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Art21 Educators 2011-2012: Samantha Melvin and Kim Timmons

This week is the sixth installment of Art21 Educators introductions, featuring each of the eight pairs of educators who were chosen to participate in the third year of the program. Last week we featured Todd Elkin and Teri Hu from Fremont, CA. This week we are excited to introduce Samantha Melvin and Kim Timmons.

Samantha Melvin and Kim Timmons live and work in Burnet, Texas. Samantha has been a teacher for seven years, teaching for three years in her current position at RJ Richey Elementary, a campus for fourth and fifth grades.  Kim has been teaching for eleven years, and currently teaches at Burnet High School.  Burnet CISD is a Title 1, medium-sized, rural district northwest of Austin. Kim describes the unique nature of her working relationship with Samantha: “We are the only ones supporting the art programs in our school district . . . [we] only have each other for local support.”  Samantha elaborates, “I am the only art teacher at the elementary level and see only the 4th and 5th graders at my campus . . . All the students feed into the same middle and high school. Kim and I meet regularly to discuss our lessons, share ideas, and advocate for our students and our programs at the district, and community level.”

Samantha teaches four art classes per week serving the 390 students at her school. Two of the classes, offered to the majority of the 4th and 5th grade students, integrate music into the curriculum, as Samantha also holds the position of music teacher. Samantha teaches a third course – piloted during the 2010-11 school year – to 4th grade ESL students using Art, Language Arts, and Technology. The fourth course, called E-Time, is designed for high-achieving 5th graders and integrates Art, Language Arts, Social Studies, and Technology.

As part of the application, we asked Samantha to describe her familiarity with Art21 educational resources. Her response reflects her cross-disciplinary teaching approach, as well as her goal to create a collaborative studio atmosphere for her students:

. . .The resources have been valuable for showing how artists are inspired by the world around them – integrating concepts from history, sociology, science, technology, environmental studies, language and literacy, just as much as they refer to art history, human behavior, values and beliefs. Do-Ho Suh, a featured artist, discusses how his works point out that no one person can create a work on his or her own – there is a collaborative after-effect even if the work is completed by one person. I think his words remind us that by sharing our ideas with others, we grow – through others’ experiences just as much as we do through our own.  That studio approach is what I strive for in my art classroom.

Samantha received grant support from Crayola and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) for an interdisciplinary unit, helping her purchase LCD Microscopes and jeweler’s loupes to observe specimens in kits and on slides.  She elaborates, “Our theme for the year is ‘Oh, Say Can You See?’ . . . as we have integrated patriotic music in our focus this year as well, we are fully exploring the use of language, symbolism, and our observations in the arts.” Samantha’s video showcases some of the artwork that her students created for this project:

In the upcoming year, Samantha hopes to bring contemporary art into her classroom, as she works on new projects that incorporate ideas about fitness and the environment. She elaborates:

I am looking forward to seeing how this program will help me pull from contemporary art to inspire works out of a variety of media, connecting also to the humanities and science and social studies concepts for their respective grade levels. The Art21 Educators program will push me to explore more ideas and artists that we, in our small town, may not see or hear about at all! As my principal says, it is about “broadening their horizons!”

Kim Timmons teaches art for all grade levels at Burnet High School, and her courses include Art 1-4, Advanced Placement Art, and Graphic Art. Originally from Houston, Texas, she describes her efforts to advocate for art education programs in Burnet since she first moved to the community:

When I moved to Burnet to raise my children I realized that this beautiful countryside did not have any art programs for the elementary through middle school. At the time the only art taught was at the high school.  I went to the Superintendent of the Burnet schools and told him that I would give myself to them at an Aid’s salary for two years to prove to them that they needed art in their schools. He took me up on my offer and I worked for two years at the Burnet Elementary. Along with teaching, I carried out all of the duties of an Aid as well, helping with reading and math classes.

Kim goes on to say that the improvements in her school were significant and she successfully made her point for the arts. In her video biography, Kim introduces us to her classroom at Burnet High School, where she has now been teaching for four years.

Kim describes her ambition to make the arts accessible to her students, hoping to make a “big difference in a little town.” She elaborates,  “Being one of only two art teachers with this commitment to the entire district . . . I want to be able to be everything that I need to be, so we do not lose any students who could potentially be good artists or involved with the arts in some way, because they were never exposed to it.” Last summer, Kim took courses in advanced placement teacher training at the University of Texas, and gained new inspiration for her teaching practice. She states, “We did projects and came away with a notebook that was filled with ideas and ways to get kids involved. I have worn out my notebook using it this year.”

Kim first learned about Art21 Educators from Samantha, and says, “My hope is that I can experience Art21’s programs now and it will keep me inspired!”  For the upcoming year, she describes her goals for teaching and how her participation in Art21 Educators will help her reach them:

This program’s accountability would help me set good habits and help me get out of ruts that can be created in the public schools. My goals are to stay on the leading edge of art education, so I can encourage students that have never been exposed to contemporary art of any form to learn and grow at a rapid pace . . . I cannot express the deep feelings I have as a teacher to watch a student that has been exposed to art for the first time . . . and the rapid growth, maturity, and promise that comes from this introduction.

We are excited to welcome Samantha and Kim to Art21 Educators! We look forward to hearing more about their teaching experiences, community, and goals for their classrooms.

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