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.



Join the largest creative community established exclusively for visual arts educators, college professors, researchers, administrators, and museum educators.

Join NAEA Renew Membership

« January 2016 | Main | March 2016 »

Wednesday 02.24.16

What is your art department’s mission?

From: Frank Juarez

This will be my last blog post as your February Monthly Mentor. I would like to thank Linda Scott for inviting me to be a part of this art experience and to the National Art Education Association for creating this platform for educators to share what is happening across the country in our classrooms.


For the past month I have been sharing my thoughts on ideas focusing on technology integration, types of art programs, promotion, and advocacy. These thoughts have been tested and proven to be successful. It is important to be patient, reflective, open minded, and flexible.


I would like to share with you a story about how I came to the conclusion that art is what I wanted to dedicate my life to. I was taking a bus from Chicago to Milwaukee from a 2-week art program at SAIC. On the bus I was reading, “The Artist’s Guide: How to make a living doing what you love”, by Jackie Battenfield. I came across an exercise in her book where she asked to write your obituary. I was reluctant to write it simply because it was a bit creepy. I decided to do it anyways since I had about an hour and half on the bus.


What I found interesting is that I was able to focus on myself, come up with personal goals, and the deep question I asked myself is if I left this earth what would I leave as my legacy? Now, you do not have to go to this extreme when you think about your art department’s mission, however, there are a lot of similarities and what I have learned from doing this exercise is that it was easier to make decisions that could advance the mission of Sheboygan North High School art department. If an opportunity did not compliment what we designed as our road map, then we did not pursue it.


Our mission states, ‘The mission of the North High Art Department is to create and nurture a learning environment that will stimulate risk-taking, originality, and collaboration through the use of 21st Century Skills in both studio practice and communication”. We have discovered this allowed us to focus on what we felt would help make our students successful through curriculum development, opportunities for community outreach, designing innovative art resources, working with other art teachers, and bringing the artists into the classroom via Skype.


If we approach our departments with a plan on what we view as relevant and beneficial and commit to our students, then it doesn’t matter where we teach. We DO make a difference.


I hope that this month allowed you to take a closer look at how you are running your art classroom and/or art department. As you are aware, there are so many components involved in running a successful art department. I welcome you to contact me if you have questions or comments at



Keep rocking’ it wherever you are!

Web Resources:
North High Art Department:
Frank Juarez:
Frank Juarez Gallery:
Frank Juarez Presentations:
Frank Juarez Paintings:
Midwest Artist Studios:
365 Artists 365 Days Project:

Monday 02.22.16

Stop.Look.Listen: Lets Celebrate our Art Students

From: Frank Juarez

This past weekend the John Michael Kohler Arts Center had its annual Youth Art Month exhibition celebrating over 200+ works of student art from Sheboygan County. I had the honor of handing out certificates to the student artists entering the exhibition. As you know, March is Youth Art Month and is celebrated across the country with many places hosting exhibitions now until the end of March. Youth Art Month isn’t just a month where we exhibit student work, but a time where we bring people together and continue to build art community.


Being in education is a tough gig these days. The stakes are higher. Being held accountable for student success is overwhelming. Promoting and advocating for our art programs is endless. No matter the obstacle, we need to take time to stop, listen, and look on your students love for art is making a difference in how they see the world around them. It is through their creativity and imagination that bring smiles to everyone who sees a work by a student. It is through their art that tells a story.







Being an art teacher is not just a profession it is a way of life. It is through our personal and professional art experiences that make a difference on what and how we communicate with our students. It is how we bring out the best in them. As March is fast approaching I invite you to take a break and reflect on all of the fabulous things you are accomplishing this school year.


