Monthly Mentor

Le Ann Hinkle (January)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Le Ann is in her 21st year of teaching K-5 art and is currently the art educator at Julian Curtiss School and North Mianus School in Greenwich, CT. She has presented workshops at the local, state, and national level, and is a Greenwich Public Schools (GPS) TEAM Mentor Trainer and Elementary Visual Arts Learning Facilitator. She also is a graduate of the NAEA School for Art Leaders (SAL) program. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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Thursday 01.23.20

Embedding Community Service in Your Art Curriculum

By Le Ann Hinkle

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

        —Martin Luther King, Jr.

This week, as we commemorate the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I have reflected on how we teach the concept of giving back. Community service in the art curriculum provides students with opportunities to recognize moments of advocacy and activism.  An example is one of our Dot Day projects from this fall.  Students in third and fourth grades created quilt squares that will be assembled as a finished quilt and donated to a local organization.  Our fifth-grade Art Club participates in several service projects including, Valentines for Vets, a program organized by one of our state Congressional Representatives.  They also design and make stuffed toys through Sew a Softie Global Kids Sewing Party. The finished softies are donated to a local children’s group.

Through participation in NAEA sponsored National Art Honor Society and National Junior Art Honor Society, students are encouraged to advocate for personal and community causes. These students recognize the importance of giving back. They develop leadership skills, learn to curate an idea that communicates a message, and become global citizens.

These projects and organizations inspire our students to use visual arts in relevant and relatable ways. Gained from their contributions is the intrinsic rewards of a increased sense of self-worth and recognition in the value of their knowledge, skills, and time. They develop a connection with those from circumstances different than their own.

Some simple ways you can embed service into your art curriculum:

- Think about how you use language. One of our district norms, “Care for self and others” is put into practice through service to others. Students leave the art studio clean for the next class as it was left clean for them. 

- Older students can make portfolios for or help younger students.  We say, “One for the greater good, one for yourself.”  

- Identify and incorporate National Core Arts Standards that address broad themes of cultural and social values, e.g. VA:Cn11.1.5 Identify how art is used to inform or change beliefs, values, or behaviors of an individual or society.

- Refer to school-wide projects as doing a service that benefits the whole school community.  Making murals or displaying artwork, can be an act of community service. 

- Our district has a Community Service Recognition program. The students chosen from my school participate in Art Club, in addition to other school service programs.  

- Ask your students how they would like to advocate for and help others.  Look to the local and global community for opportunities where your students can make a contribution.  

- Most importantly, be a role model for your students.  Share your volunteer commitments with them and get excited about theirs.  

For more information: 

- International Dot Day-

- NAEA- National Art Honor Society & National Junior Art Honor Society:

- National Core Arts Standards:

- Sew a Softie Global Kids Sewing Party 2020-


Friday 01.10.20

Experimenting with Goal Setting Strategies

By Le Ann Hinkle

I have been fortunate to have worked with administrators who allowed me to experiment and try new strategies.  Recently, I have worked to learn more about implementing Studio Habits of Mind (SHoM), born out of Harvard’s Project Zero- The Studio Thinking Project  and Dr. Julia Marshall’s Creative Strategies.  As I discussed this with other art educators, it seemed that goal-setting might be a good way to start the conversation with students. 

Deciding to focus on my fourth graders, my goal was to have them identify the SHoMs and Creative Strategies within the context of their own art work and artistic behaviors.  I included the “Studio Structure and Definitions” and the Creative Strategies definitions in my students’ resource materials.  As part of the planning of their artwork, they had to identify one SHoM and one Creative Strategy they would focus on during the lesson.  I anticipated a learning curve.  I introduced both sets of definitions and explained the process of making choices during their planning and then having to reflect on how they used these strategies at the end of the lesson. 

In the beginning, there were a lot of reminders to identify a goal and select a strategy.  I always check in with students at the planning stage, so this gave me ample opportunity for mini goal setting conferences.   As students moved to the reflection, at the end of the lesson, there were more 1:1 conferences about describing how the goal was met and the strategy was used.. 

We are several lessons and four months into this process.  Overall, this methodology seems promising.  First, I can see that the students are becoming comfortable with the concept of goal setting through the implementation across all curriculum areas.  Additionally, using the SHoMs and the Creative Strategies as goals, is giving my students language for discussing the process of creating their artwork that goes beyond just describing the idea and the media.  They have words to identify the strategies they use and how they have progressed from an idea to a finished piece of art. 

Resources from Project Zero-The Studio Thinking Project:

Marshall, J., Ledo-Lane, A., McAvoy, E., Steward, C. (2019) Integrating visual arts across the curriculum: an elementary and middle school guide. New York, NY. Teachers College Press. 

- LH

Tuesday 01. 7.20

The Benefits of Student-Driven Goal Setting

By Le Ann Hinkle

The “Walk-Through Observation” is a tool, familiar to most educators.  This past school year, I started participating in a district pilot where pre-scheduled walk-throughs are focused on recognizing the components of personalized learning within content specific learning environments. 

My first walk-thorough was scheduled during my second graders’ weaving unit.  Knowing that student-driven goal setting is a primary factor in personalized learning, I needed to address embedding a goal setting component. I thought about the process of weaving and the objectives of this unit.  I created a “goal setting form” with three, predetermined goals that students could identify within their own process and recognize when they met their goal.  

As I was working to develop this tool, I could not really envision how my students would benefit. However, when I introduced the goal setting sheet, there was no learning curve.  They immediately understood what was being asked and were energized about setting their goals. I checked to make sure each student had set their goal. When necessary, I had a quick conversation to discuss if the goal was appropriate based on where that student was in their progress.  While they were working,  they kept talking about their goals.  “I have done five rows, I only have to do five more.” “What happens if I meet my goal?” “We are both working to add beads, can we work together?”  The identifying and setting of a personal goal made students more invested in their work.  At the end of class, if they met the goal, they gave themselves a smiley face.

Student Weaving Goal Setting Form

This simple tool became the vehicle for a significant paradigm shift.  The goal setting process generated an intrinsic reward for my young learners.  Until that first class, I had not really understood how powerful student-driven goal setting could be. I redesigned this unit to better meet my students’ needs. This year, I noticed that by incorporating more options for student choice and flexibility there has been an increase in student engagement and achievement. 

The walk-through observation motivated me to reexamine how I was using student-driven goal-setting. Now, I build on this strategy in other lessons, looking for opportunities to embed goal-setting with all my students.

Connect with me on Twitter @hinkleart or email-

Download the Weaving Goal Setting Form


Friday 01. 3.20

Modeling Goal Setting and Perseverance

By Le Ann Hinkle

Happy New Year! Before the ball dropped and the fireworks were set-off, I am sure you started hearing about the ubiquitous “New Year’s Resolutions”.  I am not one for making (or keeping) a list of New Year’s resolutions.  However, I have come to realize that goal setting and perseverance is a very important part of my work with students.  As my district has moved to a “personalized learning model”, goal setting is at the forefront of teaching and learning.  

In developing strategies to embed goal-setting for my students, it has become clear that I need to model my personal goal-setting and how I work to achieve goals. Art teachers everywhere have heard the phrase, “You are the best artist.”  Emerging artists, especially early primary youngsters, have difficulty making the connection with “years of work” to the exemplar I have just created. As the art room has become a more personalized learning environment, working 1:1 and in small groups with students, those demonstrations and exemplars now have a different look based on media, subject and level of skill.  So, how can I share my personal goal-setting and perseverance in achieving my goals?  

Recently, I designed several lessons that were a little out of my comfort zone.  I also wanted to engage the students more in the lesson design process.  When my students began these lessons, I told them it was something new I was trying and needed their help. The early starters helped me clarify information and directions, or suggested resources that would be helpful.  I did more research, some rewriting, and created more visual resources for them to access independently. As students moved through the lessons they continued to provide feedback on areas where I needed to make changes. 

