Monthly Mentor

Natalie C. Jones (February)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Natalie C. Jones is an artist, small business owner, and the director of education at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She has 10 years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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Thursday 02.26.09

Creating Connections, Part II, for You!

At the beginning of February, I wrote a post called "Be Out There – Creating Connections!" In that post, I discussed the importance of creating connections with your school community, students, parents & administrators. 

Here…let’s talk about how you can create connections with other like-minded people -- one of the BEST places to do this is your State Art Education Conference or Convention.  Another event where you will meet amazing people and create connections is the National Art Education Convention, which is coming up in April.  I am sure many of you have attended a State Conference.  Have you been to the NAEA Convention?  If not, make yourself a promise; get to at least one in the next few years.  It is worth it!  Save the money and make the travel plans…it is even worth writing those sub plans!  You will meet truly amazing people from ALL over the country, who teach in every different teaching situation you can imagine!  You will create connections and make life-long friends! Click the image below to check it out!


So, where can you turn if you are looking to create connections NOW?  I would like to suggest a few places where you can create connections online.  As an Elementary Art Educator I encourage you to check out the new NAEA Elementary Division Community Network.  This community sponsored by NAEA, links teachers with a common bond: young children and art.  Thanks go out to Rosie Riordan, NAEA Elementary Division Director & Bob Reeker, NAEA Elementary Division Director Elect for getting this community started.  It is growing every day, 65 members and counting!  Click the image below to check it out!

NAEA Elementary Div. Community Network

If you are looking for an Art Ed community that focuses more on technology, I encourage you to check out Art Ed 2.0.  Craig Roland who teaches graduate & undergraduate art education classes at the University of Florida started this community.  You can read Craig’s articles in School Arts Magazine. Click the image below to check it out!

Art Education 2.0

A new blog to hit the scene last year is The Teaching Palette - Perfecting the Art of Education written by Hillary Andrlik & Theresa McGee.  They focus on arteducationology, or the study or art education.  Their “big three” content specialties include 1) classroom management, 2) music + art integration and 3) teacher-authored product reviews. Click the image below to check it out!

The Teaching Palette

You might already know Artsonia as an online gallery, where you can publish your children’s artwork, but did you know it is also one of the best new places to find LESSON PLANS!?!  Artsonia has added lots of cool new features that benefit the entire community of art educators -- including viewer comments, power authors, and of course new lesson plans every day!  Take a look, you will find great lesson plans you can use with your students (K – 12), then take a few minutes to become part of the community and add a lesson plan of your own.  You can even sign-up to receive new lesson plans each week. Click the image below to check it out!


Keep that promise and make plans to attend the NAEA Convention!  Until then, I hope you will check out the communities I have mentioned here and create connections with other art teachers that can help you grow as an educator!

Friday 02.20.09

Three Top Ten Lists - Part 3

For this week’s blog posts, I decided to do three Top Ten Lists.  The first one was my Favorite Art Material to use with my students, the second was my Favorite Elementary Art Teacher Books and the today’s is My Favorite Picture Books to read with my students.  Of course, there are many other wonderful materials, reference books and picture books so I encourage you to add YOUR FAVORITES in the comment section after each post.

So read on, stay tuned and enjoy!

Favorite Picture Books for Students in the Art Room ~ this list is in no particular order.  These are books that are absolute favorites with all of my elementary students.  You know, ones they want to hear again and again!!!  Enjoy…

1. Art’s Supplies, Chris Tougas
2. Badly Drawn Dog, Emma Dobson
3. Steal Back the Mona Lisa, Meghan McCarthy
4. Art Dog, Thacher Hurd
5. I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More, Karen Beaumont
6. Dog’s Night, Meredith Hooper
7. Elemenopeo, Harriet Ziefert
8. Suzette and the Puppy, Joan Sweeney
9. Anna’s Art Adventure, Bjorn Sortland
10. Seen Art? Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

Plus, two bonus ~ that I could not leave out…

11. Hands, Lois Ehlert
12. Cave Painter of Lascaux, Roberta Angeletti

I know that YOU have some favorite books that you read to your students, what are they?  Please share them in the comment section below!  Thanks!