Web Resources:
John Michael Kohler Arts Center:
North High Art Department:

Friday 02.19.16

The Power of Advocacy

From: Frank Juarez

When I first started teaching back in 2000, I had no idea of what advocacy meant or what it looked like. It wasn’t until I joined my state art education association in 2003 that I began to see it in action. To me, advocacy means to share the benefits of art education and how experiences contribute to the social, emotional, mental, and creative development of my students. In my post titled, If you do not promote your art program, who will?, I mentioned that there is a difference between promotion and advocacy. Promotion is about the ‘what’ ranging from a classroom blog, press releases to the local newspaper, letterhead, logo, department news, etc. Advocacy is about the ‘how’ and taking that extra step by presenting at your school board meeting about your students’ successes, addressing specific needs you have in the classroom, writing articles for art education publications, etc.


When I started teaching I never imagined that I would be in this situation where I can make a difference in my school. The journey starts with a vision. One person can truly make that difference if you believe in yourself. Whatever you decide to do don’t be that person that always complains about everything. Instead, focus on what you can change. Share all of the amazing things you are doing. When you put your students first, advocating becomes easier. 


Like many of you, I am passionate about what I teach and my philosophy on art education has changed drastically in response to the experiences I have had both in and outside of the classroom. I have found that ‘change’ is a great thing and it starts with YOU.


Web Resources:
SchoolArts Magazine:
North High Art Department:

Thursday 02.18.16

Why should you document student work?

From: Frank Juarez

This week I will be sharing some ideas on how to promote what you are doing inside the art room. These tips have made a difference in my art program at Sheboygan North High School.


When I first started to document student work 16 years ago I had a point-n-shoot camera and then I graduated to a DSLR. I was getting some amazing shots of students working on their artwork ranging from 2-D to 3-D. No matter when I whipped out the camera I would tell students that I am going to take photos of their hands in action while making their art and not their faces. I always gave them a heads up. What I found interesting is when I approach a student to set up my shot he/she would stop working. I would immediately say to keep creating. I will work around them. I like students’ hands to be in motion as I try to capture that perfect shot. To me if feels ‘real’.



Today, I have replaced my DSLR with my smartphone. What I like about this is being able to take multiple shots, reviewing, and editing them right on the spot. What is even better is syncing my smartphone to my laptop so that when I have a WIFI signal my photos will automatically transfer to my laptop. If you are wondering about the quality of the photos they are of great quality. However, the camera is just a vehicle used to capture a shot. It takes skill and experience to be able to take great photos. Practice does make perfect!



I would suggest becoming selective as to which photos you use for promoting your students’ work and art program. You want to always put your best foot forward. Let the photo tell the story. The photos I take are found on my Instragram account in the form of a collection, #nhsartdeptsheboygan, on my classroom blog, on facebook, and even when I submit to articles. By the way, they make fab photos for brochures, flyers, and letters.



In my last post for this week, I will share some thoughts on ‘advocacy’ and how promotion and documentation can make a world of difference to get the word out about the world you are passionate about – the art education world.







Web Resources:
North High Art Department:
Instagram: #nhsartdeptsheboygan

Tuesday 02.16.16

If you do not promote your art program, who will?

From: Frank Juarez

This week I will be sharing some ideas on how to promote what you are doing inside the art room. These tips have made a difference in my art program at Sheboygan North High School.

When I transferred to Sheboygan North High School in January of 2006 it was quite a culture shock coming from an alternative high school. The climate felt a bit different. The art wing didn’t seem inviting. To be honest, I did not know much about the art department other than that it had a strong art department. I was in survival mode my first semester there. I never thought I would be experiencing this again after 4.5 years of teaching. After the semester had finished I began thinking about all of the activities and conversations I had with students, staff, administration, and parents. At that time, the art department had a new art department chair. Let’s just say that our art program was pretty stagnant.

I was happy to be in a new teaching environment with amazing art students. I was not too content with the leadership. So, I told myself that if and when I become art department chair things will have to change.


Fast forward to today, things are rocking’. The road we took to where we are today was not easy, but it sure was worth the journey. Instead of focusing on the BIG picture we focused on the small details. What I have learned is that in order to make things happen there has to be a vision. Actions you take needs to compliment this vision and advance it. Here are three tips:

1. Art education is a business. The number of students taking electives is decreasing by the semester. I have an open door policy where anyone can stop by to check out what we are doing inside the art classroom. When I get visitors it is my responsibility to greet them and to give them an overview on what my students are doing and learning. Keeping in mind that their visit may be a short one I need to keep it short. Having an elevator speech would be most fitting in a scenario like this.

