Leading from the Middle semi-regular musings from NAEA's Middle Level Division

May 2018


Call for session proposals is LIVE!!

NAEA is now accepting presentation proposals for the 2019 NAEA National Convention

It may seem like we just got home from Seattle, but it's time to start planning for next year's convention! The middle division was strongly represented in 2018, and we hope that trend continues in 2019! Now's your chance to bring your work to a new audience and submit a proposal to lead a session/workshop in Boston.

If you've never considered presenting, now's a great chance to reflect on your own practice to identify strengths/talents that should be shared with your fellow art educators. Think about what you do well, what drives you, or challenges you, or inspires you. We all do such tremendous work, and #NAEA19 is a great place to showcase that good work.

For our veteran presenters, this is a great chance to build on what you've shared in the past. Envision ways to update something you've presented elsewhere, so that it's fresh and engaging to a packed room of your peers.

Think it's too much work to prepare something like this on your own? Team up with a colleague or reach out for division members who may have a similar topic in mind. Tap into our various social media platforms, your own professional circle, or NAEA's Collaborate forum.

Every year we receive so many quality proposals, and reviewing submissions is always a difficult part of the job. But conventions are only as good as the proposals we receive, so we hope you'll consider submitting today!

Mark your calendar: Submission DEADLINE is JUNE 15, 2018

The guidebook tells you all you'll need to know about the submission process. Definitely worth a read.

This tutorial (and accompanying slideshow) will walk you through the submission process. There's a lot to consider, and this is meant to clarify what we're looking for.

There's a lot of information that goes into a submission, and some people find it helpful to write it out FIRST. This planning form can help with that process.

You can then COPY & PASTE into NAEA's actual submission portal.

middle medleys

Our medleys are always a fun opportunity to connect with a bunch of presenters in a short amount of time. We're always on the lookout for potential presenters. The call for Medleys will go out once the convention notification letters are sent out, sometime in September/October. This timeline allows members an additional opportunity to present in Boston. Stay tuned!

Creative leaders wanted!

Nomination packets are being accepted! Fill out yours today!

NAEA is seeking its next slate of candidates for the 2021-2023 Board of Directors. Each division will put forth a select group of potential leaders, and our members will vote in the Fall. But FIRST, we need some strong leaders to put their names up for consideration.

If you know someone who would make a strong candidate, please reach out to them and encourage them to complete a CV and Consent to Serve form. Considering running yourself? Reach out to your colleagues who can help with the nomination packet. Have questions about the position? Feel free to reach out to your division leaders or email naeamiddlelevel@gmail.com.

The nomination process is outlined on the NAEA's ELECTION page, and the submission process is LIVE! Check below for helpful resources:

Other division news

LGBTQ+ Inclusion & the Art Classroom

During our Conversations with Colleagues session in Seattle, one topic of particular interest was how best to support our LGBTQ+ students. We posed this question to middle division member Barry Morang, of Rhode Island, who had recently presented on this very topic. Barry has worked extensively with NAEA's LGBTQ+ Interest Group, serving on its leadership board for the past few years. He graciously drafted the following article, which we are so happy to share with our division readers.

Art is an outlet, a means to an end, and a way to release inner thoughts and feelings. When students feel represented and accepted in the classroom they feel and gain a deeper connection to themselves, their peers, and their ability to create art. As an art educator, I feel as though I have a responsibility to create a safe space and implement curriculum that speaks to the whole student within their current environments. By broadening the approach to teaching with the inclusion of history and relatable artists and experiences, students will be able to see their increasing potential to create art, express themselves, and become an individual.

"a safe environment begins with the teacher"

Art classes are typically considered the safe space for many students, a place where they are free to express themselves in any way that is chosen. Such a safe environment begins with the teacher and their approach to inclusion and diversity. Fostering an inclusive and safe community involves more than our personal beliefs and the needs of others, it includes education and advocacy.

