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hearing one of my many stories from past experiences, my students often inquire
with slight sarcasm and utter surprise, "WHY did you EVER become a
teacher?" Now whether that particular day delivered joy or
frustration, my response always conveyed genuine and sincere feelings ...
"Because something was absent from my life!"
fully comprehend the impact that my prior experiences have had on my teaching,
my graduate studies, and professional endeavors, please follow the chapters in
my Professional Diary.
the age of twelve and following my morning Catechism instruction, Saturday
afternoons were spent with two architects.
Uncle Charlie who owned and operated a heavy equipment business had
arranged for the ‘free’ construction and engineering instruction from two of
our town's prominent professionals so that I could gain experience.
With similar interests in my education, my father, Steve Barletto, acted
as headmaster during the home hours. Armed
with an electronic experiment/assembly kit and a plethora of books, Dad managed
to fill the remainder of my free time with tidbits of knowledge about Andrew
Ampere, Count Alessandro Volta, and the muses of Einstein.
His former position as a vocational/technical teacher and owner/operator
of an appliance service and repair business afforded him the opportunity to
spread his knowledge and interests to any receptive individual--the closest in
proximity being his
daughter. Nevertheless, these
unique experiences in repetitive tracings as well as observation exercises in
exploring the structure of bridges and buildings coupled with Mr. B’s
extensive electronic and mechanical tutelage provided me with knowledge,
experience, and a variety of career pathways from which to choose.
Upon completion of my high school education, I chose to pursue a double major in
Architectural and Construction Technology.
Though always a lover and explorer of art through numerous private
lessons and countless hours of fiddling with paper, pencils, paint, and clay, my
college days found me exploring the sciences rather than the humanities. To
enhance my mechanical drawing and perception of the environment, I elected to maintain a double minor in Art and Visual Communication Technology.
During the summer of my freshman and sophomore years, enrollment in an
internship class permitted young students to work with industry sponsors; I
elected to study with a contractor who was completing a project for Rockwell
International. My extensive experience and outgoing personality led to
an interview with the Plant Manager of this Fortune 500 company, and later, an offer of
a full-time engineering position with the benefit of complete reimbursement for
the remainder of an engineering degree.
I had ventured upon a rare opportunity for a nineteen-year-old female,
but realized that this prospect had evolved from my mentors' countless hours of
dedication coupled with my desire to learn.
I elected to accept the position, and began a career in the automotive and
asked to explain my experience prior to teaching as a creative writing
reflection, I had once written this
description of my steel-mill life:
dark, greasy belly of the giant, this bright-eyed engineering student evaluated
her current situation just as the CEO slammed his gavel deep into the mahogany
boards announcing the declining, financial health of the great beast.
The sound echoed through the steel rafters initiating a vibration in
every heart of the creature’s very soul.
Death to the industry, death to its servants, and death to another
American steel town. Yet the experiences shall live on ... in new
jobs, knowledge, convictions, and decisions of moving forward toward better
Six years after I
had elected to participate in the experience of a lifetime, my marked
for closure facility, and a dissolved marriage found my world torn and
shattered. Refusing to relocate to another Rockwell International
affiliate in Iowa and burdened with financial obligations, I elected to assume a
CADD position with Tasso Katselas, the architectural firm designing and building
the Pittsburgh International Airport. Working on-location and with some of the
industry’s most revered professionals, the thought that another job could or
would top any prior engineering experience simply did not exist in my mind, yet I found
myself engrossed in the technical field and LIFE, once again.
Art & Clowning Around
a whimsy, a response to a classified advertisement soon led this revived
entrepreneur to simultaneously promoting and maintaining a free-lance art career
in the graphic design business. While rushing
home from a twelve-hour workday during the hour-long airport commute and nearly
one year after the departure from the Rockwell position, I found myself beaming with delight
as vivid images of design possibilities for my second career interest filled my
imagination. Suddenly, I knew that
I needed to abandon my engineering dynasty of fourteen years, and make the
choice to pursue my artistic calling and talents!
twenty-six, I enrolled in the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program at Slippery
Rock University to pursue studio art (specializing in drawing, fibers,
and photography). Likewise, I resigned from my architectural position, and assumed the role of
server so that I could pursue a passionate dream.
after my enrollment, my new husband and I were breaking for lunch when I
journeyed to another booth to help a young child with the difficult task of
drawing a clown face. Upon
returning to our booth, my husband chuckled and said, “Have you given any
thought to becoming a teacher?” Following
my inquisitive look with raised eyebrows, he replied, “I was watching you with
that little girl and it seemed so natural.”
