Monthly Mentor

Patricia Leavy (November)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Patricia Leavy, PhD is an independent scholar and bestselling author. She was formerly Associate Professor of Sociology, Chair of Sociology & Criminology, and Founding Director of Gender Studies at Stonehill College in Massachusetts. She has published over twenty-five books, earning commercial and critical success in both nonfiction and fiction, and her work has been translated into numerous languages. She is internationally recognized as a leader in arts-based research and research methodology. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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Tuesday 11.13.18

The Science of Art

By Patricia Leavy, PhD

Arts-based research (ABR) is powerful in part because the arts engage people more deeply than academic prose. While most people intuitively understand that the arts can reach and move us in unique ways, there is actually science behind this.

Beginning with fiction, there is a growing body of scholarship on the relationship between neuroscience and literature referred to as literary neuroscience. Natalie Phillips and her colleagues (2012) used Jane Austen’s fiction in a study about how reading affects the brain. They found that the whole brain appears to be transformed as people engage in close readings of fiction. Moreover, there are global activations across a number of different regions of the brain, including some unexpected areas, such as those that are involved in movement and touch. This research helps to explain how we become immersed in novels, actually feeling as though we are within the story and that the house could burn down and we wouldn't notice. For another example, Gregory Berns (2013) led a team of researchers in a study published in Brain Connectivity that suggests there is heightened connectivity in our brains for days after reading a novel. Research on music and visual art has similar implications.

Daniel J. Levitin (2007, 2008) has written extensively about the cognitive neuroscience of music. He suggests that music is distributed throughout the brain, in both hemispheres, and that in essence, music is hardwired into our brains.

There is also an emerging field called neuroaesthetics that considers how our brains make sense of visual art. Nobel laureate Eric Kandel (2012) explains that visual art activates many distinct and at times conflicting emotional signals in the brain which in turn causes deep memories.

While the preceding examples focus on consuming or experiencing the arts, it is important to note that recent research on the activity of art-making has yielded similar results.

So whether we are consuming art or involved in art-making ourselves, art impacts us in profound ways, engaging us on deep levels, making lasting impressions. There are serious implications for how we might teach, learn, conduct, and share research most effectively.

 - PL


Berns, G. S., Blaine, K, Prietula, M. J. and Pye, B. E. (2013). Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain. In Brain Connectivity. 3(6): 590-600.

Kandel, E. (2012). The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present. New York, Random House

Levitin, D. J. (2007). This is your brain on music: The science of a human obsession. New York: Plume.

Levitin, D. J. (2008). The world in six songs: How the musical brain created human nature. New York: Dutton.

Thompson, H., & Vedantam, S. (2012). A lively mind: Your brain on Jane Austen. NPR Health  Blog.  Available at


Author’s Note: This blog was adapted from my 2014 blog Our Brains on Art which appeared in The Huffington Post and The Creativity Post.

Thursday 11. 1.18

Arts-Based Research 101

By Patricia Leavy, PhD

The scholar seeks, the artist finds

—Andre Gide

I’m a sociologist but I spend much of my professional life in the world of art educators and artists. I’m not alone either. Increasingly, scholars across the disciplines are turning the arts. I’ll share a little of my own journey.

Early in my career I became frustrated with the traditional ways of conducting research and the limitations of traditional forms to best share research findings. Academic articles rarely follow the attributes of engaging writing. Academic articles are jargon-filled, difficult to access (they circulate in peer-reviewed journals inaccessible to anyone outside of academia), and have a highly limited audience even within academia. The vast majority of articles published in the social sciences have an audience of 3-8 readers, including their author. It’s pretty bleak for those of us interested in sharing our work with those inside and outside of the academy. This is what led me to a different research paradigm: arts-based research (ABR). This month’s mentor blog will focus on ABR. For those unfamiliar, here’s a basic overview.

In short, ABR is an arts approach to research in which art-making is integral to the research process. ABR exists at the nexus of the arts/humanities and the social sciences/sciences. ABR involves researchers in any discipline adapting the tenets of the creative arts in order to address research questions. An arts practice may be used during project conceptualization, data collection, data analysis, and/or to represent research findings. These approaches to research are useful for producing new insights and learning; description, exploration, discovery, or problem solving; forging macro-micro connections; evocation and provocation; raising critical consciousness or awareness; cultivating empathy; unsettling stereotypes; applied research; asking new questions or getting at old questions in new ways; and, contributing to public scholarship.

