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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Wednesday 09.30.09

Research & Knowledge: Reflections of Your Personal and Professional Development

As an art teacher, we are full time educators and full time artists.  We balance our priorities at work and at home, and in many cases, we begin to balance our families.  As first year teachers and early professionals, we much learn to balance ourselves in all arenas…not only to keep ourselves organized, but to take time to reflect upon our progress.  I would like to share some information that may assist you in your development as an educator and an artist.

Reflect upon your own personal progress.  Just because you get the job as an art educator, it should not mean you give up your own passion for your personal work.  I learned the hard way that unfinished projects can collect dust if left unattended.  When you progress in your own personal artistic knowledge, you can gain more ideas and techniques to share in your classroom after you’ve managed the skills yourself.  A highly qualified educator should have the passion to grow in their own personal knowledge and professional development.

I decided in my second year of teaching that I should never bring my work home.  Not only was I worried about a baby tearing up all the paperwork, but I wanted to take time for myself and my personal artworks.  I recommend you take the extra time yourself to progress in your skills.  If the local gallery or museum is offering a class in lesson ideas or techniques, take the opportunity to create something of your own.

I also recommend building up your own personal portfolio.  Many school districts and museums are interested in what work you have done personally.  Gather a detailed list of the shows you have been in, judged or not.  Were you in the local paper?  Collect the clipping and display in your portfolio.  It is always a positive move to show your commitment in improving your personal growth in the arts.


Heidi O'Hanley's picture in the Daily Southtown, Sept. 2009 "Wrap Yourself in a Warm Story"

Research ways to be an advocate in your area.  As I had stated in a previous posting, the arts continue to be an endangered subject in a school’s curriculum.  With budget cuts and lack of funding, we are fighting even harder to keep our jobs and make sure students receive a well rounded education.  Sometimes we need to do more than to plead a case to not cut the arts.  The public always wants to hear the facts.  The best way to present yourself is to do your research.  There are plenty of publications through NAEA and other organizations that can help you in your research as an advocate.  I would like to recommend one recent report I have been reading called “The Qualities of Quality:  Understanding Excellence in Arts Education” (Seidel, Tishman, Winner, Hetland & Palmer, 2009).  The publication contains research, studies, and quotes from noted names such as Elliot Eisner.  One quote I would like to share discusses how students should use the arts in everyday life:

For Elliot Eisner, quality means that art has to “function in [students’] lives, outside of the context of schooling, and [teachers make that happen] by creating bridges between what they are studying in school and the life that they’re going to be leading outside of school.

After a few years of experience in your classroom, you may want to consider documenting your progress and sharing with others.  You may do this by publishing a book of a lesson you had created (be sure to note any inspirations used in making the project).  The NAEA conference offers many opportunities for you to share your experiences through presentations, roundtables, and online portfolios.  This would be a great way to help others who are interested in expanding their own knowledge in a subject area.

NAEA Student Chapter Presidential Team,jpg

The NAEA Student Chapter Presidential Team (from left to right): Kristen Grzemski, Heidi O'Hanley, Kristie Nixon, Linda Willis Fisher

It has been a great pleasure being able to share my own knowledge and research with you.  As an early professional, I still feel a connection with the student population while being part of the professional field of art education.  These are the beginning years of my own career and I still plan on gaining as much knowledge as I can to share in my own classroom environment…even as a travelling teacher.  I’ve said it many times throughout the month and I will end my time as Monthly Mentor with a few words…DON’T GIVE UP IN YOUR PASSION FOR THE ARTS!!!!  Continue being a fighter and share your knowledge with your students!  Be a part of the core curriculum and offer the well-rounded education needed in all the schools.  Times are tough, but we should keep moving forward.  Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity.

-Heidi O’Hanley


Seidel, S., Tishman, S., Winner, E. Hetland, L. & Palmer, P. (2009). The qualities of quality: Understanding excellence in arts education. Harvard graduate school of education: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tuesday 09.29.09

Research & Knowledge: Your Thesis

I am in my third year of teaching, and I still go back to my thesis project for ideas and research.  I remember spending hours and hours in front of the computer refining my lesson plans, printing my reflections, and gathering my artifacts from student teaching.  With all the hard work and effort put into my huge binder, I keep it within reach for future projects. 

As a student you are in the process of gathering your artifacts for research and refinement.  Some universities may have you collect your items for a huge final portfolio, while others use formal evaluations from student teaching.  I would like to discuss a few topics that are worthy for current and future research for your teaching professionalism.

Leaning Environment.  Some students may be required to fulfill all student teaching training within one school, while others split into elementary/secondary schools.  In my situation, I student taught at two different schools in different towns.  At the elementary level, I soaked in everything I could about the learning environment and documented what I could.  I planned to use similar techniques in my own classroom setting.  I also soon learned that what works in some classrooms and schools may not work in other situations!  It is still always good to take notes on how you adapt to your situations and add tips on how you would like to create your own learning environment in your future career.  My biggest concern in the elementary classroom was how to switch project materials around in back to back classes.  You must constantly be vigilant with students that leave and enter the classroom, and when you are unprepared for a lesson, the students will see your discomfort and act upon it.  Spend time in the beginning of your days at school setting up and preparing for all your classes throughout the day.  Take notes on what worked and what didn’t work.  If you are being observed for your evaluations, send a copy of your lesson plans with reflections to your observer. 


