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!
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 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!
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.
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 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!
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:
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.
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.
Well, it was a looooong winter! To say that students and teachers alike were all ready for a break by April was an understatement. However, we did something that kept us going. We had a purpose and a project thanks to UConn. By April my classes had produced 6 collaboratively designed murals. I noticed early on that getting the kids the art kits was one thing. Having enough consistency between students to all produce fully painted artworks was quite another. We took those challenges of inconsistency and turned them into positive expression.
We did it all. We did basic drawing and painting lessons, appreciation of master artists’ work especially muralists work. We played games. We talked casually and we talked supportively with students that were struggling and wanted share. My students and I talked about identifying emotions and their corresponding colors. It helped to just talk sometimes. Confusing times require flexible teaching.
We definitely had our successes. Classes started with a wave of good positive energy when the art kits were distributed. January was productive. February was ok. March was just LOOOONG and that’s where it all changed. Our learning model (Virtual/ Hybrid/ In-person) changed 2 or 3 times in that time period. I would get on a groove with a group of students and then it was like HEY! Mr. Gilmore we need this cohort to change, Bye-Bye united classroom! Kids were in-person. Then they were virtual only. The switching was crazy. No Consistency!
Somewhere around December of January the kids seemed to relax into that schedule and we did well. Some of the themes for creating murals were: Celebrating Diversity, The culture of Food, Celebrating Our Cultures (Hartford/USA, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Brazil). Collaboratively, we produced the all of mural designs that you see here.
However, time passed. More kits were given out until the beginning of spring break. I got my vaccination in full by April 8th and I was then, back setting up to teach in-person AND Virtually. Spring Break has come and gone. I now get the opportunity to do some painting in-person with some kids! The 4 mural line drawings designs that are pictured below are now like huge coloring books.
I took the kids’ ideas and drawings and paintings and put them into one composition. My classes will get a print out of the design and add color as a sketch. Finally, we will have each class fill in the colors to fully paint the compositions.
It’s been great to get some kids painting on these kid designed murals. I am excited about that! This is what the mural intervention program should have been sans Covid. However, Covid has made me rethink art teaching and expand the process of community mural making to something I had not thought of before, me as the surrogate painter to what could be kids and community members from all across the country. There is a method that is scalable here and it is engaging!
We’re in the home stretch of Covid School, 8 weeks to go! These are going to be some PACKED 6 more weeks! TONS of good work yet to do. School is far different than when I left In-Person school back on March 13th, 2020. The art kits are still essential, even in-person. It makes my art life in pandemic school way easier. I know we will get the 4 murals painted in and installed. I am unsure what we can accomplish otherwise. However, I do know we can do hard things. I do know we will come away with beautiful creations that all students both in-person and virtual can feel proud about adding their part to a larger good for their community in difficult circumstances.
During January 2021 I completed the first mural sized portrait of a series that I have named the Hero Teacher Project. It is of Narciso Moquete the outstanding 4th grade teacher that was voted the 2019 Hartford Teacher of the Year. Narciso and I met shortly after he had won the award in the fall of the 2019-2020 school year. One year later, I held a virtual unveiling of the portrait that had about 70 people show up through Zoom to celebrate this amazing educator (unveiling video coming soon).
The unveiling was a complete rush!! Everyone was so happy to see their friend, relative, teacher, and hero immortalized. There was immense positivity around the accomplishments of this one man. This is how it should be; teachers being celebrated as the great humanitarians that they are. The heroes that I am celebrating are educators that have gone to great lengths to connect with their students and families in innovative ways.
The success of this one portrait has fostered good questions like: Why are there not enough teachers of color in our public schools? Why are there not enough art teachers to go around? Why are teachers spending their own money to fund this classrooms? I feel people want to have these conversations. The people of America LOVE teachers yet state and district policy/ funding do not always support teachers as they should. I feel it’s time to bring educators together in a positive light and redefine the American Teacher as a Hero.
We believe that teachers are the backbone of education. To elevate their love and labor through the magic of art, the Hero Teacher Project celebrates public school teachers by painting larger-than-life sized portraits of an inspiring teacher from each of the 50 states, plus DC. The paintings not only recognize the contributions of our nation’s leading educators, but also highlight those from historically underrepresented and unsung backgrounds, such as teachers of color and those who pioneer in the arts. Upon completion of this project, we will invite all 51 teachers and members of the public to Washington DC for an unveiling and celebration of their teaching excellence and of public education.
