Location: Northeast Pennsylvania
College: Kutztown State and Marywood College
Currently Teaching: K-5 at Wallenpaupack South Elementary
Fun Fact: The picture above is not a portrait of Debbie. She is, in fact, NOT a dragon.
Her classroom in a sentence: Thank goodness we are in the art room, where weird is wonderful!
Debbie Pulst is sitting in Northeast Pennsylvania, running a VERY active Twitter account that combines information, humor, links, and resources to make for a very good follow. Her interview is probably even better than her Twitter feed, touching on her art, her pets, her inspirations, her use of technology, and most importantly, the transition to a choice-based classroom. Read on:
What are your strengths as an artist? What role does your personal art making play in both your classroom teaching and in your own life?
I believe my strength as an artist lies in my curiosity factor with all different art forms. Picture me with the soundtrack of Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas playing “What’s this, What’s this?” There is always something new and exciting to try my creative hand at. Discovering Pinterest has made my head explode on more than one occasion! I see this as the best thing to bring to my art students also steering my curriculum to cover as broad a base as possible.
What do you do outside of school to keep yourself happy and healthy?
I try to keep myself connected to art, creating personally keeps me going whether that is sewing, painting, printing, crocheting, drawing, throwing on the wheel, felting or just being creative with my house or landscape. Eating and napping are just as important as my creative pursuits to keeping me happy and healthy! My family (and this includes my pets!) add a tremendous amount of joy to my life also.
What things do you do to continue to grow as a teacher? Where do you see your classroom going in the future?
I still take courses, even though I reached my contracted 60 over Master’s long ago. I use Twitter (@DcpArtED), Pinterest, Plurk, etc. to build my PLN and love the doors to new ideas to try and explore both in teaching and in art. I LOVE the Artsonia site and cherish what it brings to my classroom. Right now I’m particularly fond of the Artist Statements as it has brought a structure and ease to writing in the art room that I struggled with incorporating in the past.
The biggest change for me has been discovering the Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) movement online. This article by Nan E. Hathaway, http://teachingforartisticbehavior.org/wp-content/uploads/ArtEd_May13_Hathaway.pdf really opened my eyes to see the why about creating a student-driven curriculum. Hopefully in 5 years from now my classroom will be fully choice based.
What are the ideas, or who are the people, that influence you as a teacher? Where do you look for inspiration?
Inspiration does come from many different places and for years I was pretty isolated and dependent on my own ideas or the ideas I would find in School Arts, Arts and Activities or Scholastic Art. A year or two ago I was sharing a photocopied article from one of these journals about Formative Assessments by Jessica Balsley with my colleagues and one in particular, Mike Soskil said to me, “ look up the site at the bottom of the page and see what’s there.” This of course led me to her Art of Education blog that I now subscribe to and it is, “ridiculously relevant” information for Art Teachers. I loved the online art conference on Jan. 25, 2014!
Tricia Fuglestad with her Fugleblog has also been influential. Her personal path into technology in the art room and her generous sharing of her journey has my 1st Ipad coming to my art room later this month thanks to a PTO fundraiser that was spearheaded by one of my Artsonia Site volunteer parents.
Katherine M. Douglas and her sharing on Twitter about her book Engaging Learners Through Artmaking, Choice-Based Art Education in the Classroom led me to jump off that cliff and give up the control to my 5th graders so far. I am working on all my grade levels becoming student driven.
My online PLN has been growing by leaps and bounds (as a matter of fact I got stopped at following 2,000 people on Twitter until I can boost my number of followers #maddening). There are so many good source people out there, we just need to get out there and explore. Of course if it wasn’t for Mike Soskil showing me where to look I still would be very isolated!
What sort of look does your classroom have?
To the untrained eye my art room is a pig-pen, but I do know where everything is (except for that neon orange 25 ft. extention cord that went missing last week…) I like to think of it as organized chaos! There is never a bare wall in the art room. I usually set up the room with some sort of theme or decoration in August and it eventually gets covered by student work as the year progresses.
What are your strengths as a teacher? What do you do best? On the flip side, what are you trying to do better
Now I feel like I’m filling out a resume! :) I am flexible, brave, caring and creative. It’s funny, probably the thing I’ve done best is to create interesting, fail-proof art lessons that were creative and covered a heap of standards and students, parents, teachers, and administrators all thought they were the best. NOW, what I am trying to do better is to let all that go and have a student-driven curriculum in order for the students to grow creatively instead of following my marvelous directions!
What do you want students to take away from your class?
I used to think it was all about experiencing the varied projects and finding what they love and hate and want to take with them or leave behind. Wait, I guess I still think that, except I want the varied projects to come from THEIR inner artist–not from MY inner artist.
What traits, habits, and skills do you value most in your students? Why?
Perseverance, I always tell them they are called great “works” of art for a reason. Creativity, of course, and a great sense of humor!
How important is art history in your classroom? What role does it play in your planning and teaching?
I started on my after bachelor’s credits years ago with the DBAE push, so yes I still inject it in where I can. I also springboard off of it to have students work with other artists’ ideas, such as found object assemblage like Louise Nevelson or only black lines, primary colors plus black and white like Piet Mondrian. I tell my students that the main job of an artist is to create something new and interesting that no one has ever seen before. I think there is validity in showing them how artists who came before us did just that.
For you, what determines your success as a teacher? How do you determine success for your students?
Did we go home happy and learned something new? Then it’s all good.