- PL

Authors Note: For a comprehensive introduction to ABR please see my book Method Meets Art Second Edition and for a comprehensive review of the field please see the Handbook of Arts-Based Research. Visit Guilford Press for discount details.


Monday 10.29.18

Contemporary Artists on Racism, Sexism, & Ableism

From Dr. Karen Keifer-Boyd

Art is pedagogical when encounters with the art generate ideas, reflection, critique, questions, and dialogue. In this fifth and final weekly post for the October 2018 series, I focus on contemporary art and facilitation strategies to inspire critical and creative visual thinking on racism, sexism, and ableism.

My selection of art comes from a one-day pop-up exhibition titled Overlap: The Warp and Weft of Intersectionality to be held at the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State on November 2, 2018. Martha Wilson and I curated a show of works on paper from the Palmer’s collection. We focused on works that explore female subjectivity intersected with race, class, sexuality, among other identities.

Martha Wilson (b. 1947) is a pioneering feminist artist and gallery director, who over the past four decades created innovative photographic and video works that explore her female subjectivity through role-playing, costume transformations, and “invasions” of other people’s personae. Artist Martha Wilson founded Franklin Furnace—a nonprofit in 1976—dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of performance, artists’ books, and other ephemeral art forms.

Kimberlé Crenshaw describes intersectionality as “a metaphor for understanding the ways that multiple forms of inequality or disadvantage” convergence such as how racial stereotypes compounded with gender stereotypes deepen injustice toward, for example. Black girls. Art is pedagogical when the study of the histories of intersectional discrimination brings understanding and teaches ways to intervene to erode systems of oppression. As Crenshaw states, “you can’t change outcomes without understanding how they come about.”

Yolanda López’s Woman's Work Is Never Done

I met Yolanda López in the 1980s in Oregon through her sister, Anna Lee Lively, who joined some of the activist work I was doing at the time. Yolanda López participated in activism in California through her art, and is one of the best-known artists of the Chicano art movement. López's experiences informed her art, which ranges from posters to portraiture and the Virgin of Guadalupe series, an investigation of the Virgin of Guadalupe as an influential female icon, to her more recent installations and videos such as Images of Mexicans in the Media. Her media series, Cactus Hearts/Barbed Wire Dreams, is comprised of numerous installations, including Things I Never Told My Son About Being a Mexican. This installation explores identity, assimilation, and cultural change. Identity is not a self-contained unit, rather identity is constructed from relationships between people, their histories, and contemporary contexts. López has consistently challenged predominant modes of Latina/o/x representation. She proposes new models of gender, racial, and cultural identity.

Her project, Woman's Work Is Never Done, includes a series of prints, as well as the installation The Nanny, which explores the invisibility of immigrant women as domestic workers. The installation was showcased in the 1994 San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art’s exhibition “Mirror, Mirror…Gender Roles and the Historical Significance of Beauty.” Martha Wilson and I selected the 20 x 20 inch silkscreen, Homenaje a Dolores Huerta, from Women’s Work Is Never Done series, 1995 for the November 2, 2018 pop-up exhibition. Dolores Huerta co-founded, with César Chávez, the Union of United Field Workers. Huerta raised her voice and built coalitions to achieve legal protections and a better standard of living for agricultural workers. In 1998, President Bill Clinton honored her with the Eleanor Roosevelt Prize for Human Rights and in 2012 President Barack Obama granted her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I began writing this blog entry on the subway train on my way to the Brooklyn Museum on October 28, 2018, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the curators at the Brooklyn Museum included Homenaje a Dolores Huerta in their exhibition, Half the Picture: A Feminist Look at the Collection.

As López wrote in 2008 (Women’s Work is Never Done, Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, San Francisco):

“Growing up in San Diego, ten minutes from the Mexican/U.S. international border amid a family with a cast of characters suitable for any Gregory Nava script, my family spoke English and Mexico City Spanish in equal measure. Victoria Fuentes Castillo, my grandma, tried to teach me civility. However it was her critical and wry conversation that interested me the most. My beautiful and meticulously groomed mother, Margaret, worked in the basement of the Grant Hotel and several French laundries as a presser. In 1978 she designed and created for me a contemporary Guadalupe gown, based on a Calvin Klein disco dress pattern. Indelibly I learned from her the sacredness of a union picket line.”

