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 09.24.18

Transitioning into Teaching Outside of the Traditional Classroom

From Chapin Schnick

When I was named the Indiana Art Educator of the Year late last fall by the Art Education Association of Indiana (AEAI), I had a “what now?” moment. I’d always known I didn’t have any interest in being a school administrator, and aside from incredible opportunities and recognition along my art teaching path, the one thing that kind of sat in the back of my mind was, “how cool would it be to be a “teacher of the year”?” And then it happened. I had met the one far-fetched, “bucket list” career goal I had considered for myself. That is when I decided it was time to pursue education outside of teaching in a public school.

Enter The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (or “TCM”). I have volunteered for many Indianapolis-area nonprofits over the past several years, but some of my favorite experiences were serving TCM for special events and their Mid-North Promise Program. Now, as a part-time Gallery Facilitator in Special Exhibits, I have the privilege of facilitating educational programs related to our special exhibits, as well as fostering meaningful, engaging interactions with children and their families, as an emphasis on family learning is what brought me to TCM in the first place.

Chapin with Rex at The Children's Museum of IndianapolisChapin with Rex at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

In case you ever find yourself wondering about teaching gigs outside of the traditional classroom setting, whether full or part-time, I have compiled a list of resources I have encountered, over time.

  • Private Tutor
  • Corporate Trainer
  • Academic Advisor
  • Adult Literacy Teacher
  • Instructional Coordinator
  • Adjunct Professor/ Instructor
  • Barter School/ Trade School Organizations

Chapin Teaching Elementary Art Centers to Barter School IndyChapin Teaching "Elementary Art Centers" to Barter School Indy

  • Societies promoting education for Kids, like SWE (Society of Women Engineers) & Girls Inc.
  • Non-traditional settings like daycares, prisons, nursing homes, & treatment centers
  • After school programs - Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters
  • Fundraisers for friends & family (like a painting class, for example)
  • Education Director for nonprofits like museums, zoos, and parks
  • Hobbies via local clubs or stores - like knitting or dancing
  • Work from home options, like VIPKid Teachers
  • Fitness classes or coaching sports

Chapin Teaching Les Mills' Body PumpChapin Teaching Les Mills’ Body Pump


I love the checklist for “How to Make the Transition From Teaching to a Second Career” at, *which I have shortened for the sake of this blog post’s length.*

  1. Take stock of your professional traits and skills.Start by imagining what you would say to an interviewer who asked, "What do teachers do?" Visualize your role as a teacher and make a list of everything you've been responsible for, including tasks like: planning & preparing lessons, collaborating with colleagues, & assessing & developing curricula.

    With those tasks in mind, think about what it takes to pull them off. What kinds of skills or traits do you possess that have allowed you to perform as a teacher, and can serve as transferable skills? (i.e. adaptability, creativity, a passion for lifelong learning, and patience).

  2. Be open to all kinds of opportunities. Keeping an open mind is essential, especially during the initial phase of your job search. Be prepared to consider alternatives like teaching online or at a community college.

  3. Gain new experiences and start networking. Are you still teaching as you plan your exit from the profession? Try using some of your time off to get involved in volunteer work or other types of opportunities outside of teaching. The more you can use your professional abilities in a different context, the better you'll understand your true interests and capabilities. You'll also make new contacts who can act as references.

  4. Choose a path and get additional education (if necessary). At some point, you'll have to get specific about your goals. You'll need to pick a new career to pursue and find out how you measure up, which could mean needing additional certifications or accreditations.

  5. Gather references and refine your resume. Ask other teachers you've worked with to write letters of recommendation that highlight some of your best qualities or achievements. Do the same for any other close colleagues you've worked with inside or outside the education sector. Then do several drafts of your resume, refining it with each new iteration.

  6. Interview like a pro. Many former teachers worry that employers outside the education sector won't be interested in their abilities. While that may be true in some cases, most employers will be eager to learn how your skills will translate into a non-classroom position. Every interview is your opportunity to teach them.

  7. Stay persistent. Don't get too discouraged if things don't fall into place right away. Keep networking, applying for jobs, & promoting yourself. Experiment with slightly different tactics. Practice your interview skills. And always remember that you have a great deal to offer. By staying prepared and enthusiastic, you'll be ready to hit the ground running when the right opportunity finally comes along.

  8. Make the Change. You deserve a career that fulfills you. All kinds of jobs for former teachers are available, even beyond the ones listed above. So, don't limit yourself.


