Collaboration among teachers is nothing new. Elementary, middle and high school teachers adopted a team-teaching model a long time ago and today’s teachers are apt to share ideas through a multitude of social media sites. While collaboration usually occurs within the grades, such as team-teaching third graders in the core areas, the “special” subjects typically stand alone with a music teacher focusing solely on lessons in music or the media teacher focusing on how to improve the school’s library and teaching youth about its components.
At Neuse Charter School, two truly “special” teachers combined their intense love for their given subjects to write a proposal that won them a fellowship with the N.C. Museum of Art at the end of last school year.
Sue Wilson, NCS’s elementary art teacher, and Angela Jenkins, NCS’s elementary technology teacher, collaborated to earn one of only six slots for a year-long fellowship with the museum. In fact, they were the only teaching team to be selected from Johnston County and from a charter school.
“The fellowship concentrates on art integration across curriculum,” said Wilson. “It has a specific focus on using art from the museum’s collection.”
Jill Taylor, N.C. Museum of Art coordinator of school and teacher programs, said this is the fellowship’s pilot year and that it was conceived during a two-year planning grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. She said the new fellowship identified teacher needs from previous grant programs.
“Namely professional development and collaboration,” said Taylor. “We based the program on successes and lessons learned from two previous programs.”
The current fellowship builds on the strengths of the Art of Collaboration and Big Picture Fellows. It allows teachers to work within a larger learning community and serve as ambassadors for the N.C. Museum of Art.
Wilson and Jenkins met with the other teams in mid-July for a three-day immersion workshop. As part of the workshop teachers viewed art and discussed how the social implications or messages in the artwork could translate into classroom discussions and activities.
“We used the concepts of environment and power to explore works of art from different cultures and time periods,” said Taylor. “Teachers also participated in a variety of hands-on art making activities and had time to plan potential projects for the upcoming school year.”
Jenkins and Wilson had worked together on projects at Neuse Charter School, so when the fellowship opportunity arose they knew right away they could make a good case for getting one.
The pair went through a rigorous process in order to win the fellowship. Both had to submit resumes, their plan for collaboration and in the end they had to conduct personal interviews with museum staff. Out of more than 50 applicants, they got the call.
Jenkins explained that both their curriculums align with core subjects. “Creating projects that integrate all areas help students retain subject matter,” she said. “The integration of art and technology into a student’s core curriculum also helps students with creative and critical thinking and assists teachers in other areas.”
Jenkins said she’s had students look forward to creating projects in her class because they’ve learned the content in another class “The students become more invested in their projects when they know that several teachers are looking at their project.”
What the students don’t realize is how many more teachers will now be viewing their work. As part of the fellowship, participants will collect student products for inclusion in an exhibit during the 2017-18 school year. Jenkins and Wilson are also required to create lesson plans and field trips to support the fellowship and participate and implement activities from the Visual Literacy Online Course; as well as design a portfolio with two original lesson plans that will be used during workshops.
Jenkins said that the fellowship gives them the opportunity to build relationships and network with other teachers from across the state
“The goal at the end of the year is to not only be able to integrate art into other subject matters, but to have a network of teachers that you can contact with questions,” Jenkins said.
While the two were officially selected in June, they had to wait for students and teachers to return to school in mid-August to begin setting their plan in motion.
“We will continue to integrate the arts within our curriculum and also help any teachers interested in arts integration to incorporate that in their classrooms,” said Wilson. “Art integration is a wonderful way to reach all learners and to get students thinking creatively and independently.”
While the program lasts a year, both NCS teachers know the benefits of being chosen will last much longer for both them and their students.
“The skills gained will last a lifetime for me and the students that I teach, “said Jenkins. “ I could never go back to teaching “just” technology.”