Yolanda López further stated:

“It is important for us to be visually literate; it is a survival skill. The media is what passes for culture in contemporary U.S. society, and it is extremely powerful. It is crucial that we systematically explore the cultural mis-definition of Mexicans and Latin Americans that is presented in the media.”

Founded in 2007, The National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) represents more than two million women, many of whom are immigrants and women of color. NDWA states: “We are the women who care for this country. We are Black, we are women of color, we are immigrants. Behind closed doors we face harassment, abuse, and discrimination. We are uniting with women everywhere so that all workplaces are safe and dignified.”

The conditions of the workplace compounded with the disparity of wages must be understood from an intersectional perspective to change the discriminatory system. For example, in 2018 in the United States, Black women working full-time earn 63 cents for each dollar paid for work by a White man. White women earn 79 cents for every dollar made by a White man. “Latinas and Native American women, experience a gap that is even larger, making 54 cents and 57 cents per dollar, respectively.” “According to the US Census Bureau, 54 million Americans have a disability, and people with severe disabilities working full time earn approximately $1,000 less per month than non-disabled workers. Meanwhile, 13.3 million people with disabilities between the ages 16 and 64 have experienced difficulty finding employment in the first place because of their disability” (Houlis, April 16, 2018).

What are five distinctly different ways to interpret a women’s work is never done?

Find images of women working. What are they doing? What are the social conditions that may have led to such work? Is the work valued and by whom? What impact does the work have on the social fabric that connects people? How is sexism, racism, and/or ableism challenged or manifested in the images of women working?


Monday 10.22.18

Intersectionality: Art Education Challenging Sexism, Racism, Ableism

From Dr. Karen Keifer-Boyd

Deborah Smith-Shank and I founded the journal Visual Culture & Gender (VCG) in 2005. It is the first multimedia online journal in the field of art education. VCG, has an established international review board of feminist scholars and is accessible in numerous databases and at Yen-Ju Lin joined as Associate Editor in 2017. VCG reached its 10-year anniversary in 2015, is well into its second decade, and thrives as a freely accessed journal that uses visual images as the focus of interrogations into issues of gender. VCG exposes culturally learned meanings and power relations that surround the creation, consumption, valuation, and dissemination of images of gender in relation to race, age, sexuality, (dis)ability, and social class. Our purpose continues to be promotion of international dialogues about visual culture and gender and to encourage the use of multimedia for analysis and presentation of such inquiry. Feminist research emphasizes social justice and starts from the premise that gender and sexuality intersect with other identity aspects historically conditioned by social and political power. Gender is both lived and symbolic of relationships of power. Gender body politics concern exclusion and marginalization.


Associate editor, Yen-Ju Lin and I are pleased to announce the September 2018 publication of Visual Culture & Gender, volume 13. The articles are timely and significant readings for students, educators, activists, artists, and scholars. Visual Culture & Gender, volume 13, contributes to challenging patriarchal visual culture narratives. In volume 13 of Visual Culture & Gender, Chiara L. Bernardi writes about building a database, called the “Feminicidios Reclassification Project,” from the digital dust gathered online about murdered or missing women and girls in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Satyasikjha Chakraborty’s essay concerns her critical research at the intersections of racism and sexism in postcards, and how their circulation supported and maintained an oppressive social system. In “Queer Vibrant Matters: Remarks on Nick Cave’s Community Engagements,” James H. Sanders III discusses his involvement in performance artist Nick Caves’ 2017 community work, Until, and vision for the pedagogical implications of including Cave’s work in critical race and queer studies art curricula. Camilla Mørk Røstvik argues in her article, “Crimson Waves: Narratives about Menstruation, Water, and Cleanliness,” that menstrual product companies rely in their recent advertisements on feminist artists’ and activists’ approaches. Kevin Jenkins’s commentary, “Jumping the Gun: Uncritical Trans Ally Artivism Post-HB2,” provides advice on trans allyship. Michelle Bae-Dimitriadis and Olga Ivaskevich’s article, “Barbie Play and the Public Pedagogy of Abjection,” presents their case study of girls’ play with the iconic Barbie doll, in which the authors use Julia Kristeva’s theory of abjection as an epistemological framework to interpret the play as disruption to hegemonic gender regimes.



The non-profit arts organization Through the Flower invites artists, scholars, and educators to apply for the annual award named in honor of Judy Chicago, one of the Feminist Art Movement’s key founders and a pioneer in feminist art education.

