The Hero Teacher Project’s Purpose #2: Equity

The Hero Teacher Project’s Purpose #2: Bridging the Gap of Inequity

Purpose #2 is to visit teachers in each state to find out what is making teaching so difficult that teachers are resigning. What is actually working in schools in each state and what are teachers’ challenges? What do TEACHERS think is needed for students to succeed in school? I aim to collect answers all of these questions with 51 teachers’ insight in order to bring equity to schools.

Not all schools are the same. Many urban and rural schools have a huge amount of needs and are under resourced. The teachers at these schools feel the need to bridge the resource divide with superhuman efforts just to be able to run a functioning class. Why are we ok with this? My hope is that someday teachers won’t HAVE to be HEROES just to teach on a daily basis.


My Interview and Sketch of 2nd Year Social Studies Teacher at my school, McDonough Middle School: Maxwell Wade

I work with some excellent teachers right in my own school, McDonough Middle School. So, to keep the excitement in the fundraising campaign I give you more teacher interviews and sketches.

Teacher interview and sketch from McDonough Middle school

HTP Kickstarter got our first $1000!!

Here we go!! 1st $1,209 down!

Please share the HTP Kickstarter campaign link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/heroteacherproject/the-hero-teacher-project/

Only 24 days left make our goal!


Jason Gilmore, LindaLuz Carillo, and McDonough Art Students In the CT NBC NEWS!!

Watch the NBC CT news cast on McDonough’s Mural work with LindaLuz Carillo by clicking on the image below.

Click on the image above to go to video


It is National Arts in Education Week, but Hartford Public Schools is working to bolster art programs year-round. One way they are doing that is through a new Artist in Residency program, which pairs students with a local artist working in the city.

The program aims to embrace art and celebrate diversity.

In downtown Harford, public art brightens urban spaces. A mural off of Main Street is getting finished up by local artist Lindaluz Carrillo.

“Right here we’re looking at Juan Flint, he is an amazing photographer, Puerto Rican photographer,” Carrillo said. “I feel really honored and excited to be a part of creating this.”

Her work sparks inspiration just across town, where bright murals add pops of color to the cafeteria at McDonough Middle School. That project is the brainchild of students, created last spring through the Artist in Residency Program.

“Collaborations with local artists or just working artists is good, just to get the mind creatively stimulated and like also build confidence,” Carrillo said.

The pilot program pairs a local artist of color with a teacher in art, music, or theatre and their students. Carrillo teamed up with art teacher Jason Gilmore, creating a new opportunity for hundreds of kids at McDonough.

“It was a lot of free expression for the kids,” Gilmore said. “We really didn’t put any huge parameters on what the imagery would be.”

For student artists Jasmin Pagan and Angely Srolon, it was a chance to grow artistically.

“Something I learned was to not be afraid to create things and do things on my own,” Srolon said.

“I feel very appreciated because just seeing it all like here and everyone gets to see, it feels like you’re that person everyone can know about,” Pagan added.

The students are not only expressing themselves through art, but embracing diversity. The project’s theme celebrates different cultures through food.

“I like to celebrate differences, differences in people, differences in everything. And I felt like that’s what this taught me,” Srolon said.

The items depicted are from different cultures.

“Grilled cheese, pineapple of course, and watermelon, and a Japanese sweet treat, dragon dango!” Gilmore explained.

The theme: coming together over food.

“At McDonough, we are blending a lot of different cultures in our school. People are coming from Brazil, they’re coming from Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, actually have a student from Togo, Africa,” Gilmore said.

The art sends a message.

“One family of lots of flavors,” Gilmore said.

It’s relayed in the three primary languages heard in school halls: English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

“Somos una familia de muchos sabores,” one piece of art reads.

School administrators say initiatives like Artist in Residency are crucial, especially since the pandemic took a toll on arts education.

“A lot of our arts programs really took a hit,” Tracy Avicolli, director of Arts and Wellness for Hartford Public Schools, said. “So having this program connecting local teaching artists with our current certified teachers has helped to really reboot and build enthusiasm.”