Wednesday 02.18.09

Three Top Ten Lists - Part 2

For this week’s blog posts, I decided to do three Top Ten Lists.  The first one was my Favorite Art Material to use with my students, today’s is my Favorite Elementary Art Teacher Books and the next one is My Favorite Picture Books to read with my students.  Of course, there are many other wonderful materials, reference books and picture books so I encourage you to add YOUR FAVORITES in the comment section after each post.

So read on, stay tuned and enjoy!

Favorite Elementary Art Teacher Books ~ this list is in no particular order.  Some of these books are old & some are new.  They are all favorites of mine that I have referred to over and over again, they have inspired countless lessons.  They are all still available, although some are in short supply.  Enjoy…

1. Children and Painting, Cathy Weisman Topal
2. Art From Many Hands, Jo Miles Schuman
3. Creating with Paper Basic Forms & Variations, Pauline Johnson
4. You Can Weave ~ Projects for Young Weavers, Kathleen Monaghan & hermon Joyner
5. The Great Clay Adventure, Ellen Kong
6. Brown Bag Ideas from Many Cultures, Irene Tejada
7. Emphasis Art, Frank Wachowiak
8. Craft Design, Moseley, Johnson & Koenig
9. Doing Art Together, Muriel Silberstein-Storfer and Mablen Jones
10. Art, Books and Children, Helen Depree & Lola Mackinnon

I know that YOU have some favorite teaching resources that are not on this list what are they?  Please share them in the comment section below!  Thanks!

Monday 02.16.09

Three Top Ten Lists - Part 1

For this week’s blog posts, I decided to do three Top Ten Lists.  The first one is my Favorite Art Material to use with my students, the second will be my Favorite Elementary Art Teacher Books and the last will be My Favorite Picture Books to read with my students.  Of course, there are many other wonderful materials, reference books and picture books so I encourage you to add YOUR FAVORITES in the comment section after each post. 

So read on, stay tuned and enjoy!

Favorite Art Materials to use with my elementary students ~ this list is in no particular order.  I know this list has many materials that we all use (some we couldn’t live without).  I hope you will find a few things that are new to you, so give them a try!

1. Mr. Sketch Markers, love the bright, bold strokes!
2. Sharpie Markers, can’t live without em!
3. Magic Rub Erasers, they really are magic!
4. Tru-Ray Colored Construction Paper, more bright, bold colors that don’t fade!
5. Sargent Liquid Watercolors, have you tried these?  They are amazing, love them and so do the students.
6. Royal “Big Kid Brushes”, I splurge on these, they last forever and the handles don’t peel!
7. Prismacolor Water Soluble Oil Pastels, one class pack will last more that 2 years again, they go on like oil pastels, then add water and you have a painting!
8. Prismacolor Art Sticks, better than any colored pencil!
9. Dick Blick Aluminum Sculpture Wire, the best thick, soft wire…it’s so easy to bend for the younger student!
10. iPoint Electric Pencil Sharpener, you have to see it to believe it, no more over sharpening – it stops itself when the pencil is sharpened!

I know that YOU have some favorite art materials that are not on this list, what are they?  Please share your favorites in the comment section below!  Thanks!

Wednesday 02.11.09

Be Out There - Creating Connections!

Two years ago, I was the Conference Coordinator for AENJ and the theme for my conference was Be Out There – Creating Connections!  This is a theme that I continue to work to accomplish (in some big or small way) each day!  Of course you want to connect with your students and with your colleagues but for now, lets talk about your art program and connecting with parents, administrators and the community.  You are the BEST advocate for your art program and you have to be out there promoting it in both big & small ways.

At Mount Prospect, the PTO publishes “Panther Pages” a newsletter that is e-mailed to all of the parents.  For the most part the classroom teachers do their own newsletters, but all Special Area teachers are asked to contribute to the Panther Pages.  It is published weekly, and my goal is to include an article each month.  Topics range from projects we are working on in art class to an upcoming art exhibit to suggestions of art exhibits that parents might like to take their children to.  I also use it to promote my Art on the Move BLOG and the latest news on the Mount Propsect Artsonia Gallery.

All teachers in the district are required to maintain a website that is set-up through a site called On-Course.  My website, Mrs Bivona’s ART Space, contains general information about art class at Mount Prospect School.  So why do I need a blog as well?  It’s my choice to have a blog and keep it updated.  The reason I do it, is because it’s like a journal or a diary, keeping track of the highlights of each year.  “Art on the Move” is on Blogger and honestly it is much easier to update than my website.  I love to look back over the year and see all that we have accomplished.  My blog is linked from my website so parents, students and administrators can find it easily.

