Monthly Mentor

Shelly Breaux (December)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Shelly Breaux established the Art Program at David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy in Lafayette, LA. In her classroom, Breaux focuses on inquiry-based learning, problem solving, collaboration, conceptual thinking, and constructive criticism. She believes in using art as an educational tool, and that art provides her students with a voice and an outlet. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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March 07, 2018

The Power of Appreciation

From: Jennifer Pulbratek

A few years ago my husband and I came to the realization that everyone needs appreciation. I actually asked him if he wanted to collaborate with me on this post--he declined. However, he wasn’t lacking words in telling me about how I use appreciation in my classroom, how he has learned to use it at work, and how we as a team use it in parenting, especially with our defiant child (we are forever grateful for behavior analysts).

Everyone needs to feel appreciated.

People think Millennials complain too much… “my boss didn’t compliment me!” However, what have we been teaching our students to do? Advocate for themselves. When you hear that, they are just advocating for the need to feel valued. Why do people leave jobs?  They are unhappy because they do not feel valued.

Remember the time you walked into the teachers’ lounge and somehow a conversation started about a kid who was just awful? Another teacher was describing the student’s behaviors and you felt angry for them, and grateful at the same time that you don’t have that student. What a relief, right?!? At some point in the conversation you find out who the kid is…and low and behold they are your best student. You know, the student that stays after class to make sure all the chairs are put up, or the one that just cleans things up extra well, or the one that brought you a bag of pine cones (not readily available in the desert) because they heard you wanted some of your students to draw pine cones. Why is this kid so good for you and so awful for the other teacher?

Lots of reasons… they could be naturally artistic. But we know even some really artistically gifted kids are not well behaved in art class on their own. Somewhere along the line you showed them appreciation. Showing appreciation validates a person--it gives them importance and purpose. Positive reinforcement is much stronger than negative reinforcements and has longer lasting effects. I forget who said it, but someone once said, “Nail students for greatness.” After that I attached a small nail to my computer with a bit of tape, just as a reminder. Show your students you value them, and you will transition from a dictatorship to more of a coaching relationship. You are cheering them on, but they own the process.


A teacher and mentor I really admire once game me the advice, “That student that you like the least, you have to love the most.” As hard as it may be to find something to appreciate, find something and be genuine about it. All people, especially students, see right through fakeness. Build that positive relationship with that student. Use the power of appreciation to create a learning environment where kids feel safe to explore, experiment and make art without fear of failure. 

A person who feels appreciated will always do more than just what is expected.”- Author Unknown 



Michelle Ridlen

Great advice about finding something to appreciate in the kid you like the least. Choose to look for the negatives and it will bring you and your class down. Choose to look for the positives and raise each other up. That is how teachers make a difference.

Great entry Jennifer!

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