Showcasing Arts in PVSchools, a Conversation with Maureen Minnick
Monday, September 13, 2021
Reading time: 4 minutes
National Arts in Education Week, September 12-18, is a celebration recognizing the transformative power of the arts in education. To showcase arts in PVSchools, we met up with Maureen Minnick, director of Fine Arts, to learn more about fine and performing arts right here in paradise.
Maureen, fine arts can encompass a lot, but if you had to narrow it down to just a short sentence about what Fine Arts is in PVSchools, what would you say? When it comes to the arts, there is truly something for everyone in PVSchools, and art by nature is a universal language. All are welcome!
Though National Arts in Education is celebrated nationally for one week each September, it’s celebrated in our schools year-round. Absolutely. All of our schools host incredible events every year – art walks, musicals, holiday concerts, feeder festivals, dance shows, etc. What I love the most is the collaboration across disciplines and, in some cases, across schools that frequently take place. The orchestra doing a combined concert with choir, producing a musical with the strings, choir, and drama teachers, a high school hosting a middle school at a matinee performance. It’s really incredible the opportunities our students have inside and outside of the school day. It’s a place of belonging and identity that our students need. What’s not to celebrate?
You mentioned belonging, important for students, but also crucial for teachers. What veteran advice do you have to first-year teachers looking to be part of the Fine Arts community? That’s a great question. My advice is don’t go it alone. You have to rely on your neighbor teacher, your Instructional Division Leader, your Professional Learning Community, your administrative team. Personally, it’s hard for me to ask for help, so I don’t often phrase my advice that way to others. What I like to say is: Use your resources. All of these people around you have a wealth of knowledge and experience - they are your resources. Find ways to collaborate with them. That’s when growth starts to happen.
This reminds me of what was drilled into me as a young opera student from my vocal coaches, “You don’t get to improvise until you’ve perfected what’s written on the page.” As a musician, you want to use artistic license to enhance a song and make it your own, but that comes later. First, you hammer those basics until you can do it asleep and backward, and then you have permission to veer from the course. I’d say this is a great metaphor for first-year teachers and really just great advice for anyone mastering a skill. Stick to the plans, stick to the training, and after that first year is behind you, you’ll start to make your own mark.
Maureen, that is amazing insight and on-point advice for new teachers. We’re curious, though, what happens behind the scenes. You mention the collaboration with others, but what’s a typical day like for an arts teacher? I am amazed that our elementary arts teachers are writing plans every day for many different grade levels. The standards are different at each grade, the expectations, maturity, fine motor skills, etc. You can’t plan one activity and do it six times with six other groups! Our middle school teachers juggle many different fine arts courses; a piano class, a guitar class; maybe they also teach drama and choir. High school teachers might be teaching intro kids next to intermediate kids and be planning two totally different activities to meet the needs of each group. This doesn’t even take into account the work that goes into before or after-school programs. It’s a very, very busy job. But so fulfilling!
Students are also fulfilled by participating in the arts, wouldn’t you say? Talk about the development benefits for children. Oh, I could talk about this all day. Let me tell you about the benefits I gained from participating in choir and drama and years of guitar, piano, and acting lessons from when I was about five years old. Resilience. Do you know how many competitions you enter and you don’t win? You have to hold yourself with grace and get back at it again the next day. How about Perseverance? The act of practicing something over and over again until you can’t stand it any longer, but then it all pays off when you can finally perform with the confidence you didn’t even realize you had inside of you. And you enjoyed it! Not to mention the friendships and self-assuredness our students develop. Our students learn the skills of looking someone in the eye, justifying their choices, seeking approval while also accepting criticism, and in the end, being so proud of what they bring to the table. There’s pride, confidence, and joy all rolled into that.
We can’t wait to see that pride and dedication! Will we see a resurgence of Fine Arts events in 2022? Yes! And aren’t we all so ready? We absolutely will be providing ways that, as a district, we can celebrate together and show off the hard work of our teachers and the talents of their students. We are in the very early planning stages, so stay tuned!
Can’t wait! What about your dedication to the arts? Obviously, it’s your career, but what about personally? I gave my whole childhood to music. It paid for college; I got to travel, and I learned lots of life skills. But after I earned my degree, I kind of looked around and thought, what else do I have to offer the world that isn’t just about singing? So, I went on a journey to find that and have since spent my career in education. Music gave me so much more than music! The role I have now allows me to support the processes of our teachers and cultivate an environment where all kids can experience the joys of arts for arts sake, but also the joys of togetherness, belonging, and community, which are just as important. I am very passionate about passing down the traditions and the values that I learned from the arts to the next generation. The skills they learn will stay with them forever. How amazing is that?
It sounds like you found the right path on that “journey of excellence.” I definitely did. People are complex though; what else makes you tick? I’m a passionate person with simple needs, and my favorite escape and most treasured pastime are the National Parks. If I weren’t working in Fine Arts, I would be a ranger giving fireside talks in Glacier National Park, bringing the love of nature to others! When I’m really not sure about what life holds, I go camping with my husband and daughter. It all makes sense again after that.