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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Friday 10.24.14

Teaching Children with Disabilities

I hope you had a chance to check out the resources I posted in my last blog for teaching art to special needs children. Since 1973 with the passing of the Rehabilitation Act, we have been the ones in the forefront of including students with disabilities into our art room. I vividly remember when a class of children who were Severely and Profoundly Impaired (Life Skills) were introduced into our elementary school. I had never seen children with such serious disabilities, let alone interacted with them. As I began to teach them through art, I got to know their personalities, their strengths and limitations. It was  a remarkable experience that blossomed into the Masters in Art Education with an Emphasis in Special Populations.

These days more and more children are being diagnosed with a Learning Disability, Autism and Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder and they are being included in the art room. We are the ones who are teaching them as well as a classroom of “typical” children. We are beginning to stockpile relevant information, share art lessons, and get practical information through articles, conferences, and graduate courses. Here is a fantastic site for art lessons posted by Lauren Stichter. These are lessons from college students in a college course she teaches.

The Special Needs Issues Group (SNAE) of the NAEA was founded in 2001, when like-minded art educators teaching children with disabilities came together at a NAEA Conference and established SNAE.  And it has been only a few years that Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) has had an Arts in Special Education Topic for convention proposals.  Now we, under the leadership of Beverly Levett Gerber, are petitioning the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) to establish a Division of Visual and Performing Arts Education (DARTS). Just think, all of the arts under one roof where we can collaborate, and publish both research materials and best teaching practices, for children with disabilities.

We are beginning to find ways to come out of our classrooms and share ideas through the NAEA Issue Group of SNAE. Hopefully, we can bring all the arts together in CEC under the Division of Visual and Performing Arts to ensure the best arts education for all our students with disabilities.

-Lynne Horoschak | Distinguished Professor
Program Manager of MA in Art Education
Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia

Friday 10.17.14

Art Educator Resources for Special Populations

One of our readers asked if I would post resources for the art teachers in her state, which I am happy to do. I sometimes forget that not all art teachers have had the opportunity to find resources to help them effectively teach their children with disabilities. I know that I learned by trial and error – mostly error – only to find that new found strategy is a failure the following week. So one tries again. As I pointed out in the first blog, coming together to share stories, challenges and celebrate successes, no matter how small, is very important for us as art educators in order to sustain our energy and optimism.

I encourage you to seek out conferences and workshops in your area that brings together teachers to talk to one another. And if you can’t find any – start one. All you need is a room (coffee shop) and one other person – this is a beginning. When news gets out that you are finding success through collaboration you will have to take over the entire coffee shop. We have an Art & Special Education Symposium each year in November and each year it is met with rave reviews. And the secret is simply that we bring together people interested in the education of children with special needs, we listen to those with experience and expertise and then we talked to each other. We each bring our own bit of wisdom to the table. Oh – and whining is not allowed – finding possible solutions is. This success led to a Mini-posium in March where we listen to art teachers who share successful art lessons and then we make exemplars so we could hit our art rooms with exciting lessons on Monday.

The Special Needs Art Education (SNAE) Issues Group website is full of resources. Check it out. Look under links and resources. And while you are there, think about joining our Issues Group.

Reaching and Teaching Students with Special Needs through Art edited by Gerber and Guay, and Understanding Students with Autism through Art edited by Gerber and Kellman, both published by NAEA, are loaded with great ideas.

In addition, professional papers written by experts in the field can be located here. The second and third titles listed are full of very readable articles from Adapting Art through The Importance of Collaboration in Art Classrooms.


-Lynne Horoschak | Distinguished Professor
Program Manager of MA in Art Education
Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia

Tuesday 10.14.14

The Generous Spirit of Art Teachers

Last week I spent three days at an art education conference that was in a state other than my own. I knew a few educators but not many so the conversations began the way one would at a party with people you are just meeting. Questions like “What level do you teach? Where do you teach? How long have you been teaching?” But what was constant in every conversation was the dedication and concern all art teachers had for their students. Everyone had the most talented. Everyone wanted their students to pursue a career in the arts. Everyone was willing to go above and beyond what is written in their job descriptions to make sure all available avenues were open to their students.

That reminded me of an alumnus from my graduate program who began teaching in a Public School this year. There were no art supplies and no money from the school to purchase them. She sent out a plea on social media. She would take anything and would come to you to pick it up. Spending additional time and energy to track down supplies that should be a given in a job turns out to be part of the job. And she is not alone in this.

A few weeks ago she noticed a student being bullied because there was a hole in his sneakers and his foot was peeking through. Discreetly, she got him a new pair of sneakers. She said, "Nothing prepares you for the poverty you see."

I am reminded once again of the generous spirit of art teachers. We are empathetic. We give our talent, money and resources to teach art. To insure that our students know their worth by successfully making art. And we are there to listen and give emotional support where too often there is none. I am very proud to be an art teacher. I am in such excellent company!

-Lynne Horoschak | Distinguished Professor
Program Manager of MA in Art Education
Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia

Monday 10. 6.14

The Importance of Professional Development

Speaking of supporting your own with a little one-on-one conversation – yes, we were speaking about that - attending the state and national art education conferences with others of like mind, proves to be time well spent for you as an art teacher, an artist, and a member of the global society. Not only do you have the opportunity to share art lessons and strategies you know have succeeded in your classroom - yes, please do submit proposals - there are hundreds of opportunities for you to hear what your colleagues are doing.  

My biggest problem is that I can't be in two or three places at the same time (although I have tried to master this feat) choosing a demonstration or a presentation that will help you engage your students, improve your teaching skills, shed a light on classroom management, and/or take the mystery out of teaching 33 students, eight who require special attention due to their disability is a daunting task but one well worth the scrutiny of the conference catalogue. Hint: Start before you step into the conference lobby. The choices seem endless and the time is short, so do get a head start.

And don’t forget to engage your fellow art educators. Talk to the person riding the escalator with you. Talk to the person at lunch. Ask what they have learned, experienced, discovered. Sifting through your notes each evening - you are taking notes, aren’t you? –is an important way to keep the information fresh and ready to access. I confess that too many times I left the conferences with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head and they continue to dance right out with nothing concrete getting accomplished.

The State Conferences and NAEA National Conventions are filled with people who are great resources just waiting for you to take advantage of them.

-Lynne Horoschak | Distinguished Professor
Program Manager of MA in Art Education
Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia

Wednesday 10. 1.14

Art Teachers Network

It is not secret that most of us work in isolation. We are the lone art teacher in the school and we are painfully aware that no one knows the challenges we face. No one else is teaching 500 or 1,000 kids a week; each having their own individual quirks and strengths and parents and concerns. That’s a lot of quirks. And along with the quirks, we have supplies to manage – when we have supplies! – to pass out and clean up every 45 minutes -  and back to back classes and children with disabilities who are included in an already  over filled class – and we love it!

When I was teaching my six classes a day, five days a week, there weren’t the resources that are available today via the internet and chat rooms and blogs. So when we had a chance together to listen and learn from one another, it was magic. So in spite of the technology today, nothing quite replaces getting together face-to-face to talk through a concern or a lesson that didn’t go as planned ….

Back in January, art teachers from the Philadelphia School District were invited to Moore College of Art & Design to chat. To share stories of their challenges and successes.  Five art teachers came.  In May, ten came. And it was unanimously agreed that we would continue the conversation. Last week, Leslie sent out a letter to the all the art teachers inviting them to come and continue the conversation. The date was set. We are ready with food.

Thirty eight years ago, six newly hired art teachers got together every month to talk about their struggles and successes. They continued it through their entire career and they were among the best art teachers in the city. Nothing beats supporting your own with a little one-on-one conversation.

-Lynne Horoschak | Distinguished Professor
Program Manager of MA in Art Education
Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia