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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Saturday 10.31.20

Finding a Professional Community and Resources

By Janice Bettiga

As I navigate through the challenges of long-distance learning, it becomes crystal clear how important my colleagues at work and in my professional community are to me for emotional and professional support. When I think of how much I have gained from attending NAEA and California Art Education Association meetings, I realize how much I need to express my gratitude for all the support, resources, leadership experiences, and friendships that I have gained. At work, I know that the support that I receive from my colleagues is what helps me each day, from everything that long-distance learning is, teaching through Zoom, and finding resources that students can use for Art at home.

There are many individuals that I am grateful for meeting and resources that I acquire through NAEA and CAEA conferences and events, and I do my best to pass on the art resources and support to others. Art conferences also provide resources for teaching, current research in Art education, new tools and technology, and opportunities to build friendships and professional networks. Last night I was talking to my fellow 2017 School for Art Leaders group, and I realize that it provides joy and social-emotional support every time that I hear from them. I can’t name them all, but I want to give special attention to a few people that have been significant in my leadership journey. 

When I attended the first National Leadership Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the first two people that I met were Dennis Inhulsen, NAEA Chief Learning Officer, and Robert Sabol, who has held many NAEA positions. Their warm welcome to be part of the conference and their introductions to other members dispelled any doubt that I had that I might be in the wrong place. Dennis introduced me to Nancy Andrzejczak and Armalyn De La O from CAEA, who invited me to sit with them at the conference and encouraged me to become more involved in CAEA. These Art leaders encouraged and mentored me to choose a path to become an Art education leader in both CAEA and NAEA. 

From the people that I met at the NAEA Leadership Conference, I was encouraged to pursue many leadership opportunities. I have advocated for Art education in Sacramento, California, became the CAEA Northern Area President (now Past-President), and recently became a member of the CAEA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Commission. Additionally, I applied and attended the 2017 NAEA School for Art Leaders program, which helped me become the Art and STEAM Director at School of the Madeleine. That one experience at the leadership conference has provided me the courage and interest for these opportunities and hopefully more to come.  

NAEA and CAEA conferences are great opportunities to meet fellow art educators and receive art education resources, and I highly encourage you to attend. Our CAEA Virtual Conference is happening next week, November 4-7, and it is open to everyone. If you would like to register for this virtual conference, I suggest looking at the

CAEA website that describes the great speakers, Master Classes, and sessions scheduled at the virtual conference. This CAEA Virtual Conference would not be possible without the leadership and hardwork of Nancy Andrzejczak.

I asked our CAEA President, Li Ezzel, to be interviewed to help describe the value of our CAEA virtual conference.


Janice: What do you want first-time attendees to know about attending a virtual conference?

Li: It is so easy to attend a virtual conference! This year, you can register for the full conference or a single day. You participate from the comfort of your own home, and members can view the recorded sessions after the art conference is over to catch any that you missed. It is much more affordable than an in-person art conference (about 1/3 the usual cost), plus there are no costs for travel or hotels.

Janice: What are you most looking forward to at the 2020 CAEA virtual conference?


Li: For me, there is something to look forward to every day! Last year, I returned to the classroom, after spending a few years as a district arts administrator. I have been learning more about Choice-based Art Education, so I am excited about our Wednesday sessions and the keynote with Melissa Purtee. It will be a good follow up to the book club we just did on Melissa's book, Making Artists, (with co-author Ian Sands). On Thursday, I look forward to hearing from other art educators about ways in which the new CA VAPA Framework is changing what they do in their classes. On Saturday, we will learn about Universal Design for Learning in the morning, and then on Social-Emotional Learning in the afternoon.

Janice: What do you hope will come out of the 2020 CAEA virtual conference?

Li: I hope we get some new people attending, who may not have known about CAEA before, either because they are in other states, or because they are just joining the profession as new or pre-service teachers. I hope our newly-formed Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion Commission (featured on Saturday at the conference) helps teachers as they work to re-imagine and refine their curriculum. And I hope that we will continue to utilize various online platforms to learn from each other, even after we return to in-person teaching.

Janice: What other virtual events or opportunities has CAEA offered this year?