We are always competing for numbers annually. Sheboygan North used to have two full-time art teachers, but for the past 5 years we have had one full-time art teacher and one 80% art teacher. As the art department chair, I need to figure out how to increase student interest, student enrollment, modify extra-curricular activities that we offer, re-brand the art program, and to continue to find opportunities outside of the Sheboygan North.


2. If you do not promote your art program, who will? No one knows the art department better than the one who leads it. Before I continue I would like to clarify that to promote is different than to advocate. When I think about promoting I think about the nuts and bolts of an art department such as a website, social media outlets, business cards, student exhibitions, press releases, brochure, posters, etc. Being the Past-President of the Wisconsin Art Education Association I have heard many stories on what art teachers are doing in their art programs, but when it comes to sharing it beyond the classroom and their school this is where things get difficult. We live in a fast-paced world and it is easily to get overwhelmed by apps, software, programs, etc. The thing is you do not have to use everything that is out there to promote your art program.

I recommend selecting three things that you are comfortable with and use them well.  One thing that I do is use the hashtag #nhsartdeptsheboygan when I post images online via Instagram. What I like about this is that anyone can submit a photo. What I like even better is that the images posted are very selective, which helps make our art program exciting. If your school has a monthly newsletter that is sent out to parents consider submitting content on a monthly basis sharing student accolades, student works in progress, finished projects, etc. This will definitely set you a part from other departments. You can take this newsletter even further by getting your hands on a PDF, which can be turned into a JPG. This JPG can be published on your classroom blog or on your facebook art department page.


3. Write for art education publications. One of my goals for this school year was to begin writing about what we are doing in the Sheboygan North High art department. I started by writing in my classroom blog,, and then it led to submitting articles for consideration to SchoolArts Magazine. When your article in published not only does it share with art educators from across the country about what your students are doing, it also brings attention to your school and art program. Administrators love to see this. Parents love to see this. Students love to see this.


Like many of you, I am passionate about what I teach and my philosophy on art education has changed drastically in response to the experiences I have had both in and outside of the classroom. I have found that ‘change’ is a great thing and if you welcome the business of art into your classroom, the possibilities are endless.


Web resources:
SchoolArts Magazine:
North High Art Department:

Thursday 02.11.16

2nd Floor Gallery

From: Frank Juarez 

This week I will be sharing with you three programs that I have implemented into my art curriculum at Sheboygan North High School. These programs have broadened my students’ perspective on contemporary art at the local, regional, and national level. The third and last program is called 2nd Floor Gallery, which was started in 2013.


For that past few years I have observed that there were quite a few teachers at Sheboygan North High that were incorporating art into their curriculum and that most if not all of the student works would be displayed inside the classroom or directly outside of the classroom above the lockers. I also observed an under utilized hall way with so much potential. This hallway has about 12 feet floor, about 50 feet of wall space, natural lighting, and a high ceiling - a perfect place for an art gallery.


I set an appointment with my principal for a ‘what if’ we made a professional looking space to showcase the artistic talents of our North High students. In addition, stating that there would be some costs for a gallery hanging system. The cost was not too expensive, however, the concern Mr. Bull had was would teachers use the space. Having a gallery background, working with artists, and seeking exhibition ideas I knew I could get my colleagues involved. After all we have one thing in common – our students.


My colleagues and artists in residence have utilized the gallery space. It has brought such a positive vibe to our school. The amazing thing is that those that walk the halls of North High respect the work. Student often take a break from the daily hustle of being in school and admire the artwork. There are a couple of benches where student can sit and ponder. An awesome sight to see.


On the flip side to running this gallery, finding new teachers to take advantage of this wonderful space we call the 2nd Floor Gallery can be a challenge. Exhibitions can range from 2-weeks to a month. Not all work is exhibition ready so the art department has to figure out the best way to install and present the work.


