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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Monday 09.30.13

Make Time to Make Art

As an art teacher, we often find ourselves swamped with the responsibilities of our job including planning, classroom management, communication with parents, assessment, and other professional responsibilities.  It is crucial that despite our packed schedules, and other outside of school commitments, we make time to make art.  The practice of art teachers making art is both beneficial for the teacher and their students, therefore, enriching the educational system exponentially.


I personally find that taking time to make art, helps me feel balanced.  It might start as an example I am working on to show students a new process, or it might be a process that I am exploring on my own. Regardless, sharing this with my students, helps them observe the phases of creation that I go through in various processes.  Sharing my work with my students and allowing them to critique and discuss my work, helps me grow as an artist but also helps them improve in their ability to respond to art, while describing analyzing, interpreting and evaluating the process and product.


If you have work selected for a gallery or exhibition, invite students and their families to the opening reception.  Art teachers in my district have the opportunity to participate in an art teacher exhibition hosted by a local college or art gallery.  We try to organize this show every other year and this is a great opportunity to show our community that we are artists as well as art educators. 


I have truly enjoyed the opportunity to be the NAEA Monthly Mentor.  If anyone has any questions, you can email me at   You can also view our department website at


-Karen Popovich, NBCT

Tuesday 09.24.13

Implementing Electronic Portfolios

I would like to take this time to advocate for using electronic portfolios within your art program.  I first began using e-portfolios in 2000 while working with Stan Madeja from Northern Illinois University.  At the time, I was teaching elementary school art and I implemented an electronic portfolio system for students in grades 2nd-5th.  This was such a rewarding opportunity and a valuable chance to show student growth over time.  You can read more about this project in Assessing Expressive Learning: A Practical Guide for Teacher-Directed Authentic Assessment in K-12 Visual Arts Education by Charles M. Dorn, Stanley S. Madeja, & F. Robert Sabol (2004), published by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 

Technology Changes
After that initial year of using e-portfolios with my 700 elementary students, I transferred to middle school and from 2001-2009, I implemented electronic portfolios with 6th-8th graders. Now at the high school, my high school students create e-portfolios that showcase their body of work, shows growth over time, and includes reflective writing in the form of an artist’s statement. 

Art portfolio

Since 2000, the technology for photographing work has advanced from digital cameras that held floppy disks to small sd cards.  My high school students take their pictures using the school’s camera or even their own phones.  With the accessibility of students using their own technology, students are able to take pictures at their convenience and at various phases of the project .  This is very helpful to show the whole process rather than just the finished piece.  The one constant in terms of technology has been the use of Microsoft power point to organize and present their e-portfolios.

Student Growth and Teacher Evaluation
By 2016, a portion of Illinois teacher’s evaluation, will be based on student growth. I see the electronic portfolio as one way that teachers can illustrate the growth their students have taken over the semester. 

Preparing for College
If students keep their electronic portfolio updated throughout their high school years, they will be that much more prepared as they apply for colleges and scholarship opportunities.  Many students are finding that colleges are requiring digital portfolios and artist’s statements so having this ahead of time, takes the pressure off.  Much of their portfolio may consist of their best work completed through high school coursework, but when applying to college/university art departments, I encourage students to include drawings from life, works created in a variety of media, as well as a series of works based on a common theme. 

Portfolio student example

Student Ownership
One of the most important components of an effective system for electronic portfolios is student ownership.  In a system where students document their process as well as the finished work through photographs, reflect through writing, and present their work in an organized system, students take ownership of their learning and take pride in documenting their successes.

-Karen Popovich, NBCT

Monday 09.16.13

Global Connections Through Art

In the last post, I discussed the importance and many benefits of making local and community connections through art.  Now I would like to discuss and advocate for making global connections through art.  There are many ways to do this within your classroom.  I have highlighted a few below.

Tents of Hope
One of the most rewarding opportunities for making global connections was the Tents of Hope Project that I did in collaboration with Mira Riesberg who was a professor at Northern Illinois University at the time.  My middle school students along with NIU undergraduate art education students painted an 8’ x 10’ canvas tent that drew attention to the genocide occurring in Darfur.  The tent went on to be on display at the “Gathering of the Tents” in Washington DC and then on to Darfur to be used as a classroom.  We had an artists’ reception and a showcasing of the tent at the middle school and this proved to be a valuable opportunity for my students to talk to the community about their experience and about the genocide going on in Darfur. 

Tents-4 Students painting tent for Tents of Hope Project

The Memory Project
I first heard about the Memory Project at an NAEA convention a couple of years ago and am so glad I have been able to implement that project at my high school.  The project website describes the project as, “a unique initiative in which art students create portraits for children and teens around the world who have been orphaned, neglected, or disadvantaged”.   At my school, we have created portraits for children from Namibia, Africa and Haiti.  This project inspires caring, global friendship, and a positive sense of self and was founded by Ben Schumaker in 2004.  National Art Honor Society students as well as students from various classes at my high school participate in this project each year and from my observations, these students view this as an opportunity to promote the value of sharing kindness with others.  According to the website, art students from the USA, Canada and Korea have now created more than 30,000 portraits for children in 33 different countries. 

Lebomoleffe Memory project2 Child receiving her portrait in Namibia, Africa

Other global projects
There are many opportunities to help your students make global connections through art and I encourage you to fine a program or project that works for you and your students.  I have listed a few more projects below that help communicate cultural understanding and awareness.

-Karen Popovich

Friday 09. 6.13

Community Engagement through Visual Art

Over the years, I have found many benefits of community engagement through art with my students.  Some of these opportunities come in the form of class fieldtrips, local exhibitions of student work, and National Art Honor Society sponsored service projects.

Community Field Trips
Every spring, the art department at my high school aims to take our drawing, painting, and AP Art Studio and Art Independent Study students on a field trip to our local riverwalk.  This is a great opportunity for field drawing but we have also found it very meaningful for the students to interact with community members that stop to talk to them while they are working on their artwork.  The artists and the viewers benefit from this discussion about the artistic process. 

Drawing at the local riverwalk    Local field trip to the riverwalk
       Left: Drawing at local riverwalk; Right: Local field trip to riverwalk

Community Service Projects
Our National Art Honor Society has a focus on community involvement as well as community service.  Some of the activities that we have done in the areas of community service include: an art workshop at a local senior living center, an art workshop at Gigi’s Playhouse, window painting for a local dentist office, and we are currently working on painting a sculpture for a community sculpture exhibition. 

Our experience conducting a workshop at the local senior center proved to be valuable for both the students and the residents.  This was such a heart whelming opportunity to help these local community members with their art and visit with them about their previous experiences with art.  As each artist finished their pastel piece, we  placed it in matt-board that I had precut and lined with acetate and they were ready for an exhibit right there in their space.  It was wonderful to see the joy on their faces and the pride they had in their work.  

Maddie working with a resident of a local senior center   NAHS students working with residents of a local senior center
Left: Maddie working with a resident of a local senior center; Right: NAHS students working with residents of a local senior center

Another opportunity for community service in our local community is working with Gigi’s Playhouse.  Gigi’s is an advocacy and learning center for children with Down Syndrome and their families.  The National Art Honor Society students had a wonderful time conducting an art workshop at this center and the families were very appreciative of this experience for their children. 

  NAHS students working with children at Gigi's Playhouse  NAHS students working with children at Gigi's Playouse2
Left & Right: NAHS students working with children at Gigi's Playhouse

Intergenerational Opportunity
When I taught middle school, we conducted an intergenerational art project.  Students invited their grandparents, parents, or older siblings, to come to art class for a couple of days and together, they worked on an art piece.  As a cumulative experience, we had an art exhibit and artist’s reception for the local community.

Window painting at local dentist officeWindow painting at local dentist office

There are many opportunities for community engagement through visual art in your local community and many benefits for these experiences.  I challenge you find creative ways to get your students out into the community whether it be through exhibitions, community service, or field trip experiences.  I hope that these ideas provide you with some inspiration as you begin your journey of community engagement through visual art.

-Karen Popovich, NBCT

Monday 09. 2.13

Mentoring Student Teachers

I am honored to contribute to the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog.  Over the past 16 years of teaching at the elementary, middle school, and now high school level, I have had the opportunity to work with clinical and student teachers from a variety of colleges and universities.  Many of these practicing teachers have gone on to start great careers and some of which I am fortunate to have as colleagues within my district.  I would like to encourage everyone to help shape the next generation of teachers in our field.

Advice for supervising teachers:

Welcome the student teacher to your school:  Introduce them to your administrators, colleagues, secretaries, custodial staff, and other school personnel.  It is helpful to provide them with a folder with basic information such as a map of the school, a district and school calendar, bell schedule, staff roster, etc.  A copy of the student handbook is also helpful. 
Involve them in all aspects of your program:  This should go beyond planning, teaching, and assessing.  Include your student teacher in other aspects of our profession such as hanging art displays, selecting artwork for exhibitions and contests, planning field trips, parent/teacher conferences, communication to parents, putting purchase orders together, as well as maintaining the department website.
Provide feedback:   The key role of the supervising teacher is mentorship.   It is important to provide consistent feedback in a variety of ways.  Observations should be recorded along the way and then communicated in an effective way. Through professional conversations, you and your student teacher can discuss strengths and areas for improvement. 
Support their job search: Give them a portfolio (I usually do a 8.5 x 11” with clear sleeves) and encourage them to produce and maintain their professional teaching portfolio. Take pictures and videos of your student teacher working with students and encourage them to photograph student exemplars for their portfolio.  It is also important to be supportive of their job search and provide interview advise.
Be open to new ideas: The student teacher is coming to this position with a whole lot of new ideas, knowledge of current trends, and willingness to learn.  Being open to new ideas as helped me develop and grow as an educator and ultimately, this benefits my students.


NIU student teacher, Krista Carron provides feedback to students

Working with student teachers is an opportunity that helps foster the professional development of both the student teacher and the supervising teacher.  I encourage each of you to be open and willing to share your knowledge and expertise with others by mentoring our future art educators.  Contacting your local colleges and universities and expressing your interests is a great place to start.  

-Karen Popovich