It is why the school district teamed up with Hartford Performs for this pilot program.

“A lot of times students don’t have access to or don’t know about the great artists in their community,” Rie Poirier-Campbell, executive director of Hartford Performs, said. “Hartford has so many wonderful artists in the area, and we just need to put them together with young people and with teachers.”

Because the program was successful this spring, it is now expanding to four middle schools: beautifying Hartford, inside and out.

“I think it’s important for that particular age group, especially like middle school and younger, to just be able to see what are the possibilities that, you know, we could do as artists,” Carrillo said. “I think naturally, kids are very talented.”

And the chance to create touches the students on many levels.

“There’s been a lot of things I’ve gone through at my age,” Srolon said. “I feel like whenever I draw or whenever I’m doing something, I kind of feel free. Like it’s just like an escape for me.”

McDonough Middle School now offers a mural tour showcasing all of the student art.


The Hero Teacher Project KICKSTARTER Fundraising Campaign Page is LIVE!!!

The Hero Teacher Project Kickstarter Page

The way the Kickstarter Campaign works is we have 30 days to raise the amount: $30,000. If we raise $29,999, we get nothing. So, I am asking that you share out the HTP Kickstarter Project page link and social media posts as much as possible over the next 30 days.

It’s been a long road to get to this point but it’s time to move forward on 

The Hero Teacher Project!!

Thank you for your continued support!


Susan Rosato’s Values

Watch me draw Susan’s value study while she speaks with passion about what teachers need in public school. The voice over was from an interview I did with her in Feb 2022. On July 25th, 2022 my family and I go to meet and work with Susan in VT!! The First official HTP Visit! Stay tuned for updates while we’re on the trip!


Exit Ticket: Who was your favorite teacher of all time?

The Hero Teacher Project seeks to gather stories from teachers, one in each state that show what they do to make schools work.
How has a teacher helped you?

A New Visit to Vermont 2021 Teacher of the Year, Susan Rosato

On July 25th the Hero Teacher Project travels begin! We’re going north from CT to Colchester, VT to meet High School English Learner Teacher, Susan Rosato.

Susan is running a summer camp for English Learners in grades 6-12 she serves at Colchester High School. I’ll actually get to see her in action during the summer! That was a nice surprise. I’m scheduled to talk with people from her community, see her school and classroom, meet her family, and sit down and chat and paint some sketches of her.

Paul Cezanne said, “Painting from nature is not copying the object; it is realizing one’s sensations.”

Paul was right. What’s better? A painting of a photo of a landscape or a representation in paint of how the artist feels after hiking up a mountain to paint that majestic mountain view they worked so hard to reach?

Hint: Always go for art with feeling and deals with the majestic.

This is what The Hero Teacher Project is: Putting myself in a teacher’s environment in order to effectively tell their story.

Susan’s story is about someone who was born to be a teacher. She always wanted to be one. Watch this endearing story of Susan’s days as a kindergarten STUDENT where she shows her Kindergarten teacher just who is The TEACHER!

My family and I will be hanging out with Susan and her family for five days!!

You’ll be able to follow the entire experience on the HTP social media channels and here on the JGilmoreArt Blog.

Please spread the word about the Hero Teacher Project. Encourage your friends and family to join the mailing list to follow us on our 1st HTP journey from July 25th-July 29th!


Welcome to the Hero Teacher Project Newsletter Issue #1 !!

Takeru Nagayoshi 2020 Massachusetts Teacher of the year portrait

Welcome Aboard!!! Our journey is about to begin!

The Hero Teacher Project is Jason Gilmore’s art project to create 51 painted portraits of 1 Hero Teacher from each state including DC. As every artist knows drawing from life is the best way to capture a person’s true story. So, my wife, Lindsay and I decided to take our 3 kids, Elan, Arion, and Seren on a trip across this great nation to meet these outstanding educators. Now, after nearly 3 years of preparation we are taking our first journey to meet a teacher in front of an audience!

On July 25th 2022 we will travel to Vermont to meet Susan Rosato the 2021 VT Teacher of the Year! Read more about Susan and watch a clip from an interview I did with her back in February 2022 in the 2nd article in this issue of the HTP Newsletter.