JC-AWARD “I have devoted my life to trying to end the ongoing erasure of
women's achievements through my art; I have left
a path in my archives which is why they
provide a way to BUILD on our history
rather than repeat it.
”  Judy Chicago

“I appreciate the validation to my work . . .
After learning about women artists, it gave me hope.”
Melissa Leaym-Fernandez, 2018 award winner 

The Judy Chicago Art Education Award was established by Through the Flower to support artists, scholars, and educators who through their research, teaching, and leadership have contributed to ending the erasure of women’s history. A $1,000 award is presented annually to projects which utilize any of the three Judy Chicago archives as a resource for research and/or teaching:


For more information on the various archives, award winning teaching projects, and research with the collections, as well as how to apply, visit


Sunday 10.14.18

Decentering Normal

From Dr. Karen Keifer-Boyd

A sense of belonging in the world is necessary to participate in co-creating the world. What have society, teachers, and students normalized as ideals of success, beauty, and behavior in 2018? What does the visual culture (e.g., advertisements, politics, films, games, news) present as normal and desirable? What would an art education in which young people learned to value difference and to decenter normative notions of misogyny, gender violence, White privilege, and ableism include? Whose lives are silenced and constantly live in fear of disenfranchisement of human rights? Deep divisions between hegemonic power and marginalized people are the social normative today.

As Michelle Kraft and I discuss in our book, Including Difference, a COMMUNITARIAN paradigm situates individuality in relation to others and reinforces interdependence as a sense of belonging (Kraft & Keifer-Boyd, 2013). Communitarian education teaches toward full participation of all within the community. From a communitarian lens, productivity, or efficiency, becomes contribution; liberty is exercised through opportunity for self-determination in choice-making; and equality extends, not from a compensatory approach, but from a position that values the contributions that all are able to make to the well-being of all. For example, to generate changes in perceptions of disability as abnormal, include viewing and discussing artworks that challenge and reclaim what disability means. Include discussion questions to identify if, and how, the art challenges pervasive disenabling narratives.

Curricula matters. What art works do you include in your curriculum? What questions do you ask? In regards to your curriculum, what is celebrated and what is ignored? Does it matter if the inclusion of the art normalizes misogyny, violence, White privilege, or ableism? Viewing the video Love the Art, Hate the Artist [2018, Sept. 6, 10:13 min. video] at can generate deep discussions among colleagues and students about questions raised in this blog entry.


Kraft, M., & Keifer-Boyd, K. (2013). Including difference: A communitarian approach to art education in the Least Restrictive Environment. Reston, VA: The National Art Education Association.


Monday 10. 8.18

Disability Justice

From Dr. Karen Keifer-Boyd

Disability justice is a socio-political activist framework that recognizes entangled forms of oppression – queer women of color with disabilities, trans and gender non-conforming people with disabilities, people with disabilities who are incarcerated, people with disabilities who have had their ancestral lands stolen or refugees with disabilities, amongst others. Disability justice activists employ civil disobedience when advocacy and other civil processes fail to protect access to community-based services.

Sins Invalid, founded in 2006 and based in San Francisco, has a website with an inclusive definition of disability of those “whose bodies do not conform to our culture(s)’ notions of ‘normal’ or ‘functional,’” as well as arts educational resources and performance videos at (Sins Invalid, n.d., para. 2). Littleglobe Disability Justice Collective, founded in 2013 and based in New Mexico, has a website that presents current and archived arts-based projects and bios of artists, as well as links to affiliate collectives (see The D.O.P.E. Collective, founded in 2015 and based in Buffalo, New York, presents inclusion principles with graphics and offers free and accessible art workshops with booking information at their website (see

Questions to explore in teaching and research:

  • How does media represent disability? How does this differ from ADA definitions?
  • How is exclusion and inclusion sustained or disrupted?
  • How is disability marked or signified?


My research regarding these questions is the focus of a chapter titled “Creativity, Disability, Diversity, and Inclusion” in an important 2018 Handbook of arts education and special education: Policy, research, and practices edited by Jean Crockett & Sharon Malley. My chapter begins with a discussion of disability identity and representation, followed by a section on strategies to creatively deconstruct disabling narratives. The third section examines diversity awareness education approaches: culturally responsive, critical multicultural, oppositional, and post-oppositional. The final section of the chapter calls for the inclusion of difference.