What are some outside-the-traditional-classroom teaching jobs you have considered or experienced?  Please share your resources in a comment, below.

- CS

Monday 09.17.18

Taking Advantage of Grants & Fellowships

From Chapin Schnick

The elusive grant. Free money that allows you to complete a passion project, often with the only stipulation of an update or two, and a final report. For most of us, though, it gets sticky with the daunting, time-consuming project proposal, and finding opportunities to apply for in the first place.  

Here are some of my tips and tricks from successful grant writing over the past ten+ years:

Know your passion project, inside and out. Proposals often require the grantee to express their plans in several different ways: a summary of the project, your goals and objectives, your proposed budget for the gifted funds, who the recipients of programs or services are, and how it will affect them, the project’s overall community impact, and indicators for success. I recommend developing a short summary from the get go to share aloud with friends, family, and colleagues. The more you talk about your project throughout your proposal writing process, the more chances you will have to workshop the wording of your proposal as you explain your goals.

Develop an outline that includes due dates, and stick to them. Nothing is worse than putting off a daunting grant application to the last minute and filling it out in the wee hours of the day it’s due. This lack of planning will not allow you to look at and revise it with fresh eyes in the coming days, or give you the time and opportunity to share with your trusted colleagues. The moment you have made the decision to apply for a grant, I suggest working backward from the due date to break the application into sections and having them “due” to yourself every few days. I start a couple of months out, with the plan of allowing the last two weeks for final edits and critique from friends, family, and colleagues.

Smith Fine Arts Academy colleagues with our 2016 CFMC Impact GrantSmith Fine Arts Academy colleagues with our 2016 CFMC Impact Grant

Copy and paste the application into a word processor. Please do not fall into the trap of completing an application in an online grant system. Completing it in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, or something similar, gives you the benefits of the software, like spell check and word counts, but it also makes it easier to save and attach when sending to your editors.

Ask for an edit/ critique from trusted colleagues. In the past, I have sent proposals to my fellow teachers and administrators, former cooperating teachers and collegiate mentors, my parents, and even friends in similar fields. The worst that could happen is your connection is too busy to give critical feedback, but will often at least read it and give a general response which gives valuable additional perspective.

Don’t be afraid to contact the granters. In the majority of my grant applications, a line about contacting so-and-so if you have questions was present, along with their email and phone number.  Reach out to them! These are the people that know this grant application inside and out, and possibly even wrote the criteria and questions, themselves. In my experience, these grant representatives were more than happy to answer my questions, and a couple even read, and gave me feedback, on my application draft! (So don’t forget to attach your in-process proposal when asking your question/s.)

Schnick being awarded the Inaugural Indiana Arts Commission InstaGrantSchnick being awarded the Inaugural Indiana Arts Commission InstaGrant

Read it aloud before submitting. It is always amazing to me how our brains can completely skip words when we are typing. Reading it aloud will help to fill in any of those missteps and provides you with yet another perspective in reviewing.

After submitting…

Follow up. Don’t forget to thank your editors/reviewers for their help, and be sure to follow up with them to give them an update on whether you received the grant, or not, and next steps. They want to know!

You got the grant?! Congratulations! This is an exciting time, that could easily become stressful… all of your planning and effort mean you actually get to complete your project! (“Oh my, so now I have to deliver?”) Take detailed notes of your processes along the way, including numbers, when possible. Sometimes the final report and accompanying budget following a grant’s implementation can be just as (if not more) overwhelming than the proposal/ application, itself. Reviewing the final report ahead of time, so you are aware of expectations and potential deliverables, will set you up for success as you take notes, and reflect on the process, along the way.

You didn’t get the grant?!  Don’t worry! The grants I didn’t get have actually made me a better proposal writer, as it has required me to be more discerning about how to describe my goals and objectives. Also, you don’t have to let all of that hard work and preparation go to waste! There are plenty of opportunities out there where you can take that same project idea and rework it to fit a new set of application questions. (If you do get the grant, though, be really careful about using a similar plan for a different grant proposal, as it is unethical. You will want to change your goals and objectives, accordingly, to match the new project.)

Schnick's 2013 Franklin Community Schools Education Foundation grantSchnick's 2013 Franklin Community Schools Education Foundation grant

Resources for finding grant opportunities:

  • Your district or county education foundation
  • City arts councils or other arts-invested organizations
  • The Community Foundation representing your county
  • Local businesses supporting education initiatives
  • State Art Education Associations
  • Your state’s Arts Commission/ government
  • Ask your colleagues!