This is the beginning!

We will be raising the funds on Kickstarter.com. In August 2022 we’ll raise the 1st $25,000 on the launch of the campaign. There will be 30 days to raise the 1st $25,000. If we come up short we don’t get any of the funds so, we’ll have to be vigilant. BUT I know we can do it! This $25,000 will help us visit teachers on the Eastern Seaboard.

We’ll keep visiting states near CT until we raise the $100,000 we need to get on the road to GO and meet all the teachers in the US in person. Of course you, the HTP supporter will be along for the ride.

I know we can meet all of our goals because I know you love teachers!

1st Issue of the Hero Teacher Project Newsletter

You know the value of teachers being with our kids in the classroom.

I bet that somewhere in your life, like mine there was a teacher that had a great impact on your development as a human being. Everyone has a favorite teacher. They’re that teacher that made you feel welcome, wanted to hear what you had to say, and was there for you. That’s what teachers do and we’ll be celebrating them for it all throughout the HTP journey.

You may be asking what can I do now to help HTP get off the ground?

The Answer: Spread the word.

Share the newsletter by email or on social media.

Share the HTP Web page and Facebook page.

Help me build the HTP community and answer our 1st Exit Ticket.

I’m so excited to have you on our journey with us!

Let’s get on the road, Make Art, and celebrate the American Public School Teacher!


The Full 40 Min Interview with Takeru Nagayoshi 2020 MA Teacher of the Year

The very 1st Hero Teacher Project Interview. So many words of wisdom coming from TK here. We hit all the main issues in Public Education; What is working and what are our areas of need. For example, ” When we over emphasize grades, when we over emphasize test scores; I think what’s lost is learning and self-development.” – TK Just one of many pearls from Takeru. Enjoy!


The Mural Intervention Program Part 3

We did it!!! We created 6 murals during a pandemic!! It’s hard enough usually to do such a thing in normal times. However, our McDonough Bears created a group of fine works of public art to beautify their school despite numerous challenges. In the end, the students that attended class online due to COVID-19 designed the murals, I copied their drawings on a given theme onto a canvas, then the kids that were in school during the spring painted in 4 of the 6 murals that we created by the on-line students. What team work!!

When I returned to school after receiving my Covid vaccination in April, I had 4 classes. Each class was in a cohort in one classroom. All students received a personal art kit to use in class. There were no community-used art supplies. This was a blessing for the situation. I showed up everyday with buckets of water and other materials and each class completed the painting of each mural design. I started the Spring courses with a black line mural design drawn on Tyvek Paper for each class to fill in with paint. The murals were like large coloring pages which all students in each cohort fought to take their turn to paint.

The mural station was a fantastic thing to have in the class. It took us all spring, but the kids worked hard and were focused. The end result was 6 new murals that were installed throughout the school. What a boost to the look and feel of the ancient building!

The 1st McDonough Mural Tour

To celebrate the kids’ accomplishment we created a McDonough Mural tour. Three 6th grade girls volunteered to be tour docents. They each introduced 2 of the new murals, and all introduced the mural we created in 2019. Our mural tourists were the school’s principal and vice principal, Marjorie Rice and William Conroy, the HPS Director of Arts and Wellness, Tracy Avicolli, and two representatives from UCONN, Marcy Jarzebek and Shawn Kornegay. You can watch the video and take the McDonough Mural tour (video coming Soon).

Accolades from UCONN

The Dean of the Naeg School of Education at UCONN made a congratulatory video for our McDonough Artists. It was fantastic that he took the time to share his kind and supportive words for our budding muralists. Watch it!

Finally, I wanted to hear from my students about how they felt about the mural process. I wanted know what they thought about being able to participate in this communal, creative project even from their own homes. So, I created a survey for them to evaluate the mural program at the end of the second quarter in January 2021. Here are the results:

6th Grade

8th Grade

I’d say we did pretty well given the conditions. Teaching in person IS far better than virtual teaching. HOWEVER, it is VERY true that necessity is the mother of invention. I needed to change in order to find success. Indeed, we did find success. Creating portable murals is not something I would have considered before COVID teaching. Holding online discussions to develop a mural theme and create images turned out to be a helpful way to communicate. I will definitely use these methods in-person going forward.