Well, if you are reading this and you know me, you know I am a huge Artsonia supporter!  I have been publishing my student’s artwork on Artsonia for the past 8 years and I would say by far it the BEST way to promote the art program at Mount Prospect School.  I don’t think I get though one conversation with parents that they do not mention Artsonia and how much they love it!   Artsonia brings artwork created in your class into the homes & offices of friends and families of your students!  So, if you haven’t checked it out, do so.  You can get there right through the NAEA website.  You will also find a wonderful collection of lesson plans when you get there!

Contests ~ some people love them and some people despise them!  Either way they are out there, if you choose to get involved.  I certainly don’t do a lot of them but over the years there I have found a few that I believe are worth it and my students have been recognized for their good work!  If my students are interested in participating I am willing to assist them and provide materials but the work is done at home.  My administration seems to LOVE the recognition so it is most definitely a way to get administrators to notice the art program.  Each year seems to bring different contests but one that we do each year is the NJ Conserve Wildlife – Species on the Edge Art & Essay Contest.  One of our MOST exciting recognitions was the 2006 Geico National Safety Belt poster contest.  My student Claire was the national winner; the Gecko even came to our school – that was WOW!  Below you see Claire’s winning entry.


Art Exhibits are an excellent way to BE OUT THERE!  From the very beginning of the school year I keep artwork for art exhibits that come-up throughout the year.  We participate in over 6 exhibits outside of school each year, in the spring each child has 1 piece of artwork in the Mount Prospect Art Exhibit. Make sure to send out invitations or contact the parents/guardians so they can get the reception date on the calendar early!  Art exhibits are one of my favorite places to connect with parents! Their children are excited and they are beaming ~ the artwork always provides a great conversation starter!

All of this good, hard work will go unnoticed unless you make sure to let your administrators know about ALL the things you are doing.  So you must TELL them!  E-mail them when you update your website or blog, let them know if you have a winner in a contest, invite them to the art exhibit.  Of course, they may or may not be able to attend the exhibit reception – keep inviting them, they might just surprise you! Either way send photos of the event, send them to Board Members as well! 

Are you Out There ~ Creating Connections?  How do you Create Connections in your community?  I would love to hear your ideas in the comment section below!

Tuesday 02.10.09

How do you celebrate Youth Art Month?


As the Somerset County Youth Art Month Chair I am right in the middle of preparations for our annual YAM Celebration! Youth Art Month is an annual observance held each March to emphasize the value of art and art education for all children and to encourage public support for quality school art programs. As a county chairperson and an executive board member I thought I would share the details of how New Jersey celebrates YAM from both a county and statewide level.

So, you might be asking why am I right in the middle of YAM if it’s not until March? Well, each county is allowed to select six pieces to go on to the state exhibit and selections for the state exhibit were due to the State Chair last Thursday, February 5, 2009. This is so all the work can be checked in, organized, photographed and published on the AENJ Artsonia Gallery and prepared for the state exhibit. The State Exhibit is held at the State House in Trenton, NJ and it is up for 1 week with a reception on the last day, March 20, 2009.


The Art Educators of NJ (AENJ) sponsors statewide exhibits and celebrations that raise awareness of the need for quality art education statewide and shows our legislators, education officials, business and community leaders, teachers, and parents the importance of keeping visual art education funded and in the schools. YAM provides a forum for acknowledging skills that are only fostered through experience in the visual arts that are not possible in other subjects. We are very proud that through the hard work of our State Youth Art Month Chair, Carrie Davey, we have 100% participation from all 21 counties in NJ.

In addition to the exhibits AENJ holds a YAM Design Contest, students of AENJ members in grades K – 12 are invited to create designs around a theme. This year the theme is Celebrate Art. Each year winners are selected in the following categories: flag, poster, billboard, button, Elementary/Middle School Invitation and High School invitation.

Since state YAM celebrations are sponsored by AENJ, participating in a county exhibit is considered a member benefit. AENJ reimburses each county up to $250.00 for expenses related to their exhibit (supported with receipts, of course). In addition, each county chair is responsible to create a County YAM Book that the State Chair uses to compile the NJ State Youth Art Month Book. You can see more information on how NJ celebrates YAM at the AENJ website.


In the fall, each county chairperson sends out invitations to participate in the county YAM exhibit. My county, Somerset, is located just slightly north of central NJ about one hour west of NYC. We hold our exhibit at the Somerset Art Association (SAA) in Bedminster, NJ. We have been at this location for the past 8 years and we are very fortunate to have their support. The gallery space is beautiful and the SAA volunteers even hang the show for us. We have two exhibits one for student in grades K – 5 and the other for students in grades 6 – 12. Twenty-five schools participate in the county exhibit with over 200 pieces of artwork on display. Each exhibit has a closing reception where the students receive their certificate of participation. We decided on a closing reception for practical reasons, the teachers could take the work with them at the end of the show, eliminating the need for the teachers to return to SAA again to pick-up the work. The receptions are always well attended with lots of family, friends, food and photos!

So, how do you Celebrate YAM in your school, town, city, county or state? Add your ideas in the comment section below!

Tuesday 02. 3.09

Hello My Name is: Susan Bivona

…and I am your new NAEA Monthly Mentor Blogger!  Over the next few weeks I hope to share some of my experiences with you and offer advice, suggestions and ideas. For this first post, I would like to tell you a few things about myself beyond my bio so you know where I am coming from and so you can put things I say into perspective!

I am a proud graduate of Kutztown University in Kutztown, PA where I had the amazing opportunity to have both Dr. Marilyn Stewart and Dr. Eldon Katter as my professors; Dr. Katter is a Past-President of NAEA.  I have been employed as an art teacher since I graduated and like many others I started part-time.  First lesson, if you are looking for a job as an art teacher, take the part-time job, you never know where it may lead.  At one point I was teaching part-time in three different school districts.  Now that was CRAZY!  One school district on Monday & Tuesday, a different school district Wednesday morning then I drove to a different school district Wednesday afternoon.  Thursday was back to the Monday/Tuesday school and on Friday I was back to the Wednesday afternoon school, are you tired yet?  That went on for 3 years! Then it happened, the Wednesday/Friday school was opening a new school and I was selected to be the art teacher for the new school ~ full time!  A few years later I left that school to go to Mount Prospect Elementary School, where I am currently teaching.  Although I did have student teaching experience K – 12, I have only ever taught K – 8 and most of my career has been with students in grades K- 5th ~ I love it.  It is the perfect place for me!

Mount Prospect is located in Basking Ridge, NJ close to the center of the state not too far from Rutgers University.  While this school is a NJ public school it is almost an international school with students speaking over 30 languages at home. We have students from all over the globe!  Many of the parents of my students are scientists who work for pharmaceuticals companies in central New Jersey or commute to New York City.  My students come to school ready to learn.  For those of you who are struggling teaching “Art on the Cart”, I have done that too.  In fact, when I made the change from my last school to Mount Prospect, I left a beautiful room behind to actually teach “Art on a Cart”.  I think I will save the details of that move for another post.  For the most part Basking Ridge is an old community steeped in history from the Revolutionary War.  There is a small town center with a church and a green and lots of beautiful old homes and farms with lots of personality.  The section Basking Ridge that I teach in is called the Hills, a planned community in NJ.  There is a town center here as well with a dry cleaner, a Dunkin Donuts and a real estate office surrounded by condos, townhouses, new homes and a new(ish) school, that would be Mount Prospect.  The school was built 10 years ago to provide a community school for the children living in the Hills.  The school was built with 4 classrooms for each grade K-5.  Two years after the school was built it was over-flowing with students and the art room was lost.  Exit the original art teacher – enter me!  I had taught “Art on a Cart’ and I knew I could handle it, how long could they keep me on the cart anyway?  Not that long (I thought)!!!  Six years plus a 12-room addition to Mount Prospect and I finally got the Art Room.  So, this is just my second year in the past 8 that I have taught art in a room.  We are a large school with over 700 students and I cannot fit them all into my schedule so there is a part-time art teacher, Mrs. Stephanie Moench that teaches Wednesday & Friday mornings.  Thank goodness for Stephanie.  Of course, it is hard to keep someone in that part-time position (teachers are always moving on to full-time jobs) so I have had the opportunity to work with and mentor some amazing new teachers.

At home, I spend my time with Patrick, my husband and Winnie & Jigsaw, two Portuguese Water Dogs (yes, one of the dogs the Obama’s are considering). 

   Susan+ Winnie + Jigsaw_329x448