Schools and districts throughout Kentucky are implementing the newly adopted Kentucky Academic Standards for the Visual and Performing Arts this year.
To assist educators in the transition and in identifying best practices in the arts, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) created a cadre of regional arts specialists. Each of the nine specialists is a highly experienced teacher at the elementary, middle or high school level and is fully certified in either visual arts, music or dance that can be used as an arts resource for schools and districts.
On Dec. 2-3, the City of Berea/Tourism offered a two-day conference for the regional arts specialists, allowing them time to collaborate as they attended sessions focused on implementing the new standards in dance, media arts, music, theater, visual arts and Program Review. The specialists were joined by teachers and teaching artists from the Berea College Partners for Education Promise Neighborhood Initiative in Owsley, Jackson and Clay counties; and instructors for the Berea Festival of Learnshops. The Festival of Learnshops is held each July and offers a plethora of learning opportunities in the arts for educators as well as the general public.
Sessions for the conference were led by veteran professionals in arts education including Kyle Lee, coordinator of the visual and performing arts for KDE; Jane Dewey, director of arts education for the Danville Independent School District; and Sarah Evans, educational consultant for the Southeast/South-Central Educational Cooperative. In addition to discussing the new standards, participants were immersed in hands-on model lessons, actually creating pinch pots, playing in a drum circle, choreographing dances, improvising performances and using digital media to tell stories.
“Giving teachers the opportunity to come to workshops, you pick up those pieces [from the new standards] that we often miss and that it is often hard for classroom teachers to know how to do,” said Jon Oliver, regional arts specialist from Laurel County. “This is an opportunity to get hands-on activities that they can take back and implement on Monday morning in the classroom.
“According to Program Review, the arts is a schoolwide program. It’s supposed to be integrated throughout the school, so having regular classroom teachers that are not the arts specialist come, it builds their confidence to integrate the arts in the regular classroom.”
“I was fortunate enough to be raised in a family where music was an essential part of our culture, not just our Appalachian culture, but our family culture,” said Donnie Stevens, art and theater teacher from Clay County High School. “I think it’s really important for kids to understand the role that the arts play in all cultures. Being able to make those connections gets them thinking on a much deeper level.”
This conference brought together arts educators and teaching artists from all parts of the state, from urban and rural districts, large and small, allowing for a vibrant exchange of ideas and experiences. The regional arts specialists are Aaron Jones from Christian County, Gena Maley from Murray Independent, DuWayne Dale from Daviess County, Kim Soule from Warren County, Jon Oliver from Laurel County, Emily Forrester from Jefferson County, Rachael Burriss from Boone County, Lauren Case from Fayette County, and David Fonda from Montgomery County.