FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A collaboration between the University of Arkansas and the Walton Arts Center is generating some of the best educators in the state.
A group of teachers gather around for a special music class, just for them.
“I am not someone with an arts background at all,” Fulbright Junior High English Teacher Michelle Cearley said.
Cearley is learning how English and the arts can create perfect harmony.
“I knew I liked the idea and the connection between literature and the art and the different integration of cross-curricular integration in the humanities, but I didn’t know how to do it because I’m not an art teacher,” Cearley said.
She is about to graduate from the Arteacher Fellowship Program: a collaboration between the University of Arkansas Center for Children and Youth, The Walton Arts Center and Crystal Bridges.
“A lot of recent research across the country has been done with the understanding of how integrating visual and performing arts really guides students to deeper knowledge,” The Walton Arts Center Arts Learning Specialist Dr. Pat Relph said.
It is more than just singing the ABCs.
“When we teach the ABC’s we’re not really teaching aspects of song like rhythm and note. It’s just to learn the ABC’s. Arts integration tries to have a more synergistic approach to teaching both the art form and the subject area,” Director Hung Pham with the Center for Children and Youth said.
Cearley is teaching her students English while also teaching them the arts.
“They had to learn about social issues in America and do research and rather than just put it in an essay, they made a documentary film. They had to chose original music, do the editing, do the transition, type credits, make a title,” Cearley said.
If a student struggles with history, acting it out brings it to life.
“Drama and performance helps you experience with historical empathy how one of the early explorers going up the Arkansas River might have felt,” Relph said.
The Arteacher Fellowship has gone on for eight years, churning out some of our state’s best educators.
“At least five of our fellows have been named their school Teacher of the Year while they were in the fellowship. Another one of our fellows was named Foreign Language Teacher of the Year for the State of Arkansas,” Pham said.
Cearley has even been invited to speak at national conventions. And even after decades of experience, she says this has made her an even better teacher.
“I’ve taught 27 years. It’s probably been the most transformative program I’ve ever gone through,” Cearley said.
The fellowship was originally offered to teachers in Northwest Arkansas. It is expanding to incorporate teachers around the whole state. For more information, click here or visit The Center for Children and Youth website.