What I enjoy about the Artist in Residence Program and the 2nd Floor Gallery is that the art department is at the core of these two programs. We are here to work with one another and to provide unique experiences for our students.

NHS Exhibition Space Spanish 5 from Frank Juarez on Vimeo.

To date we have had 18 exhibitions showcasing student artwork from World Languages, Social Studies, Broadcasting, Art, and artist in residence’s work produced here.

Wednesday 02.10.16

Sheboygan North High Artist in Residence Program

From: Frank Juarez

This week I will be sharing with you three programs that I have implemented into my art curriculum at Sheboygan North High School. These programs have broadened my students’ perspective on contemporary art at the local, regional, and national level. The second program is called The NHS AiR, which was started in 2014.


About two year ago I invited a good friend of mine, Miranda Kay Levy, fashion designer, to visit us for an after school art project called Splatter Paint Fashion Show. I wanted her to provide constructive criticism to two students who organized this event, Erica Barringer and Karly Kainz. During the event my principal, Jason Bull, started a conversation with Miranda. Turns out that she was doing an artist in residency at Bay View High School in Milwaukee.


The next day or so my principal approached me with the idea of ‘what if’ we started an artist in residency at North High School? Without hesitation, I said yes. I knew exactly whom I needed to talk to regarding a program like this – Steve Vande Zande. Steve runs the artist in residency program at Bay View High. He provided me with information that helpful in planning out what this residency would work at my school. After a few weeks of brainstorming I was ready to present my findings to my principal and Seth Harvatine, Secondary Education Coordinator.



I wanted to make this new program multi-disciplinary. I wanted this program to bring in artists who value education, love working with students, and are open to brainstorm on ideas that teachers had.  I also wanted to offer our artists in residence with a studio space to create their own work and exhibit at North High towards the end of their residency. I also wanted to provide them with a stipend. The latter is always the part that many shy from since a) there may not be a budget for this, b) what would be a fair stipend for artists, and, c) would I have to tap into artists in my community to see if they would do it for free?



I knew that I did not want to offer this to any artist as a free service so I had to create a program that communicated engagement from staff and students, document student work created during the artists’ visits, invite my superintendent and secondary education coordinator to meet the artists, and so on. I had to advocate for this program in order to make it happen even if my principal had suggested it.



To date, we have worked with three artists in residence from Fond du Lac, Sheboygan Falls, and Sheboygan. Each brought something special to our staff and students. They worked with teachers from World Language to Social Studies, Culinary Arts to English, Humanities to Science. The artist in residency is a young program with a lot of success. 



One of the most rewarding things I have observed stemming from this program is last month we had a reception for our fall semester artist in residence, Liz Lange. One of my colleagues, Sylvia Cavanaugh, brought her poetry club to the reception. Her students began to write poems about Liz’s paintings that they connected with. The magical moment from this experience was when they began to recite their poem to us. Wow!  

Artist Liz Ann Lange, artist in residence, at Sheboygan North High School from Frank Juarez on Vimeo.

You may be wondering about Art. I have invited these visiting artists into my classroom as a means to provide my students with another person to facilitate a critique session, another artist to ask questions, and to have them interact with one another through art activities. This program has definitely made an impact on how North High students view art, appreciate art, and relate to art. However, one of the most important things that this program offers to our school is that visual arts is an integral part of student learning and without it may be a little difficult to see the world around us.


Tuesday 02. 9.16

The Artist Lecture Series

From: Frank Juarez

This week I will be sharing with you three programs that I have implemented into my art curriculum at Sheboygan North High School. These programs have broadened my students’ perspective on contemporary art at the local, regional, and national level. The first program is called The Artist Lecture Series, which was started in 2010.


A program must fit a need inside the classroom and it starts with what you think is important for your students’ personal and artistic growth. I believe that an art classroom is more than producing art. It is about being exposed, educated, and engaged in various art practices, processes, and studio culture. The best way to get students excited about art is through the interaction with artists. Artists come from all walks of life and the experiences that these artists have are endless. I am fortunate to have met a lot of artists from my gallery days in Milwaukee (2006). 