6th Grade Printmaking Project, 2009

Instruction.  I admit I was an overachiever.  I wanted to make sure that I had a typed out lesson plan for all projects I taught in advance while student teaching, even the lessons offered by my cooperating teacher.  As much as I tried to keep up, it just wasn’t happening.  Toward the end of my student teaching, I still took notes and prepared the lesson plans for my future career. 

At the secondary level, I had more detailed lesson plans to prepare, but I noticed a difference in my instruction and techniques.  I discovered ways to introduce techniques and processes that just weren’t available at the elementary level.  I was also working in a block schedule, which made the classes 90 minutes instead of the elementary 40 minute time period. 

When you give any lesson, make sure you document for your reflections.  You may discover one material works better for a final result.  Maybe you can find a way to focus more attention on the final products and assess the works differently.  Reflection is always to best way to go when you teach a lesson the following year.

Teacher Professionalism. In some student teaching cases, you will be observed by a third party for your formal evaluations.  It is always a good gesture to introduce yourself prior to observation and prepare a lesson plan in advance.  While delivering your instruction, you may encourage the observer to walk around the room, or you may formally explain the students’ prior knowledge.  After your observations are done, take the time to reflect upon your lessons and present your final results to your observer.  This act shows that you are prepared to take on your challenges and follow through with your instruction. 

Another good way to document your progress would be to develop a growth plan in your teaching skills.  Start off with writing down what your challenges are in the beginning of student teaching.  Maybe you are uncomfortable with discipline, or you may not be projecting your voice loud enough.  Document your progress each week until the very end of your assignment.  If you keep records for your thesis, add your results into the collection! 

Did you receive any letters from students or parents?  Collecting data from community involvement is always a bonus in your thesis portfolio.  When applying for your future career, your boss will want to see how you reached out to the local community. 

Inquiry into Teaching.  When I completed my portfolio, I needed to complete an Action Research Brief..  My focus was on time management strategies for high school art students in a block schedule.  I noticed that my students had different styles in working habits and time management.  Some students had focused all attention on their project and finished way in advance, while others lulled behind.  I had spent time researching strategies to slow down the ambitious students while keeping the students in the back on track.  I had researched different essays and literature to find evidence for similar situations and compiled my data for the Research Brief.  If you are familiar with this project, then you know how much effort can go into this process.  I do encourage you to gather your artifacts for such a situation so you may document your facts and present your case.  In the future, you may possibly be a creator of a formal essay in a literary magazine, or even a research brief in a compiled education series!

For many students, this is still the beginning of the school year, so you have plenty of time to gather your artifacts for your future thesis.  I always like to share with my peers to be prepared for any possibilities that could happen in your classroom environment.  You may also look back in your thesis portfolio for ideas and references while you’re teaching!

-Heidi O’Hanley

Tuesday 09.22.09

Advocacy: Using your Voice in Your Community

This week I played my part as an advocate for the arts in schools.  I was on my way home after a data meeting and received a phone call from my mother.  She had told me some devastating news:  the school district I grew up in was planning on cutting the arts (art, music, band, and orchestra) from the school budget.  I was deeply upset.  This was the district that helped start me on my path to becoming an artist and a teacher.  My siblings also pursued their careers and educations because of the arts and music in the school district.  I rushed home to print out what evidence I could share, talked with the baby sitter, and drove straight to the meeting. 

As I sat near the podium filling out my comment card, I noticed the crowd coming into the room.  Many faces from my time in the district and many new faces kept flowing in.  The room was packed…at least 500 parents and students.  The meeting began, the budget was shared, the proposed cuts were noted, and the crowd appeared displeased.  People were forcing their way up to the podium to speak. 

I waited two hours and listened to the public speeches and the students’ cry for help.  The mayor of the town came up to the podium and stood up for the arts.  The band director of 30 years stated how the band program was mostly self-funded through community fundraising.  I noticed the time and started getting nervous.  I started feeling like they skipped over my name.  Did they see that I was speaking about the NAEA?  Were they unfamiliar with my name?  I was about to leave to get my daughter from the baby sitter.  I called her, mentioned that I still did not get my turn to speak, and I was feeling bad about taking so long.  She said she understood my reason and that I should stay.  After thanking her, I re-entered the room.  It’s 9:45pm, and the room is still packed.  Fifteen minutes later, I was finally called up to the podium.

I knew that the board had listened to the public cries for help.  I heard the evidence provided by important advisors claiming that districts that cut the arts from school suffer greatly with their housing market and local economy.  Students stood at the podium singing their heart out and reading their words of anger to the board.  I wanted to give more information to the public.

I stated that I was an alumnus to the school district.  I was an elementary art teacher with a master’s degree in a local school district.  I was also a member for the National Art Education Association and a part of the Student Chapter presidential team.  I didn’t prepare a long speech, I wasn’t dressed professionally, but I needed to be here to share what evidence I had. 