Neither of us pursued the topic much further, but later that afternoon,
an inadvertent response to a posting at a private art academy led to my teaching
‘Creative Art’ to K-8 students during an after school/Saturday program.
Never in my wildest dreams, would I imagine that a clown could change my entire
life ... I speak of the drawing, not my husband, of course!
Hoyt Institute of Fine Art, a facility at which I had received my childhood art
instruction, provided another magical experience for me.
The feeling was comfortable and right during the instruction of my
classes. One day the
image of a small plaque that another teacher had on her desk reinforced my
husband's prior observations … 2 Teach is 2 Touch a Life 4 Ever.
The revelation and realization that through teaching I could share my
knowledge and experiences with not only my colleagues, but also with young minds who
could further develop and build upon these thoughts, dreams, and aspirations
blossomed into my personal desire to make a difference just as my mentors had
previously done for me.
the event of saving one institute’s art program and meeting another’s
request for art education instruction, I learned that Westminster College
and Slippery Rock University had offered an exchange of courses for their
discovering this information, I immediately summoned a group of peers, contacted
the Deans of both programs, and re-established the need for the exchange to
happen once again. Westminster
College agreed to hire an Art Education instructor for the nine SRU students
(including myself) and the twelve Westminster students so that our cohort could complete the required Art
Education classes, student teaching requirements, and state certification process.
Grishkoff, an artist, educator, and another 'soon-to-be'
mentor of mine, fulfilled the task of instructing this eager group.
Using my father’s contacts in the education field and an eagerness to
see the revamped program succeed, I journeyed to many of the surrounding school districts
to help our new professor from California arrange for the Student Teaching
component. Dr. Julianne Agar, a
prominent Art Educator in the Pittsburgh area, provided each of us with the
opportunity to observe the noted ArtsPropel program in Pittsburgh’s inner-city
schools. Recognizing that few of us
had experienced educational environments outside of our rural communities, Dr. Agar’s
recommendations provided each of us with the exposure to not only an award-winning,
multicultural program in Art Education, but also to the inner-city educational
one year’s time and the persistence of a few eager individuals at Slippery
Rock University, Glenn managed to revive, revise, and administer the necessary
methods required of Pennsylvania’s Art Education teacher certification.
His unique situation in receiving Art Education instruction from noted
artists/educators throughout the world provided our group with many
opportunities to explore. Glenn’s
studies in Japan naturally influenced my research of the Japanese culture and art in
my studio creations with textiles, papermaking, and bookbinding. His demand for accurately planned lessons with descriptive
references and encouragement to implement interdisciplinary connections further
provided me with an incredible foundation for the final stage in my quest for
teacher certification. Coupled with
the influence of
Glenn’s love of teaching and creating art, I completed the student teaching
component in K-6 and 9-12 with insight, enthusiasm, and a fulfilled quest for the
missing element in my life.
employment with the Caesar Rodney School District resulted in August, 1994 with
the acceptance of a part-time Visual Art position at the Dover Air Force Base
Middle School. Images of my first
and only interview served as a continuous reminder of a new teacher's fears and
anxieties upon entering this field,
especially at the middle school level. Under
the assumption that the teaching position would fill an elementary vacancy and
excited to work with this particular age group, my enthusiasm beamed throughout
my conversation with the principal until he spoke those dreaded words: “You'll be teaching sixth, seventh and possibly, eighth grade students.”
My chin hit the ground with such force that I often still hear the
‘THUD!’ “Is that going to be
a problem for you?” he questioned upon recovering from the disturbing quake. In an effort to recover myself, I quickly replied, “Oh no
sir, it isn’t!” As I
walked to my car and for several days following my offer, acceptance, and new
academic year, I cried continuously asking myself, “How can I possibly teach this age level when
have been so strong in my convictions of avoiding those, evil teenage-years?” Signing my contract, I forced myself to make the best of my
new situation. Without any regrets, I began the first of many years in the
past experiences and the memories of my father’s relationship with his
students (to say that they loved him would be an understatement of the
admiration that each student held for him), I greeted each of my new children with a
smile and the promise of a wonderful experience.
Never regretting my initial assignment and politely refusing transfers to
other schools within the district, a misinterpretation of signs as I entered a
facility seven years ago has since solidified and fine-tuned my desire to make a
difference in a child’s life, or should I say, adolescent's life. Not
every teacher or individual can tolerate the metamorphosis that occurs during
the teenage years, but my immediate response and ability to adapt, overcome,
and/or modify a plan provided me with the necessary drive and
encouragement for success with in my classrooms.
Voicing a genuine concern for my students’ well being and creating an
inviting, yet productive environment came naturally. This ability further
permitted me to give back to my students the numerous years of kindness and
opportunity that I had once experienced from so many willing mentors.
Engineer Evolves, Again
years into my educational career, a part-time Technology Education position
arose at Dover Air Middle School. Knowing
of my experience in the engineering field and recognizing my ability/desire
to integrate various disciplines into my student’s art experience,
my principal inquired if I would be willing to interview for the position.
I realized that being assigned to this position would afford me the opportunity to share
my engineering experiences of long ago in this emerging field of Technology
labeled as ‘Shop’ … either Wood or
Metal, Technology Education evolved to encompass the vast world of career
exploration while building upon the inventions and innovations of past and
present societies to enhance our future endeavors.
No longer would students be required to construct birdhouses, napkin
holders, and the like, nor would they be asked to weld candleholders from scrap
sheet metal. A nationwide
initiative consisting of distinguished university professors, prominent industry
professionals, and respected government officials revisited the educational
strengths and weaknesses of American schools in Math, Science, and Technology.
Comparing their findings with the development of children abroad, many
were shocked into demanding that quality programs offering real-life
applications and assuring our future ability to be competitive in technical
fields be implemented, immediately!
‘shop’ had been a popular course during my high school experience, I failed
to support its existence in the public school setting as I had witnessed this desire
for the emergence of Technology Education during my early studies at Bowling
Green State University. I had also become aware of the importance to deliver productive
individuals capable of collaborative problem solving from my years within the
field of industry. Stating my emphasis for an authentic learning environment,
the necessity for interdisciplinary focus, and a willingness to acquire
additional State of Delaware certification, I assumed the role of Visual Art and
Technology Education teacher in August 1996, and have since maintained this
cross-curricular role at the Dover Air Force Base Middle School in Dover,
families of our middle school are unique to the educational setting, as I have
witnessed throughout my brief teaching experience.
A conglomerate of cultures, races, and religions coupled with the
uncertainty of military life plague our students' every waking moment; temporary
duty assignments and troop deployments miles from home can range from weeks and
months to years. Some of the
families have relocated 5 times or more before I am introduced to their children
in the sixth grade. However, their ability to
make friends in new places, deal with the pressures of military life, and
willingness to achieve high standards despite any given situation only increases
the admiration that I hold for these adolescent members of our society.
a teenager is difficult enough without tolerating additional environmental influences.
Nevertheless, our staff of fourteen teachers, two paraprofessionals, one
secretary, and one administrator provide for the
uniqueness of these military students. In
my seven years at the school, veteran teachers have willingly mentored special
skills in coping with our students to the new faculty members joining the Dover
Air educational community--prior to the completion of this portfolio, I was
honored to be asked to serve as one of the District's teacher mentors, and look
forward to providing an additional chapter to my career. Without this
additional insight to the military student’s underlying experiences,
handling any particular moment in the classroom, hallway, or school by an
individual ‘new’ to the environment could spawn negative outcomes.
Increased parent communication efforts coupled with administrative
evaluation plans to meet the evolving needs of each student and their family
makes for a pleasant educational experience for all.
with any educational setting, a variety of parental involvement situations, from
the over-zealous to the under-motivated individual, may be encountered.
However, the close-knit community that exists among base personnel has
undoubtedly influenced the environment at the Dover Air Force Base Middle
School. Though the membership in the formal parent-teacher organizations
may be less-than-desirable due to military obligations, nearly every parent remains 'involved' in their
child's educational experience through the variety of classroom and school-wide
activities. Their eagerness to help every student at the school succeed
has been an overwhelming observation of mine throughout my tenure, and by far, a
refreshing as well as comforting experience for a public school environment.
It Rains ... It Pours!
both the Visual Art and Technology Education teacher, the
maintenance that has been required for two of the District’s largest rooms has
proven eventful over the recent years.
The remodeling of the shop area into a state-of-the-art modular
Technology lab began some three years ago, and was completed, minus the storage
area, for the 2000-2001 academic year; base
funding, equipment removal, and coordination of contractors provided some delay,
but was not nearly as traumatic as the more recent, building-wide renovation of the roof.
The roof construction that began during the melting snows of winter and the monsoons
of spring ushered indoor rains in almost every room in our building.
Though a variety of supplies, numerous teaching materials, and student
artwork received water damage, learning to laugh with my students provided one
of the most memorable experiences of the worst advice ever given.
an afternoon deluge, frantic workers as if to perform a rendition of ‘London
Bridge’ held bright blue tarps above the heads of my sixth and seventh grade
students. Nestled in the very back
of the storage room and dodging streams of water, I worked quickly to recover
the water-soaked materials into manageable, pint-sized bunches to hand-off to
the single-file line of dry students that worked its way into the large art
room. Assuming that the first pile
reached its dry destination and the last member of the chain, a little voice
suddenly queried, “Where do you want us to put this stuff?”