Teachers are amazing people that can be whatever their students, families, and schools need them to be. They can be educators, therapists, counselors, surrogate parents, family therapists, their own tech-support, and their own classroom’s financial sponsors. Teachers are the glue that have been holding the woefully underfunded American school system together, at least for the past 20 years.
My aim with the Hero Teacher Project is to show the country what gems they have in each state. My goal is to tell the teachers’ stories. I want the country to come together around these 51 heroes and demand appropriate support for their unwavering efforts. I will make sure that teachers are celebrated appropriately by their own communities. Thus, ensuring teachers are always valued as a group of dedicated and highly skilled professionals whose only calling is to care for the children and the families of our nation.
When all of the portraits from each state have been completed all 51 portraits will be brought to Washington DC for the GRAND UNVEILING of the HERO TEACHER PROJECT. There, all Hero Teachers will gather together on the Washington Mall to speak to the American Community. This will be a chance for teachers to focus the conversation around the future of education on students and learning. This will be a chance to bring our country, states, and districts leaders together to celebrate the American Public School Teacher. This will be a moment to say that we cannot have success in schools without our national, state, and district leaders, our families, our students and teachers working together. We need everyone on board to make education in America exactly what it should be, a wonderful place for all to grow, achieve, and discover.
I have begun this art journey already! We are creating a Kickstarter campaign to be launched in the fall of 2021 to raise money for supplies and travel to create the paintings and interviews. The Hero Teacher Project Art Exhibition will be held in Washington DC soon after we complete 50 more Portrait Unveilings! Fundraising for the show will be complete in 2022 to be held in the summer of 2023.
I will work with the Council of Chief State School Officers, the organization that is responsible for running the National Teacher of the Year program for the United States of America to promote the project.
Criteria for choice of teacher as a Hero Teacher: Someone who has had to overcome incredible odds to become a teacher and connect so well with students, staff, and families that they have been elevated to teacher of the year through their unusual practice.
Hero teachers must be currently practicing so I can observe them in action with students in order to get to know them as an educator.
There are currently far more white teachers than teachers of color.
“In 2017–18, about 79 percent of public school teachers were White, 9 percent were Hispanic, 7 percent were Black, 2 percent were Asian, 2 percent were of Two or more races, and 1 percent were American Indian/Alaska Native; additionally, those who were Pacific Islander made up less than 1 percent of public school teachers. The percentage of public school teachers who were White and the percentage who were Black were lower in 2017–18 than in 1999–2000, when 84 percent were White and 8 percent were Black.2 In contrast, the percentage who were Hispanic was higher in 2017–18 than in 1999–2000, when 6 percent were Hispanic.” – National Center for Education Statistics
We need to promote K-12 teaching as a realistic career choice for people of minorities. Young people of color need to see images of people that look like them as high achievers in the field of public education if they are going to consider educator as a possible career choice. Kids also need to see themselves in their teachers in order to know that they too can succeed in this society. I will choose minority educators as Hero teachers whenever possible.
The arts are also under represented in the schools and are also in need of new teachers. We need more art teachers. I believe we are about to turn a corner on the importance of the arts. Thus, the arts will move back into favor with school boards along side of the core 4 subjects. We will need artists to see themselves as valued members of the education community. I will celebrate the award winning arts teacher as a Hero Teacher whenever possible.
My Wife, Lindsay, daughter Elan (10), Son Arion (7), and daughter Seren (5) will be helping me every step of the way to meet the Hero Teacher Project Mission and Goals. We are so excited to show them the teachers of this great nation in such a granular and personal way.
Lindsay worked very hard to make our home classroom during the 2020-2021 School year a better place to learn. To do this in a pandemic and continue to run the household as she does is a true accomplishment. Who else is a Hero teacher here?
Emotional color theory self portraits.
We studied Plutchik’s emotional color wheel which lead us to self portraits as defined by the colors we chose to represent the 8 basic emotions.
“Psychologist Robert Plutchik states that there are 8 basic emotions: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, anticipation, anger, and disgust. Plutchik’s wheel of emotions illustrates these 8 basic emotions and the various ways they relate to one another, including which ones are opposites and which ones can easily turn into another one.” – Melissa Donaldson – https://www.6seconds.org/2017/04/27/plutchiks-model-of-emotions/