Montana Teacher Leaders in the Arts: Cohort 4 on the Rise
By Monica Grable
Arts Education Director
August marked the beginning of another yearlong course of study for a dozen innovative and inspiring Montana educators recently invited to join the fourth cohort of the Montana Teacher Leaders in the Arts (MTLA) program.
A partnership between the Office of Public Instruction and the Montana Arts Council, MTLA has been in existence since 2015. The program was originally designed for professional learning directed toward the development of coaches, mentors and advocates who would go on to support fellow teachers, schools and administrators with the adoption of the newly-updated Montana Arts Standards. MTLA has since evolved to focus on arts integration through a culturally sensitive lens and, more generally, on advocacy for the arts in education.
Since beginning, three previous cohorts (36 educators in total) have graduated from MTLA and gone on to become advocates for arts education in Montana, leading integrated lessons, workshops and in-service programs to the benefit of schools across the state. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) provided funds to begin the program initially and has continued to support MTLA since its inception, recognizing the need for this type of peer-to-peer support in a state as geographically vast as Montana.
Following a year’s hiatus during the 2018-19 school year as the agencies awaited word of continued grant funding, the Office of Public Instruction was notified by the National Endowment for the Arts in late spring that it would be the recipient of a new two-year grant to support the program. The second year of grant funding will enable MAC and OPI to bring together all four MTLA cohorts as a combined resource team available to provide professional development in arts education statewide.
The launch pad for the current cohort was a six-day Summer Institute, held Aug. 4-10 on the campus of Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, a superb environment for cross-curricular study, Indian Education for All (IEFA) integration, and hands-on learning across arts disciplines.
Returning MTLAs led workshops throughout the week along with guest teaching artists from around the region, including photographer David Spear, poets Sean Hill and Lowell Jaeger, violinist Tim Fain, and artists Tracy Linder, Corky Clairmont, Linda King and Jenny Bevill. Wes Hines served as media and technology specialist and Frank Finley as Native arts specialist for the duration of the Summer Institute.
Throughout the weeklong institute, participants began developing proposals for the fieldwork they will conduct over the course of the school year, supported by mini-grants provided through the program.
The 12 teachers selected to participate as members of Cohort 4 are: Katie Coyle of the Ennis Institute of the Art; Ciara Everett of Clinton School; Marianne Filloux of Monforton School; Heidi Foreman of Helena Capital High School; April Fox of Turner Public Schools; Katie Knight of Helena School District; Laurie Lutgen of Cayuse Prairie School; Keely Perkins of Miles City Schools; Marlene Schumann of Sacajawea Middle School; Becca Stevens of Chief Joseph Middle School; Chrissie Tharp of Sunburst School District; and Julynn Wilderson of Cohesion Dance Project in Helena.
Following monthly online meetings and webinars, Cohort 4 will convene again in April to share the results of their fieldwork with their peers at the April Capstone Weekend in Livingston.
Photos: Members of Cohort 4 pictured with Arts Integration and Teaching for Creativity workshop presenter Jenny Bevill (holding heart on a stick). (Photos by Monica Grable), Cohort 4 participants Keely Perkins and Katie Knight work on monoprints in Corky Clairmont’s studio during MTLA Summer Institute.