Art teachers connect with students, and each other, through BVU workshop

Friday, September 24, 2021
Mary Mello-Nee, Buena Vista University Professor of Art, helped organize a day-long seminar for 16 art educators and two BVU students on campus in Storm Lake.

Sixteen art educators joined a pair of Buena Vista University students in learning and practicing concepts surrounding social and emotional learning as part of a day-long seminar on campus hosted by Mary Mello-Nee, BVU Professor of Art.

The session was spearheaded by Erin Price, a Storm Lake native and a Ph.D. student who teaches in the University of Missouri Honors College and School of Education.

“I’ve been consulting with Mary regarding therapeutic arts wellness as she works to develop the pre-art therapy program.” says Price, a former K-12 art teacher. “I am not an art therapist, but research and my experiences teaching in public schools and Juvenile Justice Centers have shown me many ways in which art education can support students dealing with trauma.”

Price spoke with educators about Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and how it can be nurtured and articulated in the classroom. Getting educators together to work, play, and discuss educational needs and methods represented a way to gear-up as the school year commences.

“It is so wonderful having educators back on campus collaborating like this,” says Mello-Nee, who earned a grant from the BVU Board of Trustees’ new President’s Opportunity Grant initiative to underwrite the effort.

“It’s nice being able to gather with other art teachers to gain inspiration and ideas from peers while expanding your horizons with Mary and Erin and others in the field,” says Greg Skeen, who teaches art in grades 6-12 in the IKM-Manning Community School District.

At the center of the workshop were concepts surrounding Social Emotional Learning, the process through which people acquire and apply knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions, and achieve personal and collective goals and more.

“Professional development is hard to find for art teachers, so I’m very happy about this opportunity at BVU,” says Liz Lyons, an art teacher serving both Tri-Center and the Underwood school districts. “I really enjoyed our discussion about social and emotional learning and how we can use those concepts to advance learning and understanding in our classrooms.”

BVU senior Kyra Martin, a K-12 art education and special education double-major from Holstein, spent the day speaking with and working with art educators, colleagues she’ll soon join in the workforce.

“It was a very beneficial and open environment,” says Martin, who will student-teach in 2022. “I liked having the opportunity to talk about education with art teachers, some of them newer to the field and some of them veterans.”

Martin was especially keen on Price’s counsel involving the deepening of connections with students served.

“She (Price) is adamant about forming relationships and developing skills you can shape outside the classroom,” Martin says. “I also learned how that by critiquing a student, it allows the student to become more receptive and helps teach them to see these instances as a growing experience. It translates beyond the classroom to other areas of their lives.”

“We sometimes plug away at content, and we forget to connect,” Price concludes. “After the upheaval of the past year-and-a-half, students and teachers are under the weight of so many additional stressors. It is particularly important that students have that time and space to process their own interests, ideas, and concerns through art education; to feel connected and to practice so many of the skills which help them to develop into well-adjusted adults. Educators attuned to and confident to support such growth are vitally important toward this end.”