Last weekend, I attended the 75th annual Illinois Art Education Association (IAEA) conference. I presented on the topic of "K-8 Curriculum Organization," but also attended several inspirational presentations and workshops. I feel recharged after spending a few days with other art educators. I reconnected with friends from across the state, and I was reminded how thankful I am for this community.
The first presentation I attended was to celebrate the latest completion of the Collaborating for Excellence CFE modules. I had the opportunity to facilitate a module on LGBTQIA+ Inclusion. This session was incredible to see how the CFE professional development program has grown over time, and how it's impacted art educators and their students.
Paula Liz was one of the conference keynote speakers. She spoke on her own K-12 art experience and how this impacted her work as an art educator. Her experiences led to a passion for creating lessons that empowered students to promote change. Through her work, she collaborated to create the Anti-Racist Art Teacher.
I later attended a session on Multicultural Art Education for Improving Mental Health of Immigrant Children. I've always been an advocate for multicultural art education. I was interested in how this teaching philosophy could further benefit students. As Rockford continues to become more diverse, I hope to celebrate students who immigrate from other countries. I believe diversity is our strength, and I want to support the unique needs of students from all backgrounds.
My "K-8 Curriculum Organization" presentation was late in the afternoon, so I was not expecting many to stick around and attend. I was pleasantly surprised when approximately 40 art educators listened to me present, and followed with a great discussion and Q&A. Elementary and K-8 art educators have such vastly different schedules and working conditions. We all feel stretched to the max, and organization is key to running a successful art program.
I stressed that there should be no judgment of how other teachers organized their curriculum. I've taught in 4 very different school settings: elementary, junior high, K-8, public, charter, rural, urban, etc. With every move, I've had to adjust my curriculum to meet the unique needs of my students. What I may have deemed frivolous or not rigorous enough in one setting, may have later turned out to be useful in another. We all do what's best for our students, and I wanted to remind everyone of that before I began.
I think everyone felt more comfortable after this introduction. Many asked questions and shared details about their own struggles with creating and organizing curriculum. We had a great discussion and I met so many passionate art educators! I've linked my presentation here for those who may be interested.
Also, you can view my curriculum visual planners below:
Another highlight of the conference was attending a silkscreen printing workshop with Chicago-based artist, Jay Ryan, also known as The Bird Machine. I first learned of Ryan's work from my WIU professor, Susan Czechowski. We created prints inspired by the artist's use of rainbow roll and rubylith printing film. I've been a fan of his work ever since. I had the opportunity to attend one of his printing workshops at another IAEA conference years ago, when my mother also attended. We each bought prints that I have in my home today.
IAEA has played such a big part in my development as an art educator. I have a lot of fond memories over the years, and the 2023 conference was no exception. Thank you to all of the art educators who presented, spoke, and shared their experiences. I feel recharged and I can't wait for the next conference!
Actress Sally Field claimed, “A mother is not someone you lean on. A mother is someone who makes leaning unnecessary.” I once told my mom that Field’s character on the television program, Brothers & Sisters, reminded me of her. Field portrayed Nora Walker, a strong and loving mother, greatly concerned in the lives of her children. My mom embodied all of these qualities and so many more.
She continues to inspire me every single day. She had so many passions in life. Family and friends were always her top priority. Of course she absolutely loved teaching art, and all of her other interests found their way into the classroom. Her love for travel inspired new projects to share with students each year. She was constantly learning something new to become a better teacher.
One of our last conversations included sharing different project ideas. She helped me brainstorm for an upcoming lesson, while writing down plans for her own students. I remember her great enthusiasm that day. Her passion for teaching never wavered. I hope to one day become the kind of teacher both of my parents inspired.
I wish I could share all of the joys and struggles of teaching art with my mom. Fortunately, I have a great family and supportive friends to lean on, but I am also comforted in knowing my mom instilled so much of herself in me, that leaning may indeed be unnecessary.
Below are images of my mom's artwork:
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