I read the letter from Arne Duncan that was posted on the Advocacy page in this website.  I quoted Arne to the board, “I write to bring to your attention the importance of the arts as a core academic subject and part of a complete education for all students.”  I mentioned the part in the letter about the aide provided by the U.S. Department of Education, and the in-process surveys assessing the conditions of art education.  I told the board I was scared to see the district fall far behind in this area if the arts were to be cut.  I then faced the audience and pleaded for them to write letters to the state and national representatives pleading their concerns.  I thanked the board for the opportunity to speak, put the microphone back, and walked out to go back home and take care of my family.  It was 10:30 pm.  The room was still packed.  I still felt that I could have said more, but I shared my evidence.  I was happy to play my part as an advocate for the arts in education.

Once you enter into your new classroom, you become the promoter of the arts in your setting.  There may be times where you will face the crowd and stand up for your passion for the arts and your students.  It is sad to hear about the arts being cut from any school district, but unfortunately it happens.  The well-rounded education is just not available because the funding isn’t there.  Many of you have probably dealt with this situation that I’ve just been through.  Many faces may plead their cases and prove what a difference the arts can make.  Unfortunately, we are still impacted.

That is still not a reason to give up.  I don’t allow my own students to give up when they are stuck on a problem; I help them to see a way around to find the solution.  I encourage everyone who is struggling to keep their programs in the schools to not give up. 

I would like to share a quote by Allan Randall Freelon (1895-1960).  Allan was a supervisor of art instruction for the Philadelphia school district.  This quote was read by Stacy Fuller from the Amon Carter museum to the NAEA members at the Super Summer Summit in Ft. Worth, Texas.

In 1930, he declared, "...I believe this firmly, despite the howls of some economic-minded legislators who say art in public schools is a frill.  Everything, which makes for fuller and finer living, is certainly essential. And art is certainly one of those things."

Thank you for your hard work and effort in keeping the arts alive in schools.

-Heidi O’Hanley

Wednesday 09.16.09

Advocacy: How Student Teachers are Advocates for the Arts

“Reaching out beyond the art building in my university and sharing the passion I have for art education within my community helps promote awareness of art education. With passion and drive I believe that we will live in a world where the arts are no longer a question of importance in the lives of our students.”

-Amanda Batson, Western Region Student Outreach Coordinator

While serving on the Student Chapter presidential team, many stories and experiences have been shared
from student groups across the country.  While we focus on the goal of advocacy, I wanted to share some of the student thoughts and experiences while pursuing their careers in art education.  I am very proud of the groups that advocate the arts in their school and surrounding communities.  As future art educators, they voice their passions and foretell their future ambitions in their classrooms.


Art Activities with students from University of Massechussetts, Dartmouth (2007)


The University of Florida continues to be active on both a local and national scale through their contributions to their community as well as attendance at the National convention. During the 2008-2009 school year, UF's student chapter has had a membership of approximately 30 members.  This past year, UF's student chapter continued to offer their annual art camp to the local community as part of its "Artists and Their Sketchbooks" series.  Another event that the student chapter participates in is the "University of Florida School of Art and Art History Art Bash". The Art Bash is a celebration of the arts put on by the entire Fine Arts Department and held for one evening. The student chapter sponsored an artist trading card booth which allowed the local and campus community to create their own trading card and exchange it with others. With left over artist trading cards, the student chapter sent them to the University of Akron in Ohio in which they traded the cards.  The University of Florida's Student Chapter was honored with "The Greater Gator Award". This award is in recognition of their outstanding service to University of Florida's campus as well as the Gainesville community as a whole. (Information given by Cindra Harris, president of the University of Florida’s Student Chapter)
“I feel I am an advocate by being a participant in the NAEA.  As a substitute in a public school setting, I’m always talking about the wonderful opportunities I have as a member.  I’m always squeezing little art projects in spare time with my students.  Our chapter has also held art clubs at the Chicago Cultural Center, and we host Art Nights after school.

-Kristie Nixon (formerly Kristie Klein), President-Elect, NAEA Student Chapter, Columbia College Chicago
Eastern Illinois University. During the 2008-2009 school year, EIU’s student chapter was very busy with various activities including fundraising, programming for children, conferences, and more. 

This year EIU’s student chapter developed new programs as well as continued many that have become a tradition. One of the many new programs was called “Art for the Aged and Disabled” in which student chapter members visited a different building every other week and create art projects with them. Also, EIU started to hold Kids Art Day, which was held on Saturdays at a local coffee shop, and the kids would participate in a craft for the afternoon. 


Three Student Chapter presidents (past & present) in New Orleans, 2008

Every year in the spring EIU holds the Media Methods Conference where local artists and instructors put together workshops for local art educators. This year the conference was held in the new fine arts building. The conference draws art educators from all over Illinois and offers each participant with about 3 workshops, a lesson plan exchange, and a luncheon. 

One event that has been a long-standing tradition is an event called Art in the Park. EIU’s student chapter partners up with the local arts coalition to put together programming for a Saturday every fall. The student chapter has done such activities like t-shirt painting, button making, and more. The community is invited to the event and each art activity costs a small fee. This event has become one of the student chapter’s largest fundraiser. (Information given by Melissa Schaefer, Southeastern Student Outreach Coordinator and alumni to Eastern Illinois University)


Students and Advisors at the Illinois State student meeting, 2008


I think the best way of advocating for the arts is to approach them holistically.  There is a plethora of ways that the arts affect us every day, sometimes in the most overlooked ways.  The arts fine-tune motor skills while improving observational skills.  They teach and record history in unique ways that other disciplines seek.  They teach respect, tolerance and patients.  In this constantly changing world, the arts are remarkable resources for problem solving solutions, which creates new careers and opportunities.  Advocating for the arts is as simple as taking a good look at your surroundings and recognizing that they affect everything.”

