Monticello art teacher Elizabeth Bassett will be spending part of her summer participating in the National Gallery of Art’s 2021 Summer Institute for Educators entitled, “The Power of Art: Pathways to Critical Thinking and Social-Emotional Learning.”
“I am really excited about this,” said Mrs. Bassett, who teaches both middle school and high school art. “It’s a week-long, virtual, intensive discussion, production and critique of famous art.”
The process to attend this special program began with an application where educators wrote an essay describing why this experience would benefit their teaching and what they believe they would bring back to their community.
“As a department instructional lead with a background in visual arts education, the opportunity to excite young people about the process of using their life experiences to communicate their emotions seems a natural fit,” wrote Mrs. Bassett in her application. “Through hardships and successes, both personally and in the realm of public education, I find that relying on experiences and self-expression brings meaningful visual arts to life.”
Mrs. Bassett has found meaning in art from an early age.
“I’ve always had a love for art,” she said. “I realized very early on that I enjoyed the process of starting from nothing and creating something, whether the purpose was to create or to make someone happy. I just love to do it.”
Mrs. Bassett has been teaching art for 23 years, 14 of them here in Monticello. She hopes this experience can help her to help her students find their voice and share their thoughts.
“We want students to have opinions and they need to have an outlet for their thoughts,” Mrs. Basset said.
The focus of the summer institute resonates with her.
“There are no limits to what you can do because it didn’t exist before you make it,” she said. “It’s important for students to validate their ideas and they should be rewarded for it. It’s all very personal and some kids are timid about sharing. It’s courageous for them to use their voices.”
And she is grateful for the support she gets from her department and community.
“I’m so incredibly proud of the curriculum and work being done by the Visual Arts department,” said Mrs. Bassett. “We get amazing support from our administrators, our board of education and our community.”
Mrs. Bassett wrote in her application essay that she hopes to learn how to inspire not only her students, but her colleagues and the school community to embrace the social-emotional benefits of the arts.
“Healing and coping skills will need to be incorporated into classroom curriculums as we emerge from the pandemic back into the new reality of academic life,” she said. “The nation has experienced so many challenging moral and ethical circumstances and processing these experiences with students will be an inspirational movement within our teaching strategies.”
Those who were chosen to participate in the summer institute will come from all regions of the United States as well as from around the world for a dynamic interactive experience. Each day will feature guest researchers discussing one facet of the conference’s theme and modeling strategies in interactive webinar sessions. The participants will break out into smaller groups to dive deep into areas of interest including trauma-informed teaching with art and overviews of the gallery’s collection.
“I am hopeful that the programming offered by the National Gallery will help educators address serious, sensitive topics with authenticity and sensitivity,” wrote Mrs. Barrett. “I am thrilled by the possibilities this opportunity could inspire through the exploration of our visual history to make history with students. I see this as an amazing catalyst to advance the programming offered in Monticello Central School District and rejuvenate the connections our school and community share.”
The Summer Institute for Educators runs from July 12 through 16.