Project takes AIM at teacher support, retention through the arts

By University Communications
January 20, 2015
Tamara Brantmeier, director of the School of Art and Design at UW-Stout, talks with a student at an arts integration school in the Twin Cities area. UW-Stout officials visited arts schools while planning the Arts Integration Menomonie project.

Photo: Tamara Brantmeier talks with a student at an arts integration school.

During the next two years, University of Wisconsin-Stout will launch Arts Integration Menomonie to support teacher candidates and retain early career teachers in the Menomonie school district.

AIM is taking direct aim at infusing arts into the curricular and instructional tool belt of city kindergarten through third-grade teachers and in the art education and early childhood education teacher programs at UW-Stout.

In the process, AIM will provide extra training and support for young teachers.

UW-Stout will partner with the School District of the Menomonie Area and, potentially, the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts and other arts organizations beginning in 2015.

“Through thriving partnerships, we can make the most of each other’s strengths and thereby better serve our teachers and their students,” said Tami Weiss, director of the art education undergraduate program and assistant professor of art education at UW Stout.

AIM will train UW-Stout early childhood and art education majors as well as early career K-3 teachers how to teach through the prism of the arts — performing, visual and written — to increase overall student engagement.

Along with making the arts a more integral part of K-3 education, AIM’s goal also is to strengthen the quality of young elementary teachers and to help retain them. The attrition rate nationally for young teachers is about 50 percent during their first five years, Weiss said.

One of AIM’s defined initiatives is Co-teaching In and Through the Arts — CITA — involving student-teachers, teachers and teaching-artists from the community. Teachers in AIM will be able to work directly with teaching-artists to enhance instruction in music, dance, writing, visual art and other aspects of the arts.

Young teachers, those prepared to enter the field and those relatively new in the field, also will benefit from AIM through:

  • A summer institute, which will provide training on arts integration, co-teaching, and mindfulness
  • Increased opportunities for deeper applied learning and teaching in the schools and in the community
  • Additional training programs, as a continuation of the summer institute
  • Collaborative teaching opportunities between art education and early childhood education programs
  • Creating a support network for young teachers. “Teachers tend to work in silos, and our goal is to not have that happen,” Weiss said. “We hope to follow them at least into their first five years.”

Planning team visits arts schools

In developing AIM, Weiss and others from the planning team visited arts integration schools in five Midwestern states.

“We visited a few turnaround schools, as part of President Obama’s Turnaround Arts initiative, that had been identified as the nation’s lowest performing and poorly attended schools. Through integrated arts education programs, these schools’ students are now flourishing and excited to attend school,” Weiss said. “Teachers indicate improved confidence in delivering their curriculum in another mode through the arts.

“Our ‘dream’, now called project AIM, grew out of months of researching and envisioning the impact of arts integration on teacher education and student success,” Weiss said.

The planning team consisted of five representatives from UW-Stout: Weiss; Assistant Professor Melody Brennan; School of Art and Design Director Tamara Brantmeier; Instructional Specialist Allison Feller; and Coordinator of Field Experiences Tracy DeRusha.

Also on the planning team were Menomonie school district representatives Jeanne Styczinski, Tim Lutz and Peggy Larson; and community arts representatives Kris Winter and Elizabeth Wendt Gilbert. They will continue as executive board members for the AIM implementation project.

Officials excited about AIM

Joe Zydowsky, Menomonie school district superintendent, called the new program a “wonderful opportunity” to collaborate with UW-Stout and the community.

“With so many of the expectations for our schools currently being tied to state assessments in the core academic areas, AIM will help us continue providing the children in Menomonie with a well-rounded educational experience,” Zydowsky said.

Mary Hopkins-Best, dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences, also is excited about the community integration aspect of AIM and foresees it positively impacting students in several ways.

“Art education candidates will be prepared to integrate the arts across disciplines to enhance student learning and help students understand how fields of study are connected. They will also learn to develop relationships between schools and communities in ways that improve students’ learning and their lives,” Hopkins-Best said.

Through AIM, UW-Stout officials also hope to see an increase in the number of high school graduates choosing to major in early childhood education and art education.

The AIM project was made possible, in part, with funding from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation.