20 Sep Jon Cartu Divulges: Spotlight: Creative education and the arts
Virtual, hybrid or homeschooling — this fall brings out creativity in teachers
By Christina Stock
Creativity and the arts go hand in hand with science, math and technology. The Roswell Independent School District (RISD) integrated the arts in its curriculum and though the classes this fall will be different due to the pandemic, arts are still a big part of its programs. The teachers of RISD’s Elementary Arts Program, Arts Connect, whose home base is the Creative Learning Center, began their programs virtually in August, as was mandated by the state to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
The 2020-21 school year hybrid model for art education will be adapted for the students who rotate between in-person and online learning.
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Safe environment at school
Arts Connect Principal Abie Smith said that the emphasis is on teamwork, not only between the art teachers, but with the general education teachers. “None of this is a simple transition,” Smith said during a phone interview. “But that is because of us being very methodical to make a very safe environment. We have protocols in place to make sure it is safe, that’s our goal. I usually have one teacher scheduled and that teacher goes to every school. This year, for purposes of less contact, we have set up teams and they are going to four schools.”
These teacher teams will be at the different schools, K-5 students, and remain all day every other week, Smith said. This is to make sure that the general teachers have enough time to get their information to their students.
“It is definitely a partnership in meeting the needs of students, but as well, making sure that the students have academic time to work with their teachers and understanding their material,” Smith said.
“We can clean our carts before we go to another school. We are also making sure that we are doing our health screening. We are making certain that we’re safe to see the students the following day. We will be going to the schools to make sure to be providing lessons to the A group students and the B group students. As far as materials go, we are in process of ordering individual materials. These kits will be kept in bags that will be at school, and those will be in totes with A groups and B groups,” Smith said.
Arts Connect has been teaching remotely since August.
“We had a class last Thursday (Aug. 20) and we sent out Zoom links to the general teachers,” Smith said. “We have various links to programs that are listed on its (RISD) website. The school district has provided a lot of avenues for students to access fine arts as well as their general education classes.
“If we need to stay virtual, we’ll figure out a way to get some unique material out to students. We couldn’t do that without the support of Mr. (Mike) Gottlieb (RISD Superintendent) and the school district.
“We have guidances from New Mexico Public Education Department and they are following what the CDC is requiring; every district in the state of New Mexico has guidances,” Smith said. “Our primary goal is to do whatever we need to do to get the kids back to school. We are looking at over 4,100 kids.”
Smith said that parents can find more information, including the different platforms and even an RISD app, to go on the district’s website risd.k12.nm.us.
Jeanette Main, Berrendo Middle School art teacher, has been working on creative ideas for virtual classes, though she said in an interview that she does hope to see her students in class.
If classes are only virtual, Main said, she will have to work around it.
“With the projects I do in class, a lot of kids will not have those supplies at home,” she said. “I probably will have to pack those up and rethink my lessons.
“With the hybrid model, they were talking about moving the teachers from class to class, not the children. So there will be less chances of infections,” Main said.
Being creative comes easy for two teachers, or rather tutors. Alethea Hartwell and Jessica Haynes have been homeschooling and found that there has been an influx of parents interested in homeschooling for the first time.
Hartwell is known in the community for being an actress and director for Roswell Community Little Theatre. This season, Hartwell became president of RCLT’s board of directors. Hartwell is also a teacher and board member of Roswell’s Kids in Arts ProgramS (KAPS).
In an interview, Hartwell said that she has been homeschooling her two children from the beginning. Her daughter, she said, is 16 and is going to be in 11th grade and her son just turned 14 and is going into 9th grade.
Asked about her teaching method, Hartwell said, “Every homeschool is different. Some homeschools do online courses, I don’t. I have taught all the way through. I have done some video courses, my daughter did a course on the Constitution. It was on video and taught by a constitutional lawyer. Then we had a workbook we went through together.”
“My daughter has been taking some courses at the college, she’s getting dual-credit. Actually, that takes a load off of me, it is nice.”
Hartwell said that the theater classes for KAPS have been suspended until further notice. She said it is because the program does not have the online capabilities at this point.
“Obviously, my kids have always done the theater classes, which they always enjoyed. They’ve taken some drawing classes, art classes and music. There are things in the curriculum that I used when they were younger. If you use a curriculum that has it built in, it’s really super easy to incorporate,” she said.
Asked if she has any advice for parents who are looking to homeschool, Hartwell said, “I think parents should know, homeschooling is doable, even if you are working. I work part-time; as long as your kids are old enough and you can put them on a schedule and keep them on a schedule, you can be kind of in and out and still do a lot of things.”
Haynes’ style of homeschooling is hi-tech. Haynes is known as a professional actress, performing in films, advertisements and on stage with Way Way Off-Broadway Theatre Company (WWOB). Her husband Robin Haynes is working in the film industry.
In a phone interview, Haynes describes her way of homeschooling.
“I have always chosen to homeschool,” she said. “My oldest is going to be a first grader this year and when it was time for him to go to kindergarten, for us personally, here in Roswell, we felt there wasn’t a curriculum in any of the true school settings that were available for what we believed a kindergartener should have, which is a lot of play and a lot of time to move and be creative.
“For us, it really worked well because he has been able to be who he is as a person, as he learns, and he’s able to move and pay attention in that same way.
“In homeschooling, we don’t adhere a whole lot to grade levels, but it is technically third grade for him,” Haynes said. “Then I have my daughter who is 4 1/2, she’ll be 5 in October. She’ll be a preschooler this year, as well. She tends to be more social and she tends to be more physical, as well.
“Last year, we had her in pre-pre-K, she went to an individual’s home that teaches here in Roswell,” Haynes said. “We have planned to get her back into that private preschool this fall, but I will say, with COVID (-19), I have changed my mind on that.”
With Haynes and her husband having a creative background, homeschooling her children includes the arts naturally. They use art programs that are online, such as Preschool Prodigy she said. Her children were involved in WWOB’s educational theater programs.
“With COVID, we lost a lot, the arts — it is a lifestyle for us,” Haynes said.
Asked if she is concerned that her kids are not…