In the weakest, yet most teachable moment of my life, I replied
“Anywhere on the tables,” and that is exactly what my students did in no
awaiting the opportunity to move into my newly remodeled tech room, all of my
instructional materials had been neatly stored on one side of the storage room; the visual
art resources were housed on the opposite side.
Though I cautiously removed the materials in an orderly manner working
one side and then the other, no longer would this segregation exist after my
profound reply to the little voice. Technology Education materials and supplies became the
neighbors of torn pieces of construction paper, dripping glue bottles, and
tangled yarn. My lesson files on
animation now included instructions on the proper procedure for sawing and
drilling wood stock, and the K’NEX boxes became home to wayward markers,
compasses, Popsicle sticks, and fuzzy pipe cleaners.
I had finally experienced the true art of an integrated curriculum thanks
to a child’s inquisitive request, my genuine response, and a monsoon!
have all since drip-dried, but often chuckle about that day when certain
situations arise -- usually when I cannot locate something of great need.
rooms have begun to seek their once organized state as I persist in rummaging
through the plethora of papers, both pristine and mutilated. With each
lift of a box top, the packed materials conjure memories in my mind of
experiences from, what appear to be, long-ago days, but much to my
surprise, this activity has
proven to be a healthy, and almost, desired necessity in the completion of my Master
of Instruction portfolio. The reflective process utilized with each grasp
of student work, teacher documentations, parental notes, and administrative
recommendations has permitted me to conduct a quite intensive exploration into
my past and present instructional processes from the almost surreal position of
a bystander gazing through window. Each day offers a healthy look into
'how' I can become a better teacher!
Rooms, Each with a View
to the completion of the new Technology Education Laboratory with its modular
showcase environment and state-of-the-art technological gadgets, I was fortunate
to be able to conduct the Visual Art and Technology Education courses in one,
very large room with a splendid wall of windows. Though packed for storage
space, each and every tool, scrap of material, and additional instructional aid
had a specific and logical location. The Visual Art classroom provides for
a variety of instructional settings from accommodating large, group projects to
providing for private, individualized workspaces. Six moveable tables that
each seat four to six students may be arranged in various contorted or maze-like
arrangements, yet yield to the needs of both the student and teacher in their
freedom to move about the room efficiently.
centralized double sink with two, large wooden-block tables on either side
facilitate material/tool storage, delivery, and organization in addition to
orderly clean-up. Numerous chalkboards, bulletin boards, and showcases aid
in the delivery of the District curriculum, display of student work, and
communication of classroom rules, notices, and other pertinent
information. Students are made to 'feel' welcome in their use of the
classroom, and I eagerly encourage them to adopt and care for the space as if it
were their own. I stress that I wish to share my world with them, and want
them to look forward to their art and technology experiences. Generally,
the students model the behavior that I exhibit during class time if for no other
reason than to reciprocate my respect for them. I have since learned in my
Discipline and Classroom Management course that this display of respect
towards a teacher is the highest form of authority that an educator may achieve
within any given situation. It is known as reverent authority, and I am
truly blessed to have happened upon it so humbly, but extremely gracious that it
travels so easily between classroom environments. Likewise, I am comforted to have
learned techniques from Professor Michael McClay to keep it around in the
currently awaiting the completion of additional cabinetry and storage units, the
modular furniture in the Technology Education Lab provides an instructional
environment of business-like work areas for our eighth grade students who, in
turn, ooze admiration and respect for their fellow colleagues, or peers.
Truly, they do! The lab with its sunken instructional area, enclosed
materials processing area, tree-lined view of the St. Jones River, carpeted
floor, and warm, earthy colors welcomes students and visitors, alike. More
so, the environment encourages a certain, desired behavior and productivity
during the class hours. The semi-partitioned modular stations offer
privacy to each team of two students without complete separation from the entire
group. Furthermore, the computer-cubbies with divided storage areas permit
the students to maintain that organized, learning environment that I so strongly
encourage. Whether influenced by their surroundings or sincerely returning
my respect due to 'reverent authority,' 99.9 % of my students care for their
classroom environments willingly, and participate without reserve ... however, I
continually to seek new and innovative ways to improve my educational
had the opportunity to represent the middle schools of the Caesar Rodney School
District during two curriculum revision years in Visual Art and Technology
Education, I have had to evaluate and provide for our special situation in
enrollment as well as recognize the vast experiences for course selection at the
larger schools. While students
throughout the district receive identical instruction in the required core
subject areas, our reduced numbers in student population provides ever-changing
arrangements in the exploratory components (Visual and Performing
Arts, Technology Education, Family Living and Consumer Science, Guidance,
Library Skills, etc.).
need to provide for district-wide equality within these enhanced disciplines has
forced some programs to evolve as early period offerings at Dover Air while
assuring that all students receive each and every exploratory course.
