the 18th in a series of blog posts telling arts teachers’ stories. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to read educators stories and to learn from others.

Shalimar Poulin teaches at Wiscasset High School (RSU 12), grades 9-12. She has been teaching for 18 years. Prior to Wiscasset High School for the last year she taught at Gardiner Area High School for 8 years, 3 years at Hyde Schol in Bath, and 6 years in suburban Philadelphia. At WHS she teaches Draw/Paint, Printmaking, Art Revolutions (Art History- inspired Art-making class), Digital Art, Ceramics, Sculpture. Shalimar has served on the leadership team for the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative.

What do you like best about being an art teacher?

It comes naturally to me, always has. Harvesting the belief that all people can practice creativity, can learn the skills of making quality art, and one does not have to be talented to enjoy art-making. This belief is something that works best when discovered first hand; however, learning vicariously through one’s child can change limiting perceptions of art making.

Tell me what you think are three keys to ANY successful arts ed program?

  1. Community attitude towards art (including administration, teachers, staff, students, parents and community at large). One does not necessarily need to be 100% gung ho art, but must have a curiosity, positive learning attitude, and a willingness to accept changes in art education.
  2. Art teacher dedication, commitment, quest for doing one’s best.
  3. The establishment and maintenance of a flexible learning environment where teacher and students learn together, where guidelines are clear and open to interpretation and the door is open for extended-learning and community visitation.

What specific way(s) do your assessment practices tie into the success of your program?

I can’t be sure that it is successful. Right now, it is a lot of work. I hope at some point to better manage the long out-of-class hours I spend on creating quality assessments, modifying quality assessments, providing quality evaluation and feedback to students, and the one I am least successful at- timely feedback. The assessment tools I use are: (1) project rubrics (that ask students to self reflect on their work, modify project goals to suit their interest, and clear teacher and peer feedback for improvement), (2) bi-weekly exit slips- a substitute for quizzing, including: comments about learning and activities, class participation and effort, teacher and self ratings, art language exercises, hopes for upcoming weeks, feedback for teacher (3) start-up questions- discussion questions posed to students to answer individually, in pairs, or groups depending on the pre-start up activity. Usually there is an out-of-class expectation of sorts- read a google doc, visit a blog, do an activity to reinforce learning such as a 10 minute or less class start-up questions. (4) artfolio development and presentation checklist and rubrics (photographing, writing and revising student artist writings and storing, filing and posting of electronic files to student g-site artfolios),  (5) critique preparation, discussion, and reflection 

Next year I am going paper-less with all non-art activities. I am using an on-line classroom called Canvas (supported by our tech integrator). I am looking forward to this practice and I believe it will improve student’s tendency to resist “paper-work” and “academic” activities in art class. I also am certain it will stream-line evaluation such that the required time will be reduced.

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

Collaboration- sharing stories, problem-solving together, shop talk. Working with leaders in Maine State Arts Education- kind, thoughtful, energetic, movers and shakers.

What are you most proud of in your career?

The life skills I share with students by example and through the making of art: work ethic, problem solving, commitment to completion, risk taking, development of creative self, allowing a project to take time (not everything we do need be instant gratification). Turning kids on to something they believed they had no aptitude for- the skills of art making.

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

A growing epidemic of the failings of the education system being blamed on those of us in the trenches- teachers. The lack of parent involvement in the lives of their children. The failure of educational consultants and school administration to interview and honor their greatest resource- teachers. The troubled economy and instability of arts place in the future of education. Students who make it their main mission to defy authority (who fail to see we have their backs and want the best for them).

Apple or PC?


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

Nothing. It seems all that I have perceptively succeeded in has come from hard work, determination, working with others, and intentional moving and shaking. I will say, I have been lucky to be invited to work in some interesting schools and I have had the privilege of working with some amazingly outstanding students. These blessings were not a function of my efforts, they are providence.

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

Please don’t consider art an exception to the rule. When our peers in the core disciplines are asked to make changes, meet new standards, jump through hoops, JOIN THEM- be an example of change. Validate what we do as being part of current educational trends. Expect our administrators to include us in all requirements.

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

I would ask for more money because 500 is a spit in the bucket. Then, I would build and open a state of the art after-school arts center for children ages 4-18. I would include disabled adults as well. This center would be the equivalent of a magnet school for the visual and performing arts- only less formal. It would offer students enrichment, a place to be after school, and the opportunity to create life-time habits in creativity. It would have all the ideal facilities I have ever dreamed of and never had. I would link it to a community center (YMCA maybe) that also offers exercise programming. I would close it in the summer so that I could continue to devote time to personal art-making. Besides there are so many great summer programs already established for young people. I would have a massage once a week, schedule my loved ones for a once a week massage and hire a personal chef and a sherpa. I would establish a college fund for my nieces and nephews. I would by a place on the water.

Websites that Shalimar recommends:

Thank you Shalimar for sharing your story.

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