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Educational Services Division
Art Teachers Do Art!
There has been a decline in arts programs in Santa Cruz schools over the last couple of decades which makes it tempting to focus on what isn’t happening, rather than the high quality arts teaching which is still happening in several schools throughout the county. Santa Cruz is a county which attracts artists of all types and fortunately for our students, many of those artists are also credentialed teachers. However, the limited number of arts programs in schools leads many arts teachers to feel isolated with little (or no) peer interaction. Every teacher needs community with which to exchange ideas, to discuss curriculum, to further their own learning as well as their students’ and, not least, to have a support system. This realization prompted the COE to sponsor and coordinate three very unique workshops in fall, 2011, focused on building community among arts specialists county-wide.
Over the last decade, arts teachers in the Santa Cruz City Schools district have coordinated their own professional development, coming together once a month to articulate curriculum and work in arts learning communities. The COE worked with the Santa Cruz City School district to expand the scope of this model to include other school districts countywide. Murry Schekman, Assistant Superintendent at the Pajaro Valley Unified School District, gave the green light to the arts teachers at PVUSD to join the county-wide effort as an alternative to site-based data teams.
The first session began with a “getting to know you” activity where the arts teachers gathered in groups of their specific arts discipline. The visual arts group was the largest (although veteran art teacher Susan Megorden remarked that it was much smaller than what it would have been 20 years ago!).
The music group had 10 participants (about 90% representation of the county music specialists) and the theater and dance group numbered 8. The atmosphere was electric and carried both a sense of reunion and curiosity. Teachers were looking around the room with wide grins to see who else was helping keep the arts alive in Santa Cruz County schools.
The music teachers, led by Christy Latham, were delighted to have an opportunity to meet other music teachers and share not only projects that had worked well, but begin to explore some resources that individual teachers had found useful.
Cathy Warner, who led the performing arts group, was thrilled to see that all the teachers had come prepared with a theatre or dance activity and they also had an opportunity to begin to share resources related to their disciplines.
In an adjoining classroom Susan Megorden taught a metal relief project which she regularly teaches to her middle school students.
In the Soquel High music room, Christy Latham (Santa Cruz High instrumental teacher) opened the session with a short warm up and facilitated a sharing of two musical activities from Zena Urquhart (Santa Cruz High vocal music teacher) and Mark Bidelman (vocal teacher at Soquel High)
Meanwhile over at Harbor High, Cathy Warner was leading a group who enthusiastically shared performance arts activities with each other.
The final session in December was a continuation of the work done in November with more presentations by Martha McNulty (Harbor High School visual art teacher). She taught a lesson on student travelogues and Veronique Marks (Art Chair at Aptos High School) demonstrated a creative use of stencils for students’ self-portraits.
Michael Watkins, County Superintendent of Schools, who attended the final session, met with teachers, gave a short presentation on his commitment to arts education, and answered questions from the group. He reiterated that the COE would support arts education wherever/whenever possible.
The evaluations from the teachers confirmed the popularity of the series. Teachers described the sessions as ‘inspiring’ and ‘invigorating’ with an overwhelming ‘yes’ to continuing county-wide professional development like this in 2012. The COE already has plans to meet with districts early in the year to strategize how to maintain this momentum and reinforce the collaboration among arts educators county-wide.