- CS

Monday 09.10.18

How to Maintain a Positive Attitude and Outlook

From Chapin Schnick

When I “crowd-sourced” for post content my friends, family, and colleagues might wish to see during my time as monthly mentor, one suggested, “how to maintain that incredibly positive attitude and outlook you have”. I think a lot of my cheerful, we-can-make-anything-work attitude is genetic, but I am happy to share my favorite methods for remaining positive, no matter the hand you are dealt: personally or professionally.

Keep a gratitude journal. It definitely sounds hokey, but reflecting during times when you feel stuck, or sad, or listless, can truly remind you of what good there is in your world and the positive events that led you to today. As someone who can be completely consumed by anxiety to the point of being immobile, I am especially understanding of how difficult this can be… but sometimes, being reminded of what makes me happy, is the only thing that gets me moving, again!

Get outside.  As a lifetime athlete, I have always appreciated the outdoors and sun (in moderation & with sunscreen, as I tend to burn within minutes!). More recently, though, I have fallen in love with hammock camping and backpacking, thanks to an Indianapolis-based women’s adventure company, called DNK Presents. What are your favorite outdoor activities?

Chapin Hammock CampingChapin Hammock Camping

Call a family member or close friend (especially if it’s been a while since you last talked). When I talk to my mom or dad, I can feel my blood pressure fall, my breathing slow, and a general wave of relaxation hits me. I love to be reminded that, no matter what is happening or has gone wrong, my people are there for me with a compassionate, listening ear, and love me wholeheartedly.

Find a form of movement that you enjoy. I was a multi-sport athlete, growing up, so I am conditioned to enjoy competition and sweaty pursuits. As I have gotten older, though, lifting weights several times a week isn’t as exciting to me, nor is the idea of running long distances as I did in my marathon-running days. Plus, commuting an hour and thirty minutes, round-trip, to work each day means that evening recreational leagues aren’t always a practical addition to my schedule. Yoga has helped to keep me physically-fit in recent years, as well as served as a form of meditation and stress relief. I hope you can find your happy movement, too!

Yoga at Gorgo Fitness Magazine’s Camp GorgoYoga at Gorgo Fitness Magazine’s Camp Gorgo

Place your attention on someone else’s happiness. When I seek ways to add joy to the days of my friends, family, and colleagues, I can feel my own stress lessen and those “happiness endorphins” kick in. What can you do to make someone in your life smile, this week?

Look for the positive in every situation. I have experienced a great deal of personal tragedy in the past few years, but in every instance I did my best to find something positive that came as a result of the offending, less-than-ideal situation. More often than not, there is a light that is gleaned from a situation, like perhaps taking advantage of an opportunity you might otherwise have ignored, freeing up some time in your busy schedule (or maybe your bank account), or simply serving as a reminder of what is truly important to you.

Chapin's Main Source of Happy - Her Husband and ParentsChapin's Main Source of Happy - Her Husband and Parents

And finally (and perhaps most important in our field)...

Give yourself permission to create!
As educators whose main focus is to encourage the creativity and self-expression of others, we often are guilty of not creating for ourselves. Not only can the occasional creating session keep you fresh in your preferred forms of expression, but it exercises your strengths as a problem solver and can provide a sense of accomplishment when feeling overwhelmed by the stresses of our ongoing to-do lists. What are your favorite ways to create?

- CS


Saturday 09. 1.18

Professional Development + Travel = Planning Vacations That Also Benefit You Professionally

From Chapin Schnick

One of the things colleagues say about me the most is that I’m always traveling. What they may not always realize is that most of the time that I spend traveling, I have built a vacation around my true destination of professional development workshops & conferences. Below I will share some of my favorite PD trips over the past several years, along with some of my tried and true resources for finding your perfect PD getaway*. 

Summer 2012 - Summer 2013 MA in Art Education at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, MD - My Masters program in Baltimore is when I caught the professional development travel bug (which has become even more pronounced in recent years). I loved taking day or weekend trips, when classes weren’t in session, down to the Inner Harbour, Federal Hill, Fells Point, Hampden, or enjoying what Bolton Hill (where MICA’s campus is located) had to offer.

