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Mason art teacher named Art Educator of the Year

  • Mason Elementary School art teacher Michelle Jimeno of Brookline has been named Art Educator of the Year by the state's Art Educators' Association. Staff photo by Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, September 10, 2018 12:43PM

Mason Elementary School art teacher Michelle Jimeno has been named Art Educator of the year by the New Hampshire Art Educators’ Association.

“I was just tickled pink,” Jimeno said, of her reaction to the announcement.

Mason Elementary School Principal and district Superintendent Kristen Kivela both praised Jimeno’s creativity and repport with her students at the news of her award.

“It’s never just paper and pencil, it’s clay and pottery, or some other material. She’s unbelievably creative with the kids,” Kivela said. “If something’s not working for a kid, she finds a way to still let them complete the project. She’s completely open to that. Her understanding of kids and their abilities is something special.”

Jimeno teaches art twice a week at the Mason Elementary School – a line of work she said she never expected to be in. Art and how children relate to art has always fascinated her, she said – she wrote her master’s thesis on the subject before she ever became a teacher – but her career as an educator only began because of her desire to see her own children have art in their classrooms.

She was living in Ogden, Utah at the time, around 2006, when the school district cut art and physical education programs from its curriculum. Jimeno had a background working for architecture firms, doing drafting, drawing and designing, and her son’s third-grade teacher, Sharon Bowman, approached her to see if she’d be willing to volunteer her time to do an art curriculum with the students.

“It was important to me,” she said. “I thought it was criminal they weren’t being taught art other than what ad-hoc thing the homeroom teacher could come up with.”

For two years, she filled that gap, she said, never knowing where it would lead in a few years – an official teaching position.

After Jimeno moved to Brookline, she continued to volunteer at her son’s school through the parent-teacher organization. When an artist in residency program planned for the district fell through, she was asked to step in again to fill that gap – which she did, she said. It was through the connections she made with the art teachers at the school that she heard about Mason Elementary School hiring for a part-time art teacher. They encouraged her to apply.

“I was hesitant,” she said. “I didn’t have that background, I’d only done it as a volunteer. But I applied, and they hired me.”

That was in 2010, and Jimeno said she’s found her calling.

“That’s something I’ve learned through this,” she said. “To keep an eye out for opportunities. I volunteer a lot, and I say ‘Yes,’ a lot, and it sometimes leads to things you might never have imagined. If I hadn’t been receptive back then when Mrs. Bowman approached me about teaching art, I wouldn’t be here now.”

She brings that approach to her teaching, she said. A lesson on the Japanese art of fish print also encompasses a lesson about fish anatomy and local flora and fauna – everything is a learning opportunity. Even something as simple as weilding a hot glue gun – often withheld from the elementary age group – can hold a bigger lesson.

“I challenge them a lot, and they dive in, always. If they didn’t do that, there would be no way for me to have gotten this award,” Jimeno said.

Jimeno will be formally recognized by the NEAEA at its fall conference on Oct. 19 at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester. She will be representing New Hampshire at the National Art Education Association Conference in March in Boston, and will receive recognition at the New Hampshire Excellence in Education Awards in June.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.