Monday 10. 1.18

Including Difference

From Dr. Karen Keifer-Boyd

NAEA invited those who received NAEA awards in 2018 to be a guest author for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog with weekly posts related to the award. I am honor to have receive the 2018 NAEA, CEC, VSA Beverly Levett Gerber Special Needs Lifetime Achievement Award. My lifetime work is based on my deep belief that visual art is integral to forming subjectivity, community, agency, and enacting social change.

Visual art is also a powerful way to interpret histories, concepts, and experiences. Socially engaged participatory art can develop human potentials for dialogue, empathy, personal and collective healing, and can create solutions to nuanced and complex eco-social justice issues, documenting, and exploring beliefs, theories, and histories. Eco-social justice art builds democracy while visual art empowers human potential through teaching, leadership, and continuous learning. Transdisciplinary creativity as a social process in visual art can develop response-abilities, translate-abilities, and sense-abilities—and other competencies and capabilities necessary for democracy to thrive.

The following roles that I have served convey my life-long deep commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. I am a professor of art education and women's, gender, and sexuality studies at Penn State, and past president of the National Art Education Association (NAEA) Women’s Caucus (2012-2014), NAEA Distinguished Fellow Class of 2013, the 2013 Ziegfeld Awardee, and 2012 Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Gender Studies at Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, Austria. I have served as coordinator of the Caucus of Social Theory in Art Education (CSTAE) and as CSTAE’s journal editor.

I serve on the Have Art: Will Travel! Inc. For Gender Justice (HAWT) Advisory Council. In this role, I serve as consultant working with museum directors and educators, organizations, and programs interested in gender justice curricula for school groups. Social Justice Art Education (SJAE) curricular encounters with Linda Stein’s art series promote the critical consciousness necessary to challenge injustice. The SJAE encounters offer teaching strategies for participants to engage with artworks in ways that call for reflection upon their upstander behaviors that dismantle power differentials. These strategies model processes of critical reading across differences and create opportunities to destabilize assumptions of the unfamiliar and locate possible common grounds that encourage empathetic understandings of other perspectives. The encounters, resources, and artworks are at

Alice Wexler and I serve as the only two visual art educators on a Research and Evaluation writing team of the Education Division at the Kennedy Center. The team developed a five-year research plan published in August 2017 as a brochure for educators that maps research milestones. The link to the plan is

In serving on the Steering Committee for the Art Education Research Institute (AERI), I developed one of the AERI 2017 featured panels “Disability Justice: Ethics, Access, and Equity Arts Education Research.” This panel resulted in a Studies commentary. See Keifer-Boyd, K., Bastos, F., Richardson, S., & Wexler, A. (2018). Disability justice: Rethinking “inclusion” in arts education research. Studies in Art Education, 59(3), 267-271. In this commentary, we draw attention to the problematic language of inclusionism, a term used to reveal institutional terminology that purposely obscures the fundamental notions of disability justice. Ism, added to inclusion, refers to systemic forms of exclusion that appear to be acts of inclusion, but instead isolate difference through established norms.

With Michelle Kraft, I have co-authored Including Difference: A Communitarian Approach to Art Education in the Least Restrictive Environment (NAEA, 2013). Including Difference is dedicated to art educators who endeavor to create participatory, inclusive classroom communities for learners of all abilities. The communitarian paradigm emphasizes respect, mutual responsibility, and interdependence that all stakeholders share within a community.

Within a communitarian, inclusive art class, we see that educational efficiency, or productivity, is not measured in terms of cost-benefit analysis; instead it is assessed in terms of one’s opportunity to contribute through active and full participation within the class community. In an interdependent community, everyone has contributions to make. Communitarianism emerges from the concept of empowerment by difference. Consequently, equality is not an absolute but is relative to one’s needs. Communitarian liberty empowers one to actively participate in the educative process through choice-making in a safe and enabling environment.

Including Difference is the responsibility of all members of a learning community to find strengths and build capacities in each other.

Including Difference is moving away from ableist assumptions of impairment to disability as an ecological/political/societal barrier.

As civil rights legislation, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is rooted in the precepts set forth in the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka (1954), a case dealing with race and equal protection. Similarly, the Least Restrictive Environment mandate in IDEA (2004) states that students experiencing disabilities are to be educated alongside their “non-disabled” peers to the maximum extent appropriate (U.S.C. 20 § 1412 (a)(5)(A)). In educating all students toward full participation in a democratic society, the concept of empowerment through difference sits at the core of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004), as it does with all examples of civil rights legislation.