Through analysis and scaffolding of my goal-setting process, my students are more able to articulate their own goals.  By making my thinking visible, my students realize the reciprocal respect I have for them as co-learners. They are more trusting of me when it comes to asking for support when they are working to develop new skills outside their own comfort zone.  

How are you are modeling your personal goal-setting for students.  How can you make your thinking visible and engage students in your problem-solving process?  

Connect with me on Twitter @hinkleart or email-

Resources to consider: 

Angela Duckworth- Grit, the Power of Passion and Perseverance

Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick- Habits of Mind: Strategies for Disciplined Choice Making


Monday 12.23.19

Inquiry In The Art Room

By Jen Holsinger-Raybourn

Over the last several posts I have shared with you things that I am grateful for in and out of the classroom and today I’d like to talk to you about teaching inquiry based arts. I’m lucky enough to teach in a Primary Years Programme visual arts, this is the elementary branch of International Baccalaureate.  

IB defines PYP as designed “for children aged 3 - 12, nurtures and develops young students as caring, active participants in a lifelong journey of learning.”

This pedagogy is centered around learning driven by student inquiry and investigation that promotes curiosity in learners, creativity when problem solving and a level of student ownership of learning I have not experienced previously. It’s important to understand that altering your thinking to teach in a more inquiry-based way is possible with any teaching model.  This post is not designed just for IB teachers!

Although there are lots of inquiry cycles to explore, they all loosely resemble a process of asking questions, researching/exploring, processing  that information, applying new learning and finally reflecting on that learning to ask new questions to start the process again. 

Teaching in an inquiry-based way can be as simple as adapting a lesson on color mixing to explore the color wheel first. Ask your students for wonderings and questions about how and why the colors are organized in the circle. Next I allow my students to mix colors just to “see what happens”. I know there are teachers out there cringing about the cost and waste of this paint, but I assure you the value of this experience is worth every penny! My students have learned through their own personal experience that red and yellow make orange and not just because I told them that’s what will happen. Also they have a further understanding that a little bit of yellow will make a darker reddish orange a lot of yellow will make something closer to mac and cheese. Still in a panic about wasted supplies and time, this about using this time to make textured collage paper (think Eric Carle-like) for a future project. Now that students have had time to explore and form some of their own knowledge and questions about color, it’s the perfect time for all of our favorite books which I would have previously used for the lesson introduction. Now these books will deepen understanding, scaffold learning and provoke further wonderings to explore.

Thanks for spending a few minutes of your winter break with me. Until next time,



Want to dig deeper into inquiry based learning, I highly recommend the books listed below

The Power of Inquiry by Kath Murdoch

The Inquiry Mindset and Dive Into Inquiry by Trevor Mackenzie with Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt

Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhart

A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger


Want to learn more about International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme

check out this link:


Wednesday 12.11.19

Collaboration In Your Community

By Jen Holsinger-Raybourn

Last week we talked about gratitude, so I wanted to share with you one of the reasons I’m grateful for my city. Austin, Texas a very innovative, creative city filled with practicing artists that inspire me and my students daily.  While Austin is known for its music scene “Live Music Capital of the World”, I assure you that the visual arts are thriving here as well. One of my favorite things about Austin is that it embodies a Renaissance spirit. I often meet musicians who are also visual artists, sculptors who dabble in performance art and so much more. Austin is home to many collectives for creative people that inspire collaboration and media mash ups.

This feeling of community opens doors of collaboration to my students as well. I’m grateful that every time I’ve reached out to a local artist the answer has always been a positive “How can I help?”. 

It’s important to understand that each artist will set some parameters on how much time they can offer and how they would like to participate. Overtime I’ve learned to reach out to a potential partner first to let them know that my students and I are inspired by their work. I share what we are hoping to do in our classroom and ask if they’d like to be a part of our plan. This allows the artist complete control of how they contribute to the project. In Austin lots of our local artists have nine to five jobs or very full schedules, it’s important to leave the possibilities for the collaboration open.