Creating student run organizations such as a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) or a Gender and Sexualities Alliance (GSA) would provide further education and support to LGBTQ+ students and allies. A GSA would be defined as “a student-run club, typically in a high school or middle school, which provides a safe place for students to meet, support each other, talk about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and work to end homophobia and transphobia” (gsanetwork, 2018).

"Students in middle school are at a higher risk of bullying, Harassment, name calling & physical assaults"

Safe spaces for middle school students may be potentially difficult for students to access, especially if the student is not comfortable seeking assistance or trusting other students and adults. According to tolerance.org, students in middle school are at a higher risk of bullying, harassment, name calling, and physical assaults. In 2005, a national survey of middle school students reported 64% of middle schoolers having felt unsafe due to taunting by other members of the school community. If students do not feel safe at school and are not free to express their true self, the result is the inability to focus on learning and individual growth.

If a GSA does not currently exist within a school community, students and faculty have an opportunity to create and implement such a group, based on the specific school guidelines pertaining to creating a student organization. The following steps will assist in the creation of a GSA organization:

  1. Create an organizational plan, including educational content and student opportunities for growth and advocacy.
  2. A faculty advisor is an integral part of the GSA. The advisor should be an individual who is dedicated to acceptance, diversity, and the safety of all students.
  3. Propose/inform school administration of the GSA’s organizational plan, and the overall benefits of such an organization for students.
  4. With administration approval, secure a regular meeting place and meeting schedule. Art classes stand as a great opportunity to discuss the GSA and allow students to learn about the organization and the benefits within a safe space.
  5. Once the organization has been established, work with student members to plan for the future! Brainstorm opportunities for the GSA members such as educational content to be presented, advocacy opportunities (what is happening within the city/town), and of course opportunities to teach acceptance and tolerance.

GSA’s are meant to be a resource for LGBTQ+ students, but GSA’s are also a resource for LGBTQ+ Allies. Allies assist in creating a safe space for all students, and help to further the web of acceptance and tolerance that exists within the school environment. The more students involved in the GSA, either as a member or as a supporter, the higher the level of safety and individual expression that will exist in the community.

There are many resources available for review when developing a GSA, such resources can be found by visiting the following:

Each resource discusses the step by step process needed in order to implement a GSA, as well as the types of events and educational opportunities taking place around the country.

As art educators, our classrooms act as a current safe space for all students, incorporating a GSA within the school community acts as an extension of safety within the school walls. Further, it is my position that students must be exposed to art content that reflects the diversity that exists within their environments. This would give them the opportunity to explore artistic mediums and processes while simultaneously becoming more self-aware and sensitive to others. The combination of the GSA and Art creation is an excellent tool for students to experience individual growth internally and externally, while simultaneously educating others through advocacy.


Barry Morang is a middle level visual art educator and GSA advisor at Segue Institute for Learning in Central Falls, Rhode Island.

Njahs happenings
  • Check out our NJAHS Sponsor Forum on Facebook! We're looking to connect with chapter sponsors, soon-to-be chapter sponsors, and folks just curious about the whole art honor society thing.
  • Follow our "NJAHS SPONSOR FORUM" Pinterest Board. We are constantly adding resources to share, and we hope to build this resource over the coming months and years. If you'd like to be added as a contributor, email naeamiddlelevel@gmail.com
Fabulous Faculty | A Spotlight Series


Steve knutson

Discovery Middle School | Grades 6 & 8 | Fargo, North Dakota

We asked mr. Knutson to share the qualities that make his classroom a special place to learn and create?

When my students walk into my classroom I want them feel like this classroom is a safe place to learn and create. I have my students design and paint ceiling tiles each year, which has made the classroom feel brighter and more inviting. I have put multiple posters around the room with information on the elements of art, principles of design, 21st century skills and the visual art standards as well as grade level "'I Can' Statements". I want my students to have the opportunity to reflect and use this information when every they need to.