-Rena Busuttil, Pacific Region Student Outreach Coordinator
University of Northern Texas.  UNT has made it clear that they strive to provide a place where future art teachers can come together to share ideas, learn, and give back to their community. They do this in a variety of ways including painting murals for places like the Nelson Center, a home for children in Denton, TX or host “Art Nights” where student and families could come together. They have also been able to host panel discussions with teachers and administrators and attend a variety of local and national conferences. Besides their community involvement and their career development UNT has also had a variety of social events that range from Potlucks to Scrapbooking Parties. This chapter has been able to raise financial support through fundraisers such as t-shirt sales or garage sales. (Information provided by Amanda Batson, Western Region Student Outreach Coordinator and member of the UNT’s student chapter.


Students from University of Northern Texas, 2008

Kutztown University.  This chapter has been active with the NAEA Student Chapter for many years.  The student chapter website has many creative elements and shares what events the chapter participates in throughout the school year.  The Kutztown student chapter help promote the arts by strengthening the students’ skills in teaching and sharing ideas to help improve effective teaching strategies.  In the beginning of the school year, the chapter hosts fundraisers to help raise money for conference expenses.  The chapter also participates in community events, such as decorating Main Street for home coming.  Kutztown students meet twice a month for their meetings, and it shows with the many great ideas and events they participate in! (Provided by the Kutztown University website:
The listed chapters continue to play their parts in being advocates for the arts in their own
community.  We are always glad to see the future of art education being active!  If you are part of a university that has been active with the NAEA and you want to share your experiences, there are many ways to share your story.  You may post your information in the Student Chapter Blog at, or send your information to your Student Outreach Coordinator.

To find out who your SOC is, please visit  Thank you to all who participated in this post.  I am very happy to share stories from others who are passionate about the arts and their future in art education!

-Heidi O’Hanley

Monday 09.14.09

Community: Building a Stronger Connection with your Peers and Organizations

This year, my district has been promoting ways to build a stronger community.  I’m enjoying the positive attitudes this year and the common efforts to combine effective teaching strategies for a common goal.  As part of my school’s social committee, we are finding more ways to promote collegiality as we begin a great school year.

What can you offer to help your community grow and flourish?  As an early professional, I am always using the word “refinement” in everything I do.  Asking questions and reflecting on experiences are great ways to help you grow in your experiences.  Your overall attitude and character reflects your position in your team: you can help your partners strengthen the scaffold, or you can weaken the foundations. 
I am still pondering ways to work with the community and I would like to share some strategies I have used since the start of the school year.  If you have suggestions, you are more than welcome to post!

Cross-curricular lessons.  Partner lessons have been a great success and I encourage you to attempt to do one yourself!  Get together with a fellow teacher and discuss what the students are learning in any subject matter.  For example, the 6th grade is learning about Ancient Egypt.  Get together and discuss ways to create projects revolved around the hieroglyphs, or even the symbols and characters painted in the tombs.  Have the students create clay amulets that spell out their names in hieroglyphs!  Maybe 1st grade is reading a story book in class.  Have the students create their own books inspired by the stories read.


5th Grade Cultural Masks, 2007

Promote your position in the curriculum.  Since my first year of teaching, I have been searching for ways to advocate the arts in my school district.   I loved sharing my conference experiences duties with the NAEA to anyone who would listen.  One of my favorite things to do is to describe the connections the arts make with other subjects, students’ future ambitions, and everyday life.  Share your passion with your co-workers and offer your help and expertise for any school-wide project or extracurricular activity.  As I promote the extra work, please keep this caution in mind…your students, classroom, and lessons come first.  Remember you are part of a team, not the only creative element in the district.


Kindergarten Bunny Puppet project, 2009

Think of different ways to promote the arts to the parents and guardians.  For Open House, I had created a flyer that described what I introduce to the students and my professional development background.  Parents’ faces had brightened up when they saw the detail and effort put into it!  It’s a nice feeling to have the parents and guardians of my students stick around the classroom, ask questions, and engage in conversations about their children’s artistic abilities and stories they bring home.  I would also like to note that if you have students that fall behind or behave inappropriately, make the attempt to contact the parent/guardian early and discuss ways to help the child keep more on task.  Since I have made the extra effort to keep communication lines open, more students have been trying harder and staying more focused in their work.


 3rd Grade Georgia O'Keefe projects displayed, 2007

New ideas to “wow” the community.  There are many ways to promote your students’ work in the community.  Contests, local venues, and town halls are great places to share the work..  Can you think of any other ways to share?  How about an art show in the spring?  Collect bits and pieces of student work and have a displayed show in your school!  You can ask for parent volunteers to help set up and be part of the show!  Is there a local artist in the community?  Talk with your superior and see if you can invite the artist in for a small demonstration or discussion about his/her work.  I have noticed from my students that reactions are more positive when they learn about artists that are working full time and are making themselves known. 