2013 NAEA Convention, Dallas, Texas - This was my first opportunity to present at a national conference, following encouragement from my peers and professors in the Masters of Art in Art Education program at MICA to submit a proposal. I was able to present on the findings of my qualitative research study for which I had posed the question, “In what ways do highly engaged students and non-engaged students’ values and beliefs about art and art making differ in an eighth-grade art class?”

Schnick - 2013 NAEA MICA MAAE Representatives2013 NAEA MICA MAAE Representatives

2016 Biennial Kappa Delta Pi Convention, Orlando, Florida - I was fortunate enough to work as a Regional Chapter Coordinator for KDP during a year that the staff was planning their biennial conference.  In addition to presenting to chapter leaders and attending sessions, I as able to extend my time to enjoy the beautiful Florida weather and a family-owned condo with my husband who flew down to meet me.

Summer 2016 SCAD Educator Forum, Savannah, Georgia - One of the few road trips I’ve completed with a companion: a fellow art teacher who now lives in Portland, Oregon. This is truly a one-of-a-kind PD, as it is all-inclusive, if you choose to pay the additional residential fee.  One low cost covered many meals and receptions, two ongoing classes during the week, and lodging in comfortable on-campus dorms.

Summer 2016 NAEA National Leadership Conference, Arlington, Virginia - I was fortunate enough to be welcomed to this leadership conference, despite not being a current state association leader. I learned a lot about my personality and leadership style, and especially appreciated the chance to visit the NAEA Headquarters for the first time. I saved a TON of money by staying at an AirBnB vs. the conference hotel.


Schnick - 2017 NAEA NYC Time Square Twirling2017 NAEA NYC Time Square Twirling

2017 NAEA Convention, New York City, New York - This was only my second trip ever to New York City, which meant I had a lot of the “touristy” type things out of my system the first time around. I was able to visit several amazing locally-recommended restaurants as well as visit local museums and see Broadway shows, including my favorite, and most-relevant-to-an-art-trip, show: “Sundays in the Park with George” starring Jake Gyllenhaal, who happens to be one of my favorite actors.

Summer 2017 NAEA SummerStudio Design Thinking for Social Equity, Dallas, Texas - It was a lot of fun to visit Dallas for a second time, but this time was far more intimate an experience, since there were fewer than fifty NAEA members in the SummerStudio Design Thinking group. This was an intense few days of workshops, my favorite being the focus on using game design & theory in curriculum planning.

2018 NAEA Convention, Seattle, Washington - This trip was especially amazing because I built in additional trips to notable cities along the way, despite it not being a road trip. I initially flew to Seattle for the full conference so that I could present and attend other sessions. On the Sunday following the conference, I took a train to Portland to enjoy local experiences and restaurants, including getting to visit with the aforementioned SCAD Educator Forum road trip friend, and planned a layover in Denver to spend a couple of days to round out my Spring Break.

Schnick - 2018 NAEA Presentation2018 NAEA Presentation

My favorite resources for seeking out PD and planning vacations:

  • Word of mouth from colleagues: whether it be your local Professional Learning Community (PLC), or through art education-themed pages and groups on social media, your best resource for beneficial PD are others that have experienced or sought it out, as well: your fellow art education colleagues.
  • State Art Education Association: If traveling out of state isn’t in your immediate plans, checking in with your state art education association can provide you with suggestions for local opportunities.
  • Trip Advisor & Yelp: I especially love these sites/ apps as they are user-submitted. People just like you and me give their honest opinion about experiences, restaurants, and lodging, while traveling.
  • AirBnB: When possible, I do prefer to support local business owners by seeking out true Bed & Breakfasts, but I often end up in an AirBnB because 1) many are highly affordable, and 2) there are far more options to find sleeping arrangements local to my conference or workshops.
  • Hostels:  Contrary to many opinions on hostels, there are truly remarkable ones available, especially in larger cities. Imagine the accommodations of a luxury hotel, but with comfortable bunks “cold-air” style and at a fraction of the cost. (For example, the hostels I stayed at in Seattle, Portland, Denver, New York City, and Baltimore were all $40 or less per night but better than most 3-5 star hotels in which I have stayed.) I typically find these via a search on Google Maps (search for “hostel” in your travel destination).


*I am personally not big into “tourist traps” when traveling as I would prefer not to experience places and events surrounded by a ton of selfie-taking strangers, but also because I can see those things in pictures. I like to do a little more research on blogs (that I find via an internet search on my desired topic) and by checking out Yelp & Trip Advisor reviews to see what locals really find to be of value and worth my time.