Li: CAEA had a series of webinars in the spring that focused on supporting different divisions (elementary, middle, and secondary) during distance learning. There were two really fun hands-on art-making workshops, using supplies that were sent out beforehand to participants. We had a successful virtual one-day mini-conference in July that drew 200+ people from around the country. And we just finished our fourth book club!

Janice: Why is it beneficial to join CAEA? 

Li: I think art teachers always want to talk and connect with other art teachers, even when they are lucky enough to have some support from their school, district, or other entity. Being a member of CAEA connects you with opportunities that you would not even know about if you were not a member. In addition to all the virtual offerings we started this year, CAEA members can participate in Youth Art Month in their areas, win professional awards and scholarships to attend our conference, and can nominate their students for a variety of awards and scholarships. But I think the most important benefit is being an active member of the art education community in CA.

Janice: What have you learned from participating in CAEA?

Li: As the current President of the association, I have to say that CAEA has provided me with a lot of opportunities to grow through leadership. When I started teaching art, I did not know about CAEA. I was asked to help with Youth Art Month in our area, and then I became State Treasurer, then President-elect, and now, President. That ongoing involvement in CAEA has helped me to see and understand the art education landscape at a much more macroscopic level than I would otherwise have. I feel that I am part of a series of networks, from the local level here in Sacramento, across the state, and to some degree, across the country. It feels good to know that I am connected to these larger networks that seek to promote and advocate for art education.


Friday 10.23.20

Positives That I Have Learned from Long Distance Learning

By Janice Bettiga

Positive things I have learned from long-distance teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic:

- My happiest moments are when Zoom starts and my students are there. I miss being with  the students, but seeing their faces and  hearing their voices is still the best part of the day.

- Children want to learn and yearn to continue in long-distance learning despite the obstacles.

- When my dog interrupts a lesson, she provides relief to some students and the  stress of learning through Zoom.

- Parents have been supportive even with the struggles of working and juggling their children’s learning at home.

- Children provide happiness and hope to the challenges of Covid.

 - My colleagues in NAEA and CAEA have been supportive and helpful during this time, and I am so grateful.

 - I continue to learn to use many new technology tools that I know I will use even when long-distance learning ends.

- I am grateful for all that CAEA and NAEA do to support me during this time by providing materials, new tools, professional development, book clubs, happy hours, etc.

- I look forward to talking to my colleagues in Zoom and am so happy about the collaboration and support that  I receive.

- Being able to practice mindfulness between Zooms has been the key to finding some self-care during the day.


Wednesday 10. 7.20

Consider the Social-Emotional Needs of Students During DIstance Learning

By Janice Bettiga

After a summer break of being mindful of restoring my energy and learning new ideas, techniques, and tools from both NAEA and CAEA, California Art Education Association, I was excited to start the school year and see my students.  I knew that I would be returning to either a hybrid model of learning or distance learning.  When school began in August, I started to make lesson plans that included what I learned over the summer and followed the national core art standards. During the first two weeks of the school year, I started to observe that students wanted to talk and have others listen.  I realized from the students’ comments and questions that I had to slow down to address the social-emotional learning of the students.

I started to hear from the students that learning on Zoom was exhausting, and in the afternoon, they spoke more adamantly about their exhaustion.  The students would bring up other topics during the class discussion or want to share their artwork, not only class assignments but artwork made during the summer.  They seemed to be seeking social interaction. The middle school students were expressing how Zoom and schoolwork were too much to handle.  It was apparent distance learning in the pandemic was creating new social-emotional challenges for students.  These types of comments and questions showed me that the students needed me to give them more  time to hear their concerns and an outlet to bring their voice to the surface as much as the standards of my lesson. I started to design art lessons that would give students time to share and create artwork to share their voice. I continue to look for ways to adjust my art lessons and to find new ways to meet their needs.

Here is an article on how art and music can help students with social-emotional challenges of long-distance learning and lesson examples.

    Elias, M. (August 14, 2020). Help Students Process COVID-19 Emotions With This Lesson Plan   /item/help_students_process_covid19_emotions_with_this_lesson_plan.

I read the following book in a  CAEA Book Club this summer. It is a resource on how to talk to students about social-emotional issues. 

    Hunter, A. D., Heise, D., & Johns, B. H. (2018). Art for children experiencing psychological trauma: A guide for art educators and school-based professionals. New York, NY, NY: Routledge.

- JB