Announcing the New Teachers for Year Four of Art21 Educators

Art21 Educators is both an intimate network of teachers and a year-long professional development initiative focused on leveraging Art21’s films and curricular resources to enhance teaching practice. The program brings together teachers from across the country representing a wide range of subject areas and grade levels. Over the course of a year together we develop our knowledge of contemporary art, artists and ideas, and to use this knowledge to support dynamic teaching and learning in the classroom.

As we embark on our fourth year of the program, we are excited to introduce our exceptional new group of educators. Hailing from St. Louis, MO; Minneapolis, MN; Carlinville, IL; Murfreesboro, TN; New York, NY; Seattle, WA; Cambridge, MA; and Ontario, Canada, these teachers will meet for the first time this July for a seven-day institute in New York City, and will then continue working together virtually throughout the academic year.

Congratulations to the 2012-2013 cohort!

To get started, we’d like to introduce Shannah Burton and Linda Churchwell-Varga:

The New City School is an independent elementary school in St. Louis, Missouri serving grades K-8. This year, their Studio Art teacher Shannah Burton and veteran Language Arts/Social Studies teacher Linda Churchwell-Varga decided to team up and apply for the Art21 Educators program.

What struck us about Shannah’s application was her commitment to broadening the definitions of art for her students and making connections to diverse and socially relevant models for artistic practice. Shannah says,

“Art history in elementary art education is often limited to Picasso, Van Gogh, Kandinsky, etc. I want my girls and my young artists of color to be able to see themselves reflected in the faces of the artists we study. I want them to be inspired by authentic questions about our world that contemporary artists are taking on right now. I want to be able to engage my students in art that is of their time. In teaching contemporary art I intend to promote:

Diversity and multiculturalism
Relevant social constructions
Models of how artists work in their profession
Community art galleries and museums
Creativity and critical thinking
Innovative uses of technology in art”

On top of that, Shannah’s students obviously love her and what they can do in her art room:


Shannah’s partner Linda has been a Language Arts/Social Studies teacher for over 20 years, 15 of them at New City School. Linda told us about her interest in connecting literature and visual art through symbolism:

“My goal is to continue working with students to move beyond a literal understanding of what they read, visually and linguistically, to enhance their reading comprehension through a better understanding of symbolism. My desire is for them to become better readers and writers, who understand, appreciate more and are able to write with a greater level of depth. In pursuit of this goal, I would like to learn more about art in general, contemporary art specifically. Much of what we choose to read in sixth grade deliberately includes an array of diverse characters. In what I know of contemporary art, it seems to me that the diversity it reflects, in both artists and themes, complements our curriculum.”

Linda also told us about the culture of the New City School and why she loves to teach there:


We are looking forward to meeting Linda and Shannah this summer and hearing more about their classrooms, teaching experiences, and ideas on art. Please join Art21 in welcoming them to Art21 Educators and check back during the next seven weeks as we present the rest of the new group!

* This post was written with Dana Helwick, Art21 Educators Intern.