Stick around your state and national community.  Use the online resources you have available from your state organization and NAEA!  You can post student work/lesson plans, or discuss positive experiences in your classroom.  Now that you had a few years to get your feet wet, maybe you’d like to try getting more involved in your region or division!  There are many great opportunities to promote collaboration and community projects through your organizations!  It never hurts to ask what’s available for you in your state and national organizations.

I have said it before and I’ll repeat it again.  Keep up the energy!  There may be many obstacles to deal with before reaching your education goals, but keep in mind that if you feel burnt out, please do not give up on your passion and commitment for the arts.  Try your best to find ways to overcome the hardships that are in your way.  Stay positive in your communities and remember the part you play within.

-Heidi O'Hanley

Wednesday 09. 9.09

Community: New Setting, New Faces

You enter into a new educational setting.  Some (or none) of the faces are familiar and you are expected to attend to your duties straight away.  You have lessons plans and examples to prepare, displays to set up, and in some cases, classrooms and carts to keep organized.  As a first year educator, attempting to jump right into the community may not be the first thing on your list.  If you feel alone, remember that you are not the only one!  There are plenty of new faces to meet, and every one of them has been in the spot that you are in right now.  So the question remains…What can you do to join your community?  There are ways of plenty to achieve your goal of becoming part of your community! 

The Co-Workers.  Your co-workers are going to be your supporting staff for the time you spend in your work environment.  I would recommend getting to know them as soon as you can!  In my situation, I got to know 4 out of 5 elementary schools in my district.  I enjoy the fact that I got to know so many people and work so well with my community.  In the beginning, I did feel somewhat left out because I did not feel like I was a part of any group.  I wasn’t around to get to know my peers as well, and I was always busy setting up for the next class.  I soon realized that I didn’t need to be a part of one group, but that I was a part of all the schools I visited!

I had the joy of becoming a first time mother while I was a first year teacher as well.  My experiences with all the schools helped me to appreciate the collegiality and dedication in the district.  Teachers were helping out toward the end of the school year when I was close to the due date, and all three had even offered a small baby shower.  I was overwhelmed with the generosity and friendship shared! 

You’ve heard my story, now create yours!  Is there a social committee in your setting?  You may want to join, or ask to observe the meetings until you have a better handle of the policies and protocol.  Many school districts have plenty of committees to join that you can offer your expertise in!  I highly recommend getting to know your co-workers and being a part in creating a positive environment in your school.  When the teachers have a positive attitude, it does wear down to the students!  

The Parents and Guardians. 
In my situation, it took some effort to have a good connection with the parents and guardians of my students.  This is a step that most teachers need to take on their own in order to show the dedication and hard work to help children be their best in their classrooms.  With the travelling, it is difficult to keep up with parent phone calls and letters home, but it’s an important step that needs to be taken.

One of the bonuses of living in one of the most diverse school districts in the Chicago land area is that many parents have knowledge to share about their cultures.  When I taught a lesson on Egyptian hieroglyphs, I had a parent from Egypt come in and show artifacts and papyrus sheets to my students.  Many others parents have volunteered their time to assist at the Multicultural Fairs and Literacy Nights. 

Kindergarten Mandalas at the Multicultural Fair, 2008

If you meet a parent that offers their assistance in your classroom, discuss it with your superior and take advantage of the experiences offered.  Invite the parents and guardians of your students to join an art club project, or even set up an invitation for an upcoming field trip to a local gallery or museum.

1st Grade African Masks, 2008

If there is a parent/teacher organization in your school, try to show off some of your student work at the meetings.  Parents always love to see their students’ work displayed!  Make sure you have a typed out explanation of the lesson along with the state/national standard.

The Local Community.  In my district, all art teachers have an appointed time to set up a local village display and a board meeting display.  The local public loves to see the local accomplishments!  If you have a set date to display your students’ work, collect items from each class (don’t forget to label the artworks!), and prepare the display with the lesson descriptions and standards.

Many communities offer contests and art shows to participate in.  I have my 3rd through 6th grade students participating in art show contests (supported by local frame companies), vehicle sticker contests, and even poster contests.  Encourage your students to take advantage of these opportunities and enter their artworks.  If you have a difficult time locating information on contests and displays, don’t hesitate to ask your superior or call a local paper for which direction to go.

In some situations, you may be required to create a media posting for a local paper or even the school newspaper.  This is a great opportunity to promote the students’ work!

3rd Grade Georgia O'Keefe inspired project, 2009

The State and National Community.  The state and national conferences are great places to make new friends!  Even when you sit next to another art educator in a presentation, you have the capability of creating a new connection.  He/she may be another elementary art teacher in search of newer ideas!  It’s always a great idea to network at the conferences and participate!  It’s one of the most enriching experiences you’ll have in your professional development. 

I had also mentioned in a previous posting about the division groups available.  Take advantage of the opportunities given to you and contact your division group.  Since I am at the elementary level, I had joined the online group and shared lesson examples with others.  If you are interested in joining your division group, visit the board of director’s page!

You may not achieve all your goals in the first year of teaching, but it never hurts to take the steps to assist in building a stronger community all around.  You are part of a foundation that strengthens in time!

