Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Kathy DeJean, dance teacher, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana

Mary Perkerson, visual art specialist, Harmony Leland Elementary School, Mableton, Georgia

Kathy DeJean
Kathy DeJean has a bachelor’s degree in choreographic design and a master’s degree in performance/choreography. She also has extensive workshop training in contact improvisation, yoga, theatre, and other subjects. DeJean has more than 25 years of experience in teaching all age levels, prekindgergarten through adult, both privately and in school settings. She has performed all over the United States and Europe in modern and ethnic dance, musical theatre, ballet, and more. She has extensive training in music, costume design, stagecraft, theatre, and improvisational mixed media performance art.

Q. Please give a few examples of dance projects that were teacher-initiated and a few projects that were initiated by you. Briefly describe the planning and development process.

A. Most of our projects at Lusher are collaborative. During the 11 years I have been there, I have started many projects that involve one or more teachers — classroom teachers and arts teachers: Quest Project, Greek Feast, Renaissance Revelry, and a zillion more. All of these projects involved live music, dance, theatre, sets, and costumes.

Research and curriculum integration from third through eighth grades are based on Wiggins and McTighe’s Curriculum by Design. We begin with a “big idea,” which is a slight variation from Curriculum by Design, then use their framework to continue inquiry. A team of teachers and artists, with students, contribute facts, fantasy, and integration of the experience. It culminates in a shared public experience, with parents, staff, and the public invited. These particular projects occur over several months, and creativity abounds.

Q. How have you involved parents, teachers, and community resources in dance at Lusher? Please give a few examples of past activities and methods used to do so.

A. Some of our ways include advocacy to promote all the arts as living, ongoing experiences [and] as education for the “whole child”; dance performances where parents are asked to help; all school trips; newsletter information on upcoming events; dance performances at different times and places for lots of parents; a 70-member dance company; large, multigrade projects... .

Community resources include field tripping, lots of public performances (touring with the kids). Parents become part of the experiences through providing work/contact time with kids in classroom and during performances. Also, we have guest speakers (some parents) and so much more.

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Mary Perkerson
Mary Perkerson has been teaching visual art in public schools since 1998. Before that, she was a substitute teacher for a year in all grade levels and classrooms. She also taught private visual art classes for five years in an art studio. At the time this program was videotaped, she was a visual art specialist at the arts-based Harmony Leland Elementary School.

Q. Please give a few examples of art projects you have taught teachers to do in their own classrooms.

A. I have shown classroom teachers basic projects such as crayon resist and engraving, mixing colors for a color wheel, and using chalk and oil pastels. I have also introduced classroom teachers to clay and mural painting. Teachers take the techniques shown to them and develop creative projects to support the curriculum being taught in their rooms.

Q. Describe Art Hour at Harmony Leland. How does it fit within the rest of the curriculum? Is it integrated with other subjects being taught? What is the purpose of Art Hour?

A. Art Hour was designed to give classroom teachers the opportunity to be creative with their students and, at the same time, give students the opportunity to do large art projects together. Each week, one hour of class time is devoted specifically to the arts: drawing, painting, clay, music, drama, etc. The arts specialist helps the classroom teacher to develop creative projects and activities that inspire and introduce key concepts in science, social studies, writing, reading, and math. The arts make the learning process tangible and concrete for students to grasp concepts more easily.

Q. How much time does a typical teacher spend working with you over the course of a year? How do you assess whether a teacher has mastered the material and is applying it?

A. Teachers spend a few minutes each week with me discussing their upcoming projects when I visit their classrooms prior to Art Hour to see if I can be of any assistance. I also hold monthly workshops to give classroom teachers new techniques to use in their classes. Classroom teachers also come to me for help during the day to ask questions concerning upcoming projects.

Q. Do you seek ideas from classroom teachers on how they would like to use your skills?

A. Yes, I do ask teachers how I could be integrating their curriculum into the art classroom. I want my art lessons to be relevant and meaningful to the student.

Q. In an ideal world, how would you like to see your role grow? What other skills, learning, and services would you like to provide at Harmony Leland?

A. I would like the arts specialist to be more involved in planning with classroom teachers to create a more cohesive learning environment for the student.

Q. If a teacher is uncomfortable or unsure about working with you, how do you gain support and trust? How do you build support within the school’s administration?

A. Classroom teachers will support and trust the arts specialist when they see the results of learning with their students through the integration of the arts in the curriculum. It sometimes takes time, but it will happen. I build support and trust with administration by supporting their teachers. The more I can help them out, the smoother the arts will flow throughout the school.

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