Congratulations to Sarah Witke the December Art Educator of the month. Sarah teaches at Parkside Elementary in the Monroe School District.
I am honored to be the December WAEA Art Teacher of the Month. Through WAEA, I have met so many inspiring educators and mentors who have assisted and guided me as I launched my second career six years ago.
After receiving BA degrees in both Graphic Design and Art Education from Iowa State University, I worked for many years as a Human Resources Business Partner at a Madison area insurance company. After a corporate buyout, I decided to make a change, renew my teaching license and was fortunate to join the staff at Parkside Elementary School in Monroe, Wisconsin. And I can’t say enough about my elementary art team. Together, we are a strong, creative force. Every year, I enjoy working with the School District of Monroe staff, my art peers and teaching each student as they explore the world of art.
Over the last several years the elementary art team has developed a document to guide us through our curriculum planning. We teach the elements of art by developing lessons that expose students to the different mediums and align with the National Standards.
For my youngest students, I teach through play. It seems a little crazy, but I say silly things such as "Please pass the mashed potatoes!" I try to make learning fun. We talk about table manners at the kitchen table, and how passing the container of crayons is similar to passing food at the table. My students make me smile as I hear them say phrases such as, "Please pass the macaroni and cheese, I really love mac and cheese!" We also read books which tie to art lessons and visual literacy. We learn about rulers and how to measure as I introduce math concepts. During these years I really focus on exposure to mediums, techniques, and tools.
As my students enter third grade, they are ready for more complex concepts. We begin having discussions about art at a deeper level, solving problems with creative solutions and delving deeper into math concepts and literacy. By this time my students know that I am going to give them more and more so they will reach higher and higher. They also become use to me telling them that I’m not teaching them how to draw, I’m teaching them how to "see". Once they can see it, they can draw it. Most recently, I have been conferring with my students to listen and observe how they are actually processing and thinking about the art. It’s rewarding to hear them interpret what they see.
My overall goal as a teacher, is to prepare students for the ever changing world around them and I do this through teaching fine art and visual literacy. Brian Kennedy, from Dartmouth College once said, “visual literacy is a form of critical thinking that enhances intellectual capacity”. In his TED Talk he also explains how each of us were able to understand our surroundings visually before we could understand the written word. Images are a global language. This really resonated with me. I am helping little minds to increase their capacity to learn and connect to others. I can’t imagine a job more important than this and I’m excited and challenged each day as I try to exceed my student’s expectations.
Thank you so much for supporting me in this effort!
School District of Monroe
Deborah Brooks Art Teacher of the Month: November 2017 18 WAEA
Transitioning from traditional art education models to make room for more choices for students has led me on a quest toward Student Directed Learning! We know that education theory is cyclical. When I was in high school - my art teacher gave us full choice, with little instruction or guidance. Later when lesson plan writing became a requirement, art teaching became more industrialized and mass produced. Now the core of my focus twenty some years into this journey is to encourage engagement by providing scaffolding and choices. I currently enjoy teaching 2D art courses at Greenfield High School, a first ring suburb of Milwaukee. This is a district with a high poverty rate, over 30 languages spoken by students and families, and a warmth of acceptance that is palpable.
I moved away from crafting assignments that I knew were sound from an art education viewpoint - but, not of interest to my students when I came to want more for their experience in my art studio classroom. I was leaving school feeling badly about misbehavior and disrespect from students. It was by questioning and discussing with the students (from beginners to advanced) in small groups as they worked that I was able to start to realize what they might be more willing to engage in while attempting the socially risky business of trying new art making methods in front of peers. The National Board Certification process helped me to accomplish this step.
Characterizing the things students would be able to learn into about ten main power standards with my art department colleagues in 2010 laid the scaffolding for lessons, rather than subject matter themes. Now I see these power standards we developed are really close to the Studio Habits of Mind!
I ramped up my strategies for creating an atmosphere of trust in my classroom. I began to deemphasize grading and finished products. I put the emphasis on feedback and process. I put the ownership in their hands. Bingo. Behavior problems began to decrease. When I made it clear the many choices they have while working to Level Up their accomplishments with the Learning Targets - the studio began to sing. Now I go home feeling rewarded by what the students realize in the process of art making.
By attending and presenting at WAEA and NAEA conferences, taking part in professional development and leadership opportunities in the School District of Greenfield I have been able to Level Up my practice. I learned about more and more opportunities for students to extend their learning beyond the art studio classroom and into the school and community. I am honored to be recognized by WAEA as teacher of the month.
Thank you so much!
Greenfield High School
Visual Art Department Chair
National Board Certified
National Art Honor Society
4800 S. 60th Street
Greenfield, WI 53220
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