Even the newest team member has something to contribute to the effectiveness of the whole team.
--Jennifer L. Steele and Kathryn Parker Boudett

-Heidi O’Hanley

Steele, J. & Boudett, K. (2008) “The collaborative advantage.” Association for supervision and curriculum development. Vol. 66, No. 4 pp 54-59

Tuesday 09. 8.09

Community: Starting and Maintaining your Student Group

Standing alone with a path ahead, you have the ambition to become an advocate for the arts in education. When you’re with a group with the same ambition, you will have unlimited potential to bring a positive future. On many occasions, I have been asked what the benefits are for having a student group and how to begin a student chapter within a university.  A student chapter provides the opportunity to join with your peers for the purpose of achieving goals important to your group. As a group, you can do more for the community, become powerful local advocates for the arts, join in your efforts to attend annual state and national conferences, learn/reflect from each other, arrange workshops to present, and other opportunities for professional growth.  Activities like these will build your resumes and portfolios to ensure the employment opportunities you deserve and a future you've earned.

I would like to offer some tips on how to create a student group in your university.  The energy within your group will radiate to your surrounding community, as well as the NAEA!

1. Network and Socialize. Begin gathering a group of peers that are interested in forming a local Student Chapter. Look for individuals that crave the opportunity to participate in group events that enhance each and everyone’s professional growth.

2. Find a Mentor. Let your professors know that you are in need of an advisor to sponsor your chapter. Once you find a volunteer, discuss the role they will play as mentor and share your ideas.

3. Begin Meeting. Start having regular meetings with your chapter can gather and discuss upcoming activities that you would like to participate in. Now that you are an organization, you can begin planning fundraising activities, workshop events, social outings and other opportunities for you to grow as teachers and individuals. Try to make it a point to meet at least once a month.

Student from Eastern Illinois University at the Student Chapter Reception, 2009

4. Create a Mission. As a group, decide what your main goals are as a Student Chapter. Create a mission statement that addresses who you are as a chapter and what you want to accomplish.

5. Register your Organization. Register your newly founded Student Chapter with the NAEA Student Chapter Presidential Team. To do this, please visit  Once you have registered your Student Chapter nationally, don’t forget to register through your university, and your state Art Education Association. By registering with your university, you may be eligible to apply for financial aide for big events and opportunities (conferences, etc.).  By registering on the state level, you can get involved with state conferences and begin networking with other student groups directly surrounding you.

RAEA's Outstanding Student Chapter Award 2009, Brigham Young University

6. Put Yourselves Out There. Make your Student Chapter well known among your university and the community surrounding. Have a poster sale, organize a children’s art fair, conduct a silent art auction to raise funds for a local charity…the ideas are endless.

7. Share your Ideas with Others. As a chapter, make it a point to attend the NAEA Convention (in addition to your state conferences). There you will meet and greet students from around the country that are happy to share their ideas.

8. Keep Up the Energy. Continue meeting on a regular basis, and get as many students involved as possible. Pretty soon, you will see your Student Chapter grow into a booming community of supporters.

Starting a university chapter may be a lot of hard work, but it is also essential to maintain your chapter’s energy throughout the year.  In many cases, students have graduated and stepped into the role of a full time educator, which leaves an opening behind for more fresh new faces.  Here are some tips to help maintain the energy in your community.

1. It’s a Date! Make it a point to meet with your peers at least once a month. Try to set routine meeting dates on the calendar so that it is easy for everyone to remember to attend. Also try to set at least one social event and/or community service event every other month. Social events help relieve the tension and stress of everyday class work.

2. Meet with your mentor on a regular basis to brainstorm and discuss group successes. Make sure that you are meeting regularly with your mentor/advisor at least once a month to talk about the progress of your chapter and future endeavors. Your mentor has the wisdom and knowledge to push and challenge your members to rise to their ability.

3. Look for fresh new faces. Continue looking for new members that can be a part of your group. The best places to look for such members are the beginning art education courses in your program. Invite new members to join the NAEA and share their fresh and insightful ideas. Put together a presentation that informs potential members of the benefits of NAEA and visit classrooms.

4. Share and collaborate. As a chapter, make it your personal goal to attend your state conference, in addition to the national NAEA conference. Attending these events is a huge step in the growth of your chapter. Conferences allow you to share and brainstorm ideas with other chapters across the country.

5. Keep in touch with your alumni. As members begin to graduate from your program, keep their information in a database for future reference. These alumni are potential mentors and guest speakers for your younger members.  I enjoy revisiting my advisor and her students to share the joys of my profession and dedication to the NAEA.

As students in the field of art education, you enter into another family of professionals who support your beliefs and share your passion for the arts.  Members are always willing to share their experiences to help others grow in their professional development.  Being part of your community is a key factor in our profession.  You are a support beam for others in an unbreakable frame.

-Heidi O’Hanley

Friday 09. 4.09

Learning: The Early Professional Perspective

I am now entering into my third year of teaching, and I admit I notice things are starting to get a little easier.  It may be attributed to knowing my responsibilities, being familiar with my schedule and lessons, and even finding more time to prepare new lessons.  I actually I enjoyed being in the mentor’s shoes by helping first year teachers know the schools a little better.