Consequently, an art education that fosters democratic values should empower students to act on their visual environments in ways that reflect their beliefs and values by examining critically the larger systems that encompass their lives—belief systems, patterns of thought, representations of self—that are directly related to the pervasive influx of visual imagery that tells them what to believe, how to think, how to be. [This idea is developed further in the book, Engaging Visual Culture, that I wrote with Jane Maitland-Gholson, published by Davis in 2007.]

Such empowerment and critical reflection, then, occurs through interaction and dialogue with others within the community, especially with those who are different from oneself. In this way, the inclusive art class community becomes more dynamic, more democratic, and its participants are more mutually invested as they are able to value the diversity of all of its members, regardless of (dis)ability.

Including Difference:

  • Challenges and reclaims what disability means
  • De-centers notions of normal
  • Employs art to explore difference, identity, experience, and capacities
  • Fosters diversity awareness of stereotypes and clichés of disability



Monday 09.24.18

Transitioning into Teaching Outside of the Traditional Classroom

From Chapin Schnick

When I was named the Indiana Art Educator of the Year late last fall by the Art Education Association of Indiana (AEAI), I had a “what now?” moment. I’d always known I didn’t have any interest in being a school administrator, and aside from incredible opportunities and recognition along my art teaching path, the one thing that kind of sat in the back of my mind was, “how cool would it be to be a “teacher of the year”?” And then it happened. I had met the one far-fetched, “bucket list” career goal I had considered for myself. That is when I decided it was time to pursue education outside of teaching in a public school.

Enter The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (or “TCM”). I have volunteered for many Indianapolis-area nonprofits over the past several years, but some of my favorite experiences were serving TCM for special events and their Mid-North Promise Program. Now, as a part-time Gallery Facilitator in Special Exhibits, I have the privilege of facilitating educational programs related to our special exhibits, as well as fostering meaningful, engaging interactions with children and their families, as an emphasis on family learning is what brought me to TCM in the first place.

Chapin with Rex at The Children's Museum of IndianapolisChapin with Rex at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

In case you ever find yourself wondering about teaching gigs outside of the traditional classroom setting, whether full or part-time, I have compiled a list of resources I have encountered, over time.

  • Private Tutor
  • Corporate Trainer
  • Academic Advisor
  • Adult Literacy Teacher
  • Instructional Coordinator
  • Adjunct Professor/ Instructor
  • Barter School/ Trade School Organizations

Chapin Teaching Elementary Art Centers to Barter School IndyChapin Teaching "Elementary Art Centers" to Barter School Indy

  • Societies promoting education for Kids, like SWE (Society of Women Engineers) & Girls Inc.
  • Non-traditional settings like daycares, prisons, nursing homes, & treatment centers
  • After school programs - Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters
  • Fundraisers for friends & family (like a painting class, for example)
  • Education Director for nonprofits like museums, zoos, and parks
  • Hobbies via local clubs or stores - like knitting or dancing
  • Work from home options, like VIPKid Teachers
  • Fitness classes or coaching sports

Chapin Teaching Les Mills' Body PumpChapin Teaching Les Mills’ Body Pump


I love the checklist for “How to Make the Transition From Teaching to a Second Career” at, *which I have shortened for the sake of this blog post’s length.*

  1. Take stock of your professional traits and skills.Start by imagining what you would say to an interviewer who asked, "What do teachers do?" Visualize your role as a teacher and make a list of everything you've been responsible for, including tasks like: planning & preparing lessons, collaborating with colleagues, & assessing & developing curricula.

    With those tasks in mind, think about what it takes to pull them off. What kinds of skills or traits do you possess that have allowed you to perform as a teacher, and can serve as transferable skills? (i.e. adaptability, creativity, a passion for lifelong learning, and patience).

  2. Be open to all kinds of opportunities. Keeping an open mind is essential, especially during the initial phase of your job search. Be prepared to consider alternatives like teaching online or at a community college.

  3. Gain new experiences and start networking. Are you still teaching as you plan your exit from the profession? Try using some of your time off to get involved in volunteer work or other types of opportunities outside of teaching. The more you can use your professional abilities in a different context, the better you'll understand your true interests and capabilities. You'll also make new contacts who can act as references.

  4. Choose a path and get additional education (if necessary). At some point, you'll have to get specific about your goals. You'll need to pick a new career to pursue and find out how you measure up, which could mean needing additional certifications or accreditations.