The District's other middle schools offer these classes during
the regular school day with double the instructional time, but fail to permit
their students to experience every exploratory offering (i.e. If a student
chooses to take Band, they will not be scheduled for Visual Art, Family Living,
Technology Education, etc.). It is Dover Air’s reduced class size, supportive
administration, and imaginative as well as enthusiastic instructional staff that
provides our students, oftentimes, with a better learning environment and
experience, but some may believe that I am partial. Nevertheless, this
unique, Department of Defense environment continues to present our District and
school administration with quandaries in scheduling and providing equity
throughout curriculum delivery/instruction in the exploratory classes.
the Dover Air Force Base Middle School, students in the sixth and seventh grades
rotate through four exploratory course offerings: Visual Art, Performing Art,
Guidance, and Library Science. Each exploratory class of students travels
as a group from one exploratory to another every nine weeks. While these
students receive all other core area courses, they also participate in Physical
Education as well as Health. However, the eighth grade student's schedule
is quite different in that it includes several additional exploratory courses --
some of which are state-mandated. Family Living and Consumer Science and
Visual Art share two to three sections (depending upon enrollment) of students during one
semester, and then transfer the group to Keyboarding during the second semester
offering. Technology Education and Physical Education split two to three
sections (depending upon enrollment) of students during two periods of the school day each semester; these
students receive their Health instruction during the PE semester of
study. Therefore, to provide for instructional equality among all Caesar
Rodney students, the exploratory curriculum encompasses the 6-8 grade level, rather
than provide for specific content objectives at each grade level.
flexibility and my willingness to incorporate interdisciplinary studies has
encouraged growth within my instructional process. Linked to the
strategies obtained during my Master of Instruction course work incorporating
educational technology, or the use of computers within the instructional process
to improve student performance, I have witnessed an exponential growth in my
teaching repertoire. The process in which I plan, develop, instruct,
and assess my individual lessons and/or units has evolved with each
graduate course experience to now incorporate a broad range of student
needs. Likewise, I have learned to include additional materials to
pre-assess my students who demonstrate learning difficulties with respect to District and State
standards/objectives in not only my two fields of focus, Visual Art and
Technology Education, but also in each of the core curricular
concentrations. Planning for and adapting to 'special' circumstances
within each classroom proves my sincere dedication and respect to my students as
well as inspires them to tolerate and accommodate others.
that magical day my philosophy of education has remained strong and
passionate. Whether my subject areas of art and technology education are
studied as a means to perfect one's abilities or as an avenues to instill
appreciation and promote cultural awareness, my general philosophy of education
builds upon the principles of free knowledge and equity among our children
regardless of race, sex, creed, physical and/or mental abilities, or creative
capacity. All human beings are born with a creative spirit and critical
thinking capacity that permit us to express out thoughts and inhibitions.
As inquisitive children, we release these innate tensions without reservation or
concern for technique. However, we generally lose sight of the inventive
spirit for 'mark-making' as our thoughts become tainted by the beliefs of our
society, past experiences, and physical environments.
curricular experience should seek to create a unified bond between the innocence
of youth and the wisdom of maturity. Art and invention are the remnants of
these life experiences, and the creations of each child are as different and
dynamic as the individual who conceived it. With this thought, the
educational experience in the essential arts should enhance each student's
ability to produce ideas as well as educate each child in the appreciation of
aesthetic, cultural, and political relationships among other members of their
art is an avenue for communication, every child should be exposed to critical
thinking and reasoning skills to ensure the development of a sound, interactive
language that may expand as new experiences occur. This growth is
essential for permitting the student to function as an integral part of their
society. Lessons planning and delivery must provide for the development of
cooperative learning opportunities among all disciplines to establish a
connection between previously learned information and fresh concepts introduced
by our technological society.
mere process of creating should not be a means of reaching an end, but a
reflective journey providing for growth along the way. As responsible
members of this human race, a student's experiences, gestures, thoughts, tools,
and materials intermix to become a harmonious blend transmitting and provoking
emotions through creating and communicating. Therefore, the ideal
educational experience in the essential arts should encourage students to expand
their conception of not only their society and societies throughout the world,
but of themselves. For it is within the soul of the children of tomorrow
that history is born as each new idea or mark is contrived.
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