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 06.24.19

Starting Strong

By Sarah Krajewski

No matter how long you’ve been teaching, you know that feeling of a new school year approaching. Each school year is a brand new fresh start. I always love the beginning of the school year. I’m refreshed, the kids are excited, and I’m full of new ideas! Starting strong can change the entire course of your school year. I always tell my students “Each new day is a chance to start over. If your class had some trouble focusing last art time, we can try again from a clean slate next class!” The same goes for the beginning of the year.

Ask yourself a few questions before you sit yourself back down into the same routine.

What wasn’t working?

I can always think of a few classroom routines that I want to edit each school year. Summer is the perfect time to sit back and reflect and take advantage of some much-needed research time. With the help of blogs and social media, there is an entire resource of teachers that have suggestions and solutions for your exact issues. As teachers, we are constantly striving to be the best for our students. With that, comes a responsibility to give them the best resources we can get our hands on!

What makes you proud?

Take a moment to celebrate what you have accomplished! Let’s be honest, the work never ends. So, it’s important to take a moment and see the successes of you and your students. What do you want to keep consistent that really makes you proud of your art program?


What do your students need?

Really think about what it is that your students need. It may not be as simple as adding a new classroom management tool or buying a new set of watercolors. Maybe you want to focus more on their mental health or their ability to reflect and talk about their art. What do you feel is lacking for them as artists and people? Keep your goals simple and manageable.

I can’t wait to start strong this next year! I always get excited to add new things and see my students again with fresh faces. They deserve the best art experience possible and as art teachers, we are going to give it to them!

Thanks for reading and keep being your best you!

Follow along with my daily art adventures @artroomglitterfairy on Instagram or check out more at


Thursday 06.20.19

Bringing Positive Self Talk into your Art Room

By Sarah Krajewski

Have you ever recited a mantra? Maybe it was just a sentence you said to yourself in your head during a hard time. Or maybe it is something you say out loud to yourself at the end of each day. I find positive motivations very helpful for me and I know my students benefit from them as well! If you want to give a classroom mantra a try, preparing one during Summer is a great time to do it! You can start the new school year with a fresh new outlook on positive self talk in your classroom.

Our Art Room Mantra goes like this:

“My mantra. I am positive. I am creative. I am mindful. I am amazing. I am an artist.”

There are many reasons to start using a mantra in your art room. As we know, everything gets better with practice, and that includes a student’s positivity and words of self-affirmation. When creating your mantra, keep it simple. You can create a mantra with any grade level! It is especially important for you, as the teacher, to prepare yourself for each day. We chose five adjectives that work for us.

Try brainstorming a list of adjectives like these:


Once you have your words selected, think of some motions or sign language actions to go along with each phrase.You’ll be in awe of how quickly your students learn your art mantra. Their great sense of pride and ownership over the words will change the atmosphere of your entire classroom.

Picture2Photo by Sharon Vanorny at

If you’re interested in taking a deeper look at mantras, check out this article I wrote for The Art of Education University.

Thanks for reading and keep being your best you!

Follow along with my daily art adventures @artroomglitterfairy on Instagram or check out more at


Thursday 06.13.19

Balancing Being an Art Educator and Artist

By Sarah Krajewski

Summer. It’s truly a word that’s packed with happiness. Breathe it in. Not everyone has their summer to recharge and create. I encourage you to take advantage of whatever Summer looks like to you. No matter what your situation is, it is very important to recognize and celebrate the fact that we are art teachers AND artists. I use Summer as my sacred time to do all the things that I’ve wanted to do during the school year. The stuff like...reading a book! Or painting a project for a friend! So much of our energy goes towards teaching. We must remember that it is equally important to make time for ourselves.

So many art teachers got into the field of art education because we love to create. But every now and then, the teaching part takes the front seat and the art making rides way in the back. For the past few years, I’ve created a very simple system to encourage myself to complete the goals that I want during my Summer.

Let me share what I do to focus on three personal accomplishment goals I have! My main three daily goals are Art, Exercise, Read. That’s it. Though, sometimes, it’s not as easy as it seems. And certainly, my definition of what counts as Art, Exercise, or Reading changes. One day, “Reading” can be writing this article or responding to emails. “Exercise” can be a walk with my sister and niece through the park. “Art” can be sketching out new earring shapes or making an art room poster. It doesn’t have to be big and grand each day, but it has to be something.

I create a Summer calendar for myself each year and use shapes to indicate my three goals: Art or “A” is Triangle, Exercise or “E” is Square and Read or “R” is Circle. This way, I can quickly mark which goals I have worked on each day. When I complete one of the goals, I fill in the shape and mark how long I did it for. It’s my visual reminder of productivity!

In addition to charting your goals via shapes and calendars, I also suggest making a mess. I mean it. Make a huge mess and have 16 projects happening at a time. I am often tempted to clean up my workspace at the end of each art-making session but I’ve learned that it’s not necessary. When I get inspired to work in my art space, I can simply scan the area and gravitate towards which project makes my heart flutter. Viewing lots of options at once makes me feel less pressure about choosing what to work on. And, in the end, it’s all about being excited to create.

I encourage you to think about how you can create your balance of art teacher and artist this Summer. What daily goals would you have? What would you love to focus on? Remember, don’t beat yourself up if you miss a few days. Celebrate the days you reached your goals and just keep creating. Thanks for reading and keep being your best you!

Follow along with my daily art adventures @artroomglitterfairy on Instagram or check out more at


Monday 06. 3.19

Bringing the Outside In

By Sarah Krajewski

My name is Sarah Krajewski, Art Educator at Cambridge Elementary in WI, and I am so excited to be the NAEA June 2019 Monthly Mentor! You can follow along with my daily art adventures @artroomglitterfairy on Instagram or check out more at I can’t wait to share what is going on in my school and in the world of Art Education. I am truly honored to be a part of this amazing group of people!

Let’s start by chatting about experiences. Think back to when you were in middle school and picture a day you vividly remember. Sometimes it can be pretty hard to think of something! But when it comes down to it, what you remember most is a meaningful experience. You may not remember a specific paper you wrote or what you ate on the second Tuesday in April but you WILL remember that interaction you had with someone visiting your school during a special experience. These collaborations and true connections with artists make lasting memories with your students!

The project I want to bring light is a recent collaboration with author and illustrator, Jeanne Styczinski. Mrs. Jeanne taught Kindergarten before retiring to become a very successful author and illustrator. Check out her website here. The artists of Cambridge Elementary were able to work directly with Mrs. Jeanne during an artist visit with her and created a huge paper creation inspired by her recycled newspaper collage style. For an entire day, Mrs. Jeanne worked with students to create parts of our school-wide garden collage. Her genuine kindness and understanding of students creativity made her the perfect experience for students! I know our students will remember that day for years to come!

Follow this link to see a video of our day with Mrs. Jeanne!

1Collaged flowers created by K-5 students at Cambridge Elementary

2Mrs. Jeanne leading a demonstration for our artists

3Our final garden collage on display in our school library.

4A selection of insects and bugs that were added to our paper collage creation!

Now think for a moment, what kinds of experiences do you think your artists will remember years from now? What can you do to make your day to day focus on creating memories and positive interactions? Thanks for reading and keep being your best you!