  5. Gather references and refine your resume. Ask other teachers you've worked with to write letters of recommendation that highlight some of your best qualities or achievements. Do the same for any other close colleagues you've worked with inside or outside the education sector. Then do several drafts of your resume, refining it with each new iteration.

  6. Interview like a pro. Many former teachers worry that employers outside the education sector won't be interested in their abilities. While that may be true in some cases, most employers will be eager to learn how your skills will translate into a non-classroom position. Every interview is your opportunity to teach them.

  7. Stay persistent. Don't get too discouraged if things don't fall into place right away. Keep networking, applying for jobs, & promoting yourself. Experiment with slightly different tactics. Practice your interview skills. And always remember that you have a great deal to offer. By staying prepared and enthusiastic, you'll be ready to hit the ground running when the right opportunity finally comes along.

  8. Make the Change. You deserve a career that fulfills you. All kinds of jobs for former teachers are available, even beyond the ones listed above. So, don't limit yourself.


What are some outside-the-traditional-classroom teaching jobs you have considered or experienced?  Please share your resources in a comment, below.

- CS

Monday 09.17.18

Taking Advantage of Grants & Fellowships

From Chapin Schnick

The elusive grant. Free money that allows you to complete a passion project, often with the only stipulation of an update or two, and a final report. For most of us, though, it gets sticky with the daunting, time-consuming project proposal, and finding opportunities to apply for in the first place.  

Here are some of my tips and tricks from successful grant writing over the past ten+ years:

Know your passion project, inside and out. Proposals often require the grantee to express their plans in several different ways: a summary of the project, your goals and objectives, your proposed budget for the gifted funds, who the recipients of programs or services are, and how it will affect them, the project’s overall community impact, and indicators for success. I recommend developing a short summary from the get go to share aloud with friends, family, and colleagues. The more you talk about your project throughout your proposal writing process, the more chances you will have to workshop the wording of your proposal as you explain your goals.

Develop an outline that includes due dates, and stick to them. Nothing is worse than putting off a daunting grant application to the last minute and filling it out in the wee hours of the day it’s due. This lack of planning will not allow you to look at and revise it with fresh eyes in the coming days, or give you the time and opportunity to share with your trusted colleagues. The moment you have made the decision to apply for a grant, I suggest working backward from the due date to break the application into sections and having them “due” to yourself every few days. I start a couple of months out, with the plan of allowing the last two weeks for final edits and critique from friends, family, and colleagues.

Smith Fine Arts Academy colleagues with our 2016 CFMC Impact GrantSmith Fine Arts Academy colleagues with our 2016 CFMC Impact Grant

Copy and paste the application into a word processor. Please do not fall into the trap of completing an application in an online grant system. Completing it in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, or something similar, gives you the benefits of the software, like spell check and word counts, but it also makes it easier to save and attach when sending to your editors.

Ask for an edit/ critique from trusted colleagues. In the past, I have sent proposals to my fellow teachers and administrators, former cooperating teachers and collegiate mentors, my parents, and even friends in similar fields. The worst that could happen is your connection is too busy to give critical feedback, but will often at least read it and give a general response which gives valuable additional perspective.

Don’t be afraid to contact the granters. In the majority of my grant applications, a line about contacting so-and-so if you have questions was present, along with their email and phone number.  Reach out to them! These are the people that know this grant application inside and out, and possibly even wrote the criteria and questions, themselves. In my experience, these grant representatives were more than happy to answer my questions, and a couple even read, and gave me feedback, on my application draft! (So don’t forget to attach your in-process proposal when asking your question/s.)

Schnick being awarded the Inaugural Indiana Arts Commission InstaGrantSchnick being awarded the Inaugural Indiana Arts Commission InstaGrant

Read it aloud before submitting. It is always amazing to me how our brains can completely skip words when we are typing. Reading it aloud will help to fill in any of those missteps and provides you with yet another perspective in reviewing.

After submitting…

Follow up. Don’t forget to thank your editors/reviewers for their help, and be sure to follow up with them to give them an update on whether you received the grant, or not, and next steps. They want to know!

You got the grant?! Congratulations! This is an exciting time, that could easily become stressful… all of your planning and effort mean you actually get to complete your project! (“Oh my, so now I have to deliver?”) Take detailed notes of your processes along the way, including numbers, when possible. Sometimes the final report and accompanying budget following a grant’s implementation can be just as (if not more) overwhelming than the proposal/ application, itself. Reviewing the final report ahead of time, so you are aware of expectations and potential deliverables, will set you up for success as you take notes, and reflect on the process, along the way.