Since I have been in my district for a few years, students are becoming more familiar with my classroom rules and settings.  They know how I will introduce the projects, and they anticipate any art club experience I can offer.  I am always proud to see my students using their prior knowledge in their projects and reflections!  I also cannot get enough of my students’ discovery moments in the classroom.

As I sat down to focus on what to write about, I realized that this was my current stage in my teaching career: the early professional.  I would love to share with you what I have done to work on my personal growth and continued learning as an art educator.  If you have any advice to give or stories to share, I encourage everyone to visit the  Early Professionals Forum at

Room for Refinement. In the past, the art department in my district had started collecting evidence for a set art curriculum that all art teachers may use.  We agreed that the curriculum was ever changing, leaving room for new projects and revised lessons.  This year, I am going back and fine tuning lessons that I felt had room for improvement.  Maybe a project was too short/long, or maybe you may want to try some new materials for a final product. 


"Silly Situations" inspired by Terry Border's "Bent Objects," 2009

Stronger Collegiality with Peers. I enjoyed getting to know four different teams of teachers in my district, and you may be in a similar situation.  Not all situations can be 100% perfect.  I would recommend getting to know those co-workers a little better.  Stop by their classroom and ask what the students are learning that week.  Maybe you can offer a joint lesson to integrate ideas.  I’ve always enjoyed creating history based projects with my 5th and 6th grade classes that parallel to their studies in the classroom.  Are there reading specialists in your school?  Try to team up with them on a joint unit combining the literacy component with the visual arts.    There are so many possibilities available when working with your peers.  You are not just the “art teacher” in your school; you are a member of their team.


Stained Glass Project, 2009

Involvement with the Community.  Now that I am more familiar with the area I am teaching, I am aware of where I can go to share the students’ work.  In my community, I have been able to show off the student work at the Village Hall and Board Meetings.  You may want to research into your town:  Is there space to share at the village library?  Are there local businesses available that are interested in showing student work?  Better yet…have you ever contacted parents to come and share their knowledge in your classroom?  These are all questions I am asking because I am also interested in branching out to advocate the arts in my area.  Even if you’re in museum education, it is always a positive idea to share your passion for the arts with the community.


4th Grade Community Quilt Project Inspired by Faith Ringgold, 2009 

Reflection of Research.  Have you been collecting evidence from one of your lesson ideas?  Are you interested in sharing your ideas?  Now would be a good time to take the role of the presenter.  Contact your state and national art organizations and find out what you can do to present your ideas.  Creating a presentation is a wonderful way to increase your professional development needs, fine tune your presentation skills, and receive feedback from your studies.  Presentations have always been my favorite part about the NAEA conference.  There is so much to learn from and bring back with you for your own classroom.  I feel confident in sharing this because I have not only attending many presentations; I have also presented ideas at the state and national level.  I love the feedback I had received and I have used many ideas to help fine tune lessons and research.

Touch Base with your University Team.  I enjoy keeping contact with my peers from college.  We had stuck together as a team while forgoing graduate school and moved onto our different paths after graduation.  I always want to know what they have been doing and what future plans are ahead.  In a sense, this suggestion is a reflection of our personal growth.  Sharing your achievements with your peers is a great way to continue encouraging our passion for teaching in the field of art education.

In this stage, I am still learning.  I am learning how to balance my priorities and home with a baby, I am learning how to balance my time at work, and I am learning how to enhance my professional development.  As each year progresses, we continue to learn how to balance our personal duties and professional growth.  It’s a never-ending cycle that helps us to define who we are as educators.

-Heidi O’Hanley

Wednesday 09. 2.09

Learning: The 1st Year Perspective

My first day in my new classroom was one of the most exciting days I remember.  I spent the whole week prior climbing ladders to hang posters on the walls, visiting the copy machine for worksheets, making project examples, planning seating charts, and so much more.  I was on cloud nine and knew I could change the world with my passion for the arts. 

Reality had struck as to how unprepared I was for the reality of a K-6 classroom in a very culturally mixed neighborhood.  First, I had three schools to balance.  I had one classroom and two schools on a cart. Second, I assumed that I could work 100% effectively with my co-workers right away…forgetting that miscommunication and forgetful messages can happen periodically.  I had an excellent education in graduate school, but nothing prepares you for the real classroom until you experience it first hand.  It’s especially a challenge when you discover you’re going to be a first time parent within the first year of teaching!


Batik Project for Art Club

There is so much that happens within the first year of teaching, and as we focus on the goal of learning, we know that it is common to learn and grow from our self reflections.  Your road to success is not paved smoothly!


Air-Dry Clay Coil Pot Project

There are many options available to assist first year teachers in their professional development and personal growth.  Certain options may be available and required of your district already. 

Mentorship Programs. My school district requires all first and second year teachers to participate in a mentorship program.  The new teachers were paired with veteran teachers to help ease the transition into the schools and policies.  Throughout my first year in the Mentorship program, we would participate in group discussions concerning student learning in the classroom and other items that would help promote growth and refine one’s teaching styles.  Check to see if your district offers a similar program, and if not…it doesn’t hurt to ask fellow art teachers for some friendly advice!

