A few months ago, I was reading an ARTSBlog by Ms. Lauren S. Hess, And the Award Goes To… She wrote about the power and difficulties of arts awards, but it was how she ended her blog that really touched me. She wrote: “I suggest an Awards Alternative … Next time you see one of these amazing professional arts educators, simply say, ‘Thank you! … for all that you do…’”
You see, Ms. Hess reiterated one of the key elements that we have discovered over and over again at ArtsWestchester: the key to good programming is to visit with participants, to talk with our partners, and yes, to say thank you.
For the past three years, ArtsWestchester has worked with the Mount Vernon City School District, New York, to implement a U.S. Department of Education Arts-in-Education Model Development and Dissemination (AEMDD) program. The initiative integrates standards-based arts education within the curricula in four elementary schools in the District (grades 1-6), and uses the arts facilitate the teaching of science, technology, engineering, math (STEM subjects), and English language arts. The program concludes in June 2017.
While our team continues collecting data to measure the impact of arts integration, one element became clear as our model developed and changed to meet the needs of our schools: the stronger our relationships, the stronger our integrations. And that strength comes from our teachers.
Our AEMDD teachers not only bring their expertise in various subjects to the table, they also bring an openness to new experiences and learning opportunities. They share, during planning meetings, how their classroom communities work best. During our arts integration residencies, they reinforce key vocabulary and information while our teaching artists interweave performing and visual arts.
Teacher Appreciation Week may give ArtsWestchester the opportunity to say thank you, but know that this week, and every time we enter the classrooms of our AEMDD partner teachers, we say thank you.
Thank you, teachers, for your expertise. Thank you for your excitement about arts integration. Thank you for your openness to new experiences and encouragement of the arts. To you, your fellow Westchester County teachers, and beyond, your partnership and commitment to the arts is a powerful vehicle of change.
Happy Teacher Appreciation Week.
Felicia Liss Block has worked in the field of education, museums, and non-profits for more than twenty years. She joined ArtsWestchester in 2014 to implement the AEMDD federal grant where she coordinates artist residencies and professional development programming with the Mount Vernon City School District.
Photo caption: AEMDD Teacher’s at Grimes Elementary School (2015-16): (l to r) Ms. Williamson, Teaching Artist Suzi Tipa, Ms. Laurent and Ms. Mack