You didn’t get the grant?!  Don’t worry! The grants I didn’t get have actually made me a better proposal writer, as it has required me to be more discerning about how to describe my goals and objectives. Also, you don’t have to let all of that hard work and preparation go to waste! There are plenty of opportunities out there where you can take that same project idea and rework it to fit a new set of application questions. (If you do get the grant, though, be really careful about using a similar plan for a different grant proposal, as it is unethical. You will want to change your goals and objectives, accordingly, to match the new project.)

Schnick's 2013 Franklin Community Schools Education Foundation grantSchnick's 2013 Franklin Community Schools Education Foundation grant

Resources for finding grant opportunities:

  • Your district or county education foundation
  • City arts councils or other arts-invested organizations
  • The Community Foundation representing your county
  • Local businesses supporting education initiatives
  • State Art Education Associations
  • Your state’s Arts Commission/ government
  • Ask your colleagues!

- CS

Monday 09.10.18

How to Maintain a Positive Attitude and Outlook

From Chapin Schnick

When I “crowd-sourced” for post content my friends, family, and colleagues might wish to see during my time as monthly mentor, one suggested, “how to maintain that incredibly positive attitude and outlook you have”. I think a lot of my cheerful, we-can-make-anything-work attitude is genetic, but I am happy to share my favorite methods for remaining positive, no matter the hand you are dealt: personally or professionally.

Keep a gratitude journal. It definitely sounds hokey, but reflecting during times when you feel stuck, or sad, or listless, can truly remind you of what good there is in your world and the positive events that led you to today. As someone who can be completely consumed by anxiety to the point of being immobile, I am especially understanding of how difficult this can be… but sometimes, being reminded of what makes me happy, is the only thing that gets me moving, again!

Get outside.  As a lifetime athlete, I have always appreciated the outdoors and sun (in moderation & with sunscreen, as I tend to burn within minutes!). More recently, though, I have fallen in love with hammock camping and backpacking, thanks to an Indianapolis-based women’s adventure company, called DNK Presents. What are your favorite outdoor activities?

Chapin Hammock CampingChapin Hammock Camping

Call a family member or close friend (especially if it’s been a while since you last talked). When I talk to my mom or dad, I can feel my blood pressure fall, my breathing slow, and a general wave of relaxation hits me. I love to be reminded that, no matter what is happening or has gone wrong, my people are there for me with a compassionate, listening ear, and love me wholeheartedly.

Find a form of movement that you enjoy. I was a multi-sport athlete, growing up, so I am conditioned to enjoy competition and sweaty pursuits. As I have gotten older, though, lifting weights several times a week isn’t as exciting to me, nor is the idea of running long distances as I did in my marathon-running days. Plus, commuting an hour and thirty minutes, round-trip, to work each day means that evening recreational leagues aren’t always a practical addition to my schedule. Yoga has helped to keep me physically-fit in recent years, as well as served as a form of meditation and stress relief. I hope you can find your happy movement, too!

Yoga at Gorgo Fitness Magazine’s Camp GorgoYoga at Gorgo Fitness Magazine’s Camp Gorgo

Place your attention on someone else’s happiness. When I seek ways to add joy to the days of my friends, family, and colleagues, I can feel my own stress lessen and those “happiness endorphins” kick in. What can you do to make someone in your life smile, this week?

Look for the positive in every situation. I have experienced a great deal of personal tragedy in the past few years, but in every instance I did my best to find something positive that came as a result of the offending, less-than-ideal situation. More often than not, there is a light that is gleaned from a situation, like perhaps taking advantage of an opportunity you might otherwise have ignored, freeing up some time in your busy schedule (or maybe your bank account), or simply serving as a reminder of what is truly important to you.

Chapin's Main Source of Happy - Her Husband and ParentsChapin's Main Source of Happy - Her Husband and Parents

And finally (and perhaps most important in our field)...

Give yourself permission to create!
As educators whose main focus is to encourage the creativity and self-expression of others, we often are guilty of not creating for ourselves. Not only can the occasional creating session keep you fresh in your preferred forms of expression, but it exercises your strengths as a problem solver and can provide a sense of accomplishment when feeling overwhelmed by the stresses of our ongoing to-do lists. What are your favorite ways to create?

- CS