Woodstock Elementary Principal Kim Montalbano shared this with us:
“Pam works with community organizations whenever possible to gain opportunities for her students to be recognized…she educates students using cross-curricular activities as well as teaching about history, cultures, artists, and Georgia artists. She developed ‘The Art of Giving,’ which helps students see how their art can touch the lives of others. This has included creating artwork sent to soldiers, making American flags for local and New York fire departments representing the support of those lost on 9/11, a school- and town-wide art ‘blitz’ supporting Remember Alex Brown (RAB) Don’t Text and Drive reminders, and collecting coins for ‘Let’s Make a Change,’ during which money was collected and sent to Africa to support orphans in their education.
On a large scale, she has also coordinated two ‘photographed from the sky’ projects using students as the artwork, outlining the façade of the Main Street Woodstock Elementary building and pinwheels to outline Pinwheels for Peace and paw prints on the campus.”
We talked with Morgan about the impact of arts education, encouraging creative thinking, and the flexibility effective teaching requires.
The arts are everywhere!! You can’t pick up a cell phone, ‘designer’ vacuum or anything else for that matter these days without art and design being a huge part of it! Art teaches students to be creative thinkers, whether they are going into an art related profession or not. I want to better prepare my students for their futures, so I have designed a yearlong themed curriculum titled “Building Careers,” which has my 1200+ students looking at how creativity influences other careers besides just being a studio artist, which is extremely important. Art allows you to see things differently, think creatively and engage in expression. The arts allow students who may not be strong academically to have a place to shine!
What impact has arts education had on the lives of your students?
My students authentically enjoy their art class time, not to mention what a self-esteem booster art is. It’s so wonderful to see their faces light up when they see their art exhibited in our hall displays or art exhibits. Art class teaches my students the elements and principles of design, but more importantly it teaches them empathy, kindness, collaboration and how they can each make a difference in this world. As an individual person, their piece is an important part of the whole.
Through your experience as an educator, what is the number-one lesson you’ve learned about students?
All children want to be loved, appreciated and seen, and in my class they are able to experience this firsthand.
What advice would you offer to a first-year teacher – or a student interested in teaching?
Flexibility is the KEY to effective teaching. Teaching is challenging and sometimes exhausting, but teaching is exciting and exhilarating too. It is our job to encourage our kids, each and every one of them, which can be daunting when you teach 175 students a day, but embracing their joy and love of learning allows us all to have fun. Our job is to advocate for quality arts education since everyone is influenced and affected by the arts. I would also encourage a new teacher to be part of our professional organization (GAEA) and reach out to other educators for inspiration and support.
What’s the last moment that caused you to stop and remember why you loved teaching?
Oh, that’s an easy one. Looking into the faces of the sweet children that I teach daily is my greatest joy.