On-the-fly adaptation helped this Dexter educator earn Art Teacher of the Year honors

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DEXTER, MI – After getting a job in advertising and working at an art center in Southern California, Jane Montero received an unexpected request from her senior art director to teach her class of college-aged students.

Montero had no formal teaching experience, but she created her own mission there and fell in love with the profession, which prompted her to enroll at the University of Southern California, where she studied. obtained a master’s degree in education.

More than three decades later, Montero is at Dexter, teaching art at Creekside Intermediate School, where she had to adapt again on the fly to teach digitally when in-person classes were closed last year for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Montero got to work putting together home art kits so her students could always have a hands-on creative experience, and she created two-minute videos on the elements of art and design principles that students can see from home.

“They really learned a lot of independence,” Montero said on Thursday, Sept. 16, as she watched her sixth-grade class digital mosaics in an in-person classroom. “Sometimes I’m not available to help them if they were doing things at home. More than that, what they really learned was to stand up for themselves.

Montero’s adaptability and flexibility earned him the Middle Level Art Educator of the Year award from the Michigan Art Education Association. The honor goes to exemplary arts educators who raise awareness of the importance of quality arts education and set standards for quality arts education.

With the start of the new school year with in-person classes, the balance between digital learning and hands-on activities, like sculpting and painting, is more evident than ever. For example, students bring their Chromebooks to the desks of their peers to show them their progress and offer suggestions.

Ask Montero students what types of learning they prefer, and you will get an “both”.

“One thing I loved about digital was that even though we weren’t there, she gave us these kits with a bunch of supplies,” said sixth-grader Alexis Gramling, who has her daughter. own art channel on YouTube. “I like the fact that we don’t just do one thing all day. We get a nice variety of things and you do a bunch of different projects that you wouldn’t normally do.

Montero has been teaching art to fifth and sixth graders at Creekside since 2001. She has also been the chair of the school’s special areas department since 2008.

Works of art by his students over the years adorn the walls of Creekside, including clay tiles from a class of 2011 depicting ancient civilizations. Large murals, co-created by his classes, can be found throughout the main entrance to the building.

Montero’s goal, now that the students are back in the classroom, is to teach students the life skills that graphic design offers, while giving them time to immerse themselves in their own creative pursuits. Students in her class work on several homework assignments, taking a few minutes to draw freely towards the end of class.

“It’s just about allowing children to have a choice and to create,” said Montero. “If they wanted to paint rather than oil pastel, in the past I might have said, ‘No, no, it’s just paint.’ This year, I am about to give more choices.

“It’s really to feel safe expressing their creative ideas, because if you’re afraid of anything you’re less likely to. If they can feel comfortable in the art room and comfortable with each other, it will help them express themselves better.

Throughout the 2020-21 school year, Montero shared his ideas about teaching virtually at several virtual state conferences, including being one of the two keynote speakers at the second Professional Development Conference of been online art teachers K12.

Montero is a 2019 graduate of the National Art Education Association School for Art Leaders and is Elementary Division President and Regional Liaison Officer for MAEA. She has been teaching since 1989, with the first 12 years of her career taking place in her home state of California.

Throughout her career, Montero said she derives the most satisfaction from seeing art foster creativity and expression in her students.

“I like it when they feel good about their job and show their homeroom teacher and mom and dad,” said Montero, taking a break from teaching students how to create digital mosaics in Google Draw . “This, for me, fosters a creative mind.”

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