Who knows, maybe other schools would love a mural makeover. Now I feel confident that I could aid a school looking to build the culture of expression and creativity in their buildings even from 1000’s of miles away. I don’t know where this is going to go, but McDonough Middle School is definitely looking and feeling very different compared to the fall of 2020.


Thank you very much to the Rogers Innovative Educator Grant from the Neag School Education at the University of Connecticut! Your giving has brought a lot of joy to some kids who need as much support as we can give them. You made a difference in an entire community’s life.

Thank you to the McDonough Middle School staff and administration for helping me develop our Bear’s creative culture during a very trying time.

Thank you to Dupont who donated three five foot by 75ft rolls of Tyvek Paper that we painted all of the murals on. Without this donation these murals would not have been possible. You have given me more than just a few rolls of paper.

Thank you to Hartford Public Schools for helping to bring me the tools and support I needed to pull this feat of visual arts off for our kids and families at McDonough Middle School.

Thank you to my amazing family! Elan, Arion, Seren and Lindsay, You all gladly pitched in to help others. There’s nothing more worthwhile to do with your time. I’m so proud of you all.

Finally, thank you to my Mom for always chipping in with all types of help. You make art happen.


The Mural Intervention Program: Part 1 – It Began with a Little Help from Everyone.

Last year I received the Rogers Innovative Educator Grant from the Neag School Education at the University of Connecticut. The plan was to implement a mural program at the school where I teach art, McDonough Middle School of Hartford Public Schools in Hartford, CT. But plans are just ideas on paper and paper is easily altered.

I was supposed to work with small groups of kids during a daily enrichment period to create murals on the walls of the school. We were going to monitor their attitudes toward school and see if the community project may change how they feel towards school. By the end of the project my students would have developed new skills, new relationships, and a new found interest in art and/ or education.

However, the world has been changed by a vicious microorganism and the plan I laid out for the grant was not spared. Things had to change, A LOT!! I was afforded a waiver under the Americans with Disabilities Act to stay at home and teach remotely due to asthma. It helped that well over 200 students’ families from McDonough decided to keep our students home for safety.

In late August 2020 I began my class through Google Meets run out of my basement. I said OK! Fine! We’re still doing this! Our community murals will not be created with the community in-person but at a distance with an online community. So, rather than using the $5000 grant to buy lovely art supplies that would be used communally for years to come at McDonough I decided I would attempt a crazy thing. I would attempt to give Middle school age children their own set of permanent acrylic paints and other art supplies which will be used to make one piece of a mural per child. And guess what? I did just that!

It took awhile and our purchasing had many hurdles thanks to Covid’s low store supplies and ransomeware that attacked Hartford’s systems. However, by the beginning of December we were able to purchase paint, brushes, canvas papers, sketchbooks, color pencils, pencils, portion cups (for paint), and plastic boxes to make mural kits (thanks Mom!!) It took a few weeks but my wonderful family and I poured, placed, and pieced together 110 mural Art Kits!! Finally, it felt great to drop off the kits at McDonough for the Art Kit pick up day.

The McDonough office staff has been instrumental in distributing the kits for a last few weeks before the holiday break. Even the security guard was nice enough to bag and hand out the kits which included some last minute district purchased supplies. Ever since the first pick up day families have been happily coming out of their way to be handed an art kit at the school door in the middle of a pandemic.

Some McDonough staff and even Admin themselves dropped off kits to the kids’ homes directly that could not get to the school. It has actually turned out to be a large community effort already! I had no idea so many folks would still be involved even though the classes are remote.

I was fortunate to be chosen as the grant recipient. I was fortunate to be chosen as the on line art teacher. I am grateful for the people that are working to support the effort to bring art into our children’s homes. Success through adversity requires creative solutions as well as a whole community of people striving together to traverse the barrier. I feel we have already succeeded as a community. Art finds a way.

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