We have had artist collaborators visit our school, Skype or Google Hangout with a class, answer questions from students like a penpal via email, contribute prompts or artwork to respond to and even come make an installation with us! 

The learning experiences of my students are vastly improved by interacting with working artists in our community and in this day and age the reaches of  your community are really only limited by bandwidth! I hope that this week you consider reaching out to a local artist you see displayed in a local coffee shop, in a local museum or even someone you find via social media.

Want to learn more about the local art scene in Austin? Here are JUST A FEW organizations to check out:

East Austin Studio Tour - Big Medium

ATX Art Girls

Austin West Studio Tour - Big Medium

Art of Austin -

Art Alliance Austin -

Women and Their Work -

Canopy -

Until next time,

- J.H.R.

Monday 12. 2.19

Keeping the Gratitude Going

By Jen Holsinger-Raybourn   

Amidst a season of giving; gifts, your time, creating, and capturing moments it is important to continue to take the time to reflect on why these gestures are significant. Research has shown that practicing gratitude can improve overall happiness, sleep, focus, and so much more.  In an experiment for NAEA’s School for Art Leaders a few years ago I started investigating self care, including a gratitude practice. 

Prac·tice /ˈpraktəs/  verb
perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one's proficiency (Ex "I need to practice my French")

I strive to maintain a gratitude practice because I have learned that it helps keep me more present in my day to day life in and out of my classroom.  As teachers we encourage our students to practice for improvement, to adopt an attitude of practice makes progress. This philosophy allows us to continue to grow without the pressure of perfection, which we all know is unattainable, looming overhead.  Over time I have found a few different ways to practice gratitude that work for me. These exercises can be accomplished in a minute or two or you can dig deeper if time permits.

  • Gratitude List - take a few minutes to jot down ten things you are grateful for, not enough time for ten try five, three or even the one. I like to place this list in a place where I will see it throughout the day.

  • Gratitude Journaling - sit down with your journal, set an alarm if time is short and write freely about things you are thankful for, I think you will be surprised how quickly the time passes and the page fills.

  • Meditative Gratitude - center your practice on the thing you would most like to give thanks for today.

  • Express Your Gratitude - could be to a stranger on the street who opened the door for you, a colleague, or a loved one. Take a moment to let them know why you are grateful for them, try to be specific. It could be a quick talk in person, text message, a phone call or you could scribble a quick note or artwork placed where they will see it or pop it in the mail.

I challenge you today to try one of the gratitude practices listed above and think about how it made you feel, how it helped you interact with your community, build relationships or how it helped you be a better teacher or leader today.

Thank you for spending a few minutes reflecting and growing your teaching practice, until next time.

- J.H.R

To go deeper, check out this podcast from The Creativity Department about how to infuse the idea of Gratitude in the classroom as well as personally.

Wednesday 11.27.19

Know Your Worth

By Mary Weimer Green

Throughout my career, I have been blessed to have friends and family who have supported me. With that said, we all have faced teachers (and others) who at one time or another have let us know oh so subtly that we are ‘merely’ art teachers and not part of the core. With this in mind, it becomes exceptionally important to understand and convey our value in a real and practical way to students, parents, and colleagues.

There are many values that we instill daily; for example, perseverance (grit), workmanship, and even playfulness. The most important thing that we do, in my opinion, is to encourage the students to look beyond themselves. In learning about other cultures and individuals different from themselves, they develop a deeper understanding of similarities and appreciation for differences. Students also develop more effective forms of communication; both verbal and visual. While improving their visual literacy they learn perhaps most importantly to question those things they don’t understand and not to settle for the superficial answer.

Through empathy curiosity is charged, similarities bring us together, differences are celebrated and lifelong learning is naturally established. In our classes students realize that the arts are for all people: the arts develop individual affect, it speaks to, and for everyone. In our classes we strive to create an environment where our students feel as if they are safe to respond honestly with their reactions and ideas. What a wonderful legacy we will have if this example carries forward!

Through an aesthetic education student responsibility and accountability are increased. Visual thinking strategies create critical creative and bold thinking within the students that employ these methods. Through the visual arts, problem-solving becomes an everyday occurrence that does not elicit fear or trepidation but problems are viewed as challenges to be overcome. Approaching all of life’s challenges in the same way will benefit the student and our future by making them effective global citizens. In short, we are not a 'Core Subject', we are THE Core Subject.

Teaching art is an important occupation with an awesome responsibility. We are the builders of dreams, the preservationists of culture, and the ambassadors of the future.


Wednesday 11.13.19

Start with Joy

By Mary Weimer Green

Before I became a teacher, I believed that teaching was an elusive art. I believed that only a few could be truly good teachers and fewer still really understood the lingo and could implement effectively the practices. Over the time that I've been teaching, I have found that I was merely complicating things. Any teacher can be a good teacher by keeping three important points in mind. For me, the three keys to successful teaching are Joy, Empathy and of course, Excellence. These three simple overarching themes have kept me on task and given me focus so that I can continually improve my professional practice. They're all of equal importance and each speaks specifically to a different part of the instructional experience.

In the coming blog posts, I'd like to explore how each of these points can be practically implemented in the art room.

To begin with, joy is desperately needed in all education. Without joy, without enthusiasm for learning, it is impossible for the teacher to convey a concept or for the students to retain information. In serving as a mentor and coach to my students I continually try to find new ways to merge my enthusiasm for my subject into creative and fun lessons that will engage the students and teach them deeper concepts. When I am enthusiastic my students are enthusiastic and we all learn from each other. As an art teacher, it is my job to convey a love of my subject that will hopefully inspire the students to remain involved with the arts whether for pleasure or as their profession.

So, my first suggestion is a simple one. Think of it as self-care. Find something that brings you joy. Something that excites you. This can be a partnership with a local arts organization, an opportunity to exhibit in an unconventional space, or bringing a medium that you just learned how to use into your lesson. Then do it. Go all in! The enthusiasm that you have for that new experience will catch on with your class like wildfire, as you learn along with your students.


Friday 11. 1.19

Always Growing

By Mary Weimer Green

The year is in full swing, and I’m sure everyone is more than just a little overwhelmed by the seemingly massive amounts of work to be done. Lessons are being tweaked, papers graded, meetings attended, and evaluations are beginning. It seems that there is an endless supply of work and no time!  Despite all of this there are many opportunities on the horizon and you need to take advantage of them!

Now is the time to plan for the rest of this year! During Thanksgiving break and Christmas break, consider adding just one more opportunity to show student work this year to further engage your students and increase the visibility of your program. I know that many of you are thinking, “I can’t possibly add one more thing!”. We all feel overwhelmed at times, but showing your students’ work is not only great for the self-esteem of your students, its great PR for your program!  YAM, Scholastics, and the exhibitions hosted by your local and National Art Education Associations are just a few of the opportunities to expand exposure for your school’s art program. I was shocked to find that fewer and fewer of us are participating in our school district’s art exhibition opportunities. Some of them only require a minimal amount of artwork to be entered from each school. My local district only requires five pieces. We all know the benefits of art for our students, refining cognitive and creative skills, as well as developing a strong sense of craftsmanship. If we as educators don’t go the extra mile to exhibit the results of our teaching (and our student’s learning), how can we hope to keep art education alive? We must advocate for ourselves and our profession.

Utilize your local Art Education Association to develop collaborations with other art teachers and learn about opportunities in areas outside of your school system. Each region in your state will have opportunities to meet other teachers who have similar interests and concerns. Participation in local workshops is also valuable for both learning and networking!

Starting now, expand your reach, raise your visibility and let everyone know what a valuable asset you are! Just be willing to make one small change and watch your program grow!