In addition to having this information on the walls to encourage movement, I have also given each table in my art room a folder where this information can be accessed. When my students are in class, I want them to leave with an appreciation for visual arts as well as a good understanding of multiple skills and disciplines. The art students at Discovery Middle School will leave art class each semester having experienced some, if not all, of the following: online portfolios, in which students reflect on finished projects, online curator projects, in which students work in groups and curate a museum exhibition, claymation movies, art robots, graffiti paintings, mosaics, clay monsters, clay houses, clay food and multiple traditional media projects.

Student progress and finished work from Mr. Knutson's program.

Where do you find inspiration for your lessons?

I find inspiration for my lessons a number of different ways. I collaborate monthly with the other middle level art teachers in my district. We often share lessons and ideas with each other. I take inspiration for local and regional artists as inspirations for lessons and projects in my classroom too. I want my students to be aware of the art and artists around them and know that they can find and access this artwork at local museum and galleries. The final way I find inspiration for my lessons is to be an active listener and participant in my classroom and with my students. I want to know what inspires them and engages them. Having this information helps me develop lessons that will engage and hopefully motivate them.

Musicians Benjamin Sung and Jihye Chang-Sung perform for 6th grade art students.

Any other exciting ideas to share?

This year I invited world-renowned musicians Benjamin Sung and Jihye Chang-Sung to perform for our 6th grade art students. The students responded to the live performance using expressive and emotional lines and colors in their sketchbooks. The next day, in class, the students were divided into groups of three or four students, and they collaborated to create a large-scale drawing, incorporating ideas from each team member. We collected the groups' drawings and created a temporary mural in the school.

An example of the student work in response to the musical performance.

Thank you, Steve, for sharing this glimpse into your inspiring program.

If you would like to recognize a Fabulous Faculty or share a bit about your own program, please contact our Eastern Regional Division Director, Leslie Flowers.

There still may be time! Check out these programs!
NAEA DELEGATION TO VIETNAM | October 20-27, 2018

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION. As a delegate, you will have the opportunity to meet with your Vietnamese counterparts to learn about the education system and the place of art within it through professional meetings and daily site visits. This tour will be led by NAEA President Kim Huyler Defibaugh.

Topics of Discussion (from NAEA):

  • Learning about the education system in Vietnam/Cambodia
  • Exploring the ways in which art education fits into the priorities of the education system
  • Observing the ways visual arts are taught at all levels of education
  • Learning about the training requirements for art educators
Did you know NAEA hosts a Career Center for Job Seekers and Employers?
STAY COnnected
Want to connect with our Division? There are many options!
Recent examples of students' work being featured as our social media PROFILE PICS
  • PROFILE PICS. Our social media profiles continue to feature submitted artworks from our Middle Division members. If you would like to share your students' work for an upcoming spotlight, please message us on FB, Instagram or Twitter, or email your attachments to naeamiddlelevel@gmail.com. Please include your name, your school name & location, and the grade level/medium/etc. of the attached works.
  • NAEA NEWS & NEWSLETTER. Have an idea for an upcoming issue of NAEA News or this Newsletter? We'd love to hear it. Email us at naeamiddlelevel@gmail.com and pitch your story ideas! Check out the latest issue of NAEA News, too.

Next issue we'll talk planning for the new year, convention planning, awards, and another "Fabulous Faculty" spotlight. See you then!

national art education association
  • NAEA Mission. The National Art Education Association advances visual arts education to fulfill human potential and promote global understanding.
  • NAEA's Statement on Diversity & Inclusion. NAEA is committed to the important role of visual art education in providing and promoting more just, inclusive learning communities in local and global contexts, and embraces diversity as an integral part of the mission of visual art education. The mosaic of our global humanity is enriched and expanded by the inclusion of all peoples and cultures and the art forms they create.
Featured Cover Art

Thank you to Jayme Shellhorn for sharing her student's work. Jayme teaches 7th & 8th grade at Camdenton Middle School, Camdenton, MO.


Created with images by Quangpraha - "sunset the sun wooden bridge"

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