The Artist Lecture Series is an in-school program that brings in local and regional artists into my classroom. The format is based on whatever the artist would like to share with my students and their comfort level. I also would like to point out that these visits are open to any North student, faculty, and administrator that wish to join. I have had artists present about their work using a PowerPoint to bringing their work to doing a hands-on demonstration/workshop.




I enjoy seeing my students interact with the artists through discussion, Q & A, and participating in an activity. I do try to maintain a balance between artists from the Sheboygan community and outside of Sheboygan. It is important for my students to see that artists can be successful in our own community and that the art world is not as big as what people seem to think.



Thursday 02. 4.16

What’s the hype with Skype?

From: Frank Juarez

For the past summer I have been working on a personal project focusing on connecting art education with regional contemporary artists. One way of connecting was through the use of Skype. What I found fascinating is how accessible artists and their willingness to interact with students. Keep in mind, not all artists are comfortable talking in front of students. So it is helpful to ask before bringing them into the classroom.

As an art educator, I am often thinking about my students and my art program. I want to provide them as many resources and opportunities as possible. I want to expose, educate, and engage them into a variety of areas that exist within art education and the art world. After all, they do go hand-in-hand.

Before I began to put time and energy into this personal project, I was curious as to how many art educators tap into their local art community and/or invite artists into the classroom. After surveying about 50 art educators via social media, I concluded that a very high percentage shared that they do not invite artists into their classroom because they did not know artists in their community, do not have the budget to pay for artists’ visits, and are new to the profession.

I do believe in providing some type of stipend to artists visiting my classroom. After all, how many times are we asked to do things for free? I would not wish this on any artist. Paying a stipend to visiting artists can get costly, so the next best solution is to take advantage of what we currently have in our classroom and that is technology.

I wanted to introduce my students to artists from all over the country so I approached some artists whom I have been following through social media. One artist whose work I am totally into is the work of Brooklyn-based collage artist, Jay Riggio. I first met Jay via Instagram. From there, I came across one of his stickers in Greenpoint, NY during a visit last summer.

Mikayla1  Mikayla2

Last semester, one of my AP studio art students, Mikayla, was working on a collage and the way she composed her work reminded me of Jay’s work. I knew from that moment that Mikayla had to meet Jay, so I contacted him. I arranged a time and date to Skype him into the classroom. Although the conversation and critique was between the two of them, the entire class was able to observe on the screen. To date, she has been making more collages and I believe making this connection has had a positive impact on her work and growth.

Mikayla3 Mikayla4
Mikayla5 Mikayla6 Mikayla7 Mikayla8

Web Resources: 
Skype with Jay Reggio:
North High Art Department:

Tuesday 02. 2.16

Online Discussions in Real Time

From: Frank Juarez

This past summer I took a technology class at Medford High School. The class introduced me to various educational free apps and software. The one I liked the best was Today’s Meet, Today’s Meet was one of the first backchannel tools built for classroom use and designed as a platform for communication with multiple users in a given session.


What I found interesting about this online resource is the ability to host a classroom discussion where every student is given the opportunity to respond to a prompt, question, or problem. Like many of us, the last thing I need was to worry about another thing to add to my teaching tools, but what I learned about this software is the option to create a transcript of the discussion for later use. To date, I have used these transcripts as a means to assess a lesson’s objectives, check for art vocabulary usage, observations, inferences, discussion points, etc.


Students enjoy using technology. I am all about paper and pencil, but sometimes it is healthy to switch it up and to use the technology for other things rather than surfing the web. Anyone can participate whether a student is using a laptop, iPad, or smartphone whether it is during class or remotely from another location.

A nice result from using Today’s Meet is that I have also used these transcripts as part of my teaching artifacts. As well as to share them with parents during teacher conferences.

Here is a list of suggestions when using Today’s Meet.


* Students should use their last name. No nicknames.
* Their participation will be part of their grade.
* Their responses can be used as discussion points at a later time.
* All and any input is greatly appreciated regardless if it is incorrect.
* Feel free to ask questions or share resources during the classroom activity.