Attend State and National Conferences.  Many states offer presentations centered for first year teachers, and I know that the NAEA conference always offers presentations centered around first year teaching.  It never hurts to contact your Art Education organizations and ask what would be available for you!  

Attend Professional Development Seminars.  Your workplace may have workshops designed for you to grow in your teaching styles and classroom management.  It is always a good idea to participate and take notes when classes are offered to you. Create your artwork examples throughout the year.  I am guilty of trying to complete all my examples as soon as I could!  Many times during the school year, I would refine an idea or make a completely new project to share with my students.  

Reflect on Your Lesson Plans.  Not all lesson plans will turn out 100% perfect!!!!  You may discover that something doesn’t work with one class, so you refine it with another to see if it improves.  I try my best to take notes on what worked and didn’t work in each lesson.  

Participate in Your NAEA Division’s Online Forums.  Maybe you’re starting out in high school…you can participate with the secondary division forum.  There are plenty of educators willing to help you with any questions or ideas you may have.  It’s also a great way to create friends within your community!  To find your division’s resources, visit the board of director’s page at!

Communicate with your colleagues.  You may not be the only first year teacher in your school!  In many cases, you are expected to perform that tasks given to you starting on the first day of school, and you may not know everything going on.  Don’t be afraid to ask a fellow peer for some assistance or advice! 

According to Wong (1998), an effective teacher has a goal of striving for excellence.  You will not be top notch perfect in your first year, and you most likely be refining your techniques each year after.  Your career is a never ending cycle of self reflection and refinement.  Educators are always seeking knowledge in their field to help themselves and their students grow.  Just remember to try your best to stay positive and focused with your passion for the arts.

-Heidi O’Hanley


Wong. H. (1998). The first days of school: How to be an effective teacher. Mountain View, Ca:
Harry K. Wong Publications

Tuesday 09. 1.09

Learning: The Student Perspective

Can you remember the day you made your decision to enter the field of art education?  Some may have taken that first step yesterday, and for many others, it’s a fond memory.  September is the month when we begin our school year as educators and students.  I am currently entering into my third year of my teaching career, and every time I come back, I gain more respect for those who have been in the profession for years!  As a travelling teacher for three schools in my district, I have learned to balance my time, national position, family life, and sometimes the supplies as I move from room to room.  Even as I start my lessons for the beginning of the school year, I always think back on the steps I took to make it where I am today.

Throughout the month, I would like to discuss four important goals from three points of views: Thestudent, first year teacher, and early professional.  This week will be focused on the goal of Learning.

As a student in the field of art education, we strive to become the best with our abilities and share what we have learned within our own working environments.  Many students enter into the profession as undergraduates.  They may take classes in general studies, basic fine arts and art history, and prepare for the road to student teaching.  Other students enter into a graduate program.  With the visual arts knowledge at hand, graduate students come back to learn the strategies of teaching, lesson planning, and guided research. 

The first step a student takes toward his/her future is to ask the simple question…”Can I make a difference in the future of art education?”  As you go through your courses, and walk out with that diploma, your answer is a positive and your perseverance is strong.

I would like to offer some helpful tips to my fellow student members as we enter into our new school year.  As an early professional, my student days are still fresh in my memory!

 Collect your ideas.  As a student, you are preparing yourself to enter into the field of art education.  Some school districts may not have a set curriculum and may require you to create your own.  Since my first day in graduate school, I had saved every lesson plan and NAEA Advisory that was shared in our class.  I am still adding new ideas each year into my classroom!
 Attend professional development opportunities.  Most state art education organizations have a student group available for your needs.  I cannot describe in a few sentences what the state and national conferences have to offer for your profession.  Within the first month of my university’s student chapter, we had a great opportunity to attend the NAEA conference in Chicago and volunteer our time.  I was overwhelmed with the wealth of knowledge, lesson ideas, and positive emotions from my first trip.  


Students from Columbia College Chicago at the New York NAEA conference, 2007

 Take notes in your observations.  This may already be required of you, but you may look back into your notes to review how a classroom was situated, or even how a classroom environment had a positive effect on student behavior.  
 Know your state and national visual arts standards.  Most school districts require lesson plans with the standard in place for your final assessments.  I may not have the standards embedded into my memory word for word, but I am constantly using them.  My district asks that all teachers post the state standard with the hallway displays, community centers, and board meetings.  
 Take time to reflect with your peers.  While in your courses in your university setting, you make be taking in too much information and not have the time to discuss thoughts and opinions with your classmates.  Make the time outside of class to meet with your peers (local cafes, libraries, etc.) and discuss your thoughts.  I feel this piece of advice is the most important to me since I allow time to even reflect with my co-workers.  From self reflection comes growth!

I would like to leave this portion with a thought.  If you are a student pursuing your degree in art education, you may tire and become frustrated along your path.  Please take this quote with you as a positive thought to help you continue your journey:

“With desire and commitment the leader builds up a fire inside that causes other to glow brightly.  No matter what the odds, the leader knows that any task can be accomplished.”  -Harry Wong

As an art educator, you are also a leader.  Everyday, you will continue being the student as well as the teacher.

-Heidi O'Hanley


Wong. H. (1998). The first days of school: How to be an effective teacher. Mountain View, Ca: Harry K. Wong Publications