Category Archives: Featured

2017 Governor’s Awards in Arts Education – May 24, 2017


The Governor’s Awards in Arts Education began in 1980 to promote awareness and appreciation of the arts, recognizing the creativity, talent and leadership of the award winners. Each year, awards are presented to approximately 20 educators and 80 students. National and statewide organizations select the students for their exemplary work in creative writing, speech, dance, music, theatre and visual arts and the leaders for their exceptional commitment and contribution to arts education. The program also recognizes arts educators and arts education advocates, whose leadership has helped nurture the development of students in the arts across the state.


The Governor’s Awards event is a partnership of the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership, the Department of Education, Art Pride New Jersey Foundation, the Department of State and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Additional support is provided by: the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics; Art Educators of New Jersey; Art Administrators of New Jersey; Dance New Jersey; New Jersey Council of Teachers of English; New Jersey Forensic League; New Jersey Music Educators Association; New Jersey Performing Arts Center; Writer’s Theatre of New Jersey; Speech and Theatre Association of New Jersey; and Young Audiences of New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania. The cooperating organizations, award sponsors and individual members of the planning council dedicate their time to make sure that excellence in the arts is rewarded, and work tirelessly throughout the year to plan this special event. The Governor’s Awards in Arts Education ceremony are a major collaborative effort of the arts, education and state government.

The Beat: NJAEP’s Newsletter – April 2017

The Voice of Arts Education in NJ: Keeping you up to date in our field

Meet Our NJPOL State Champion – Amos Koffa

Congratulations to our 2017 New Jersey Poetry Out Loud Champion, Amos Koffa, a senior from Burlington County Institute of Technology, Medford Campus! Twelve students competed for the title of State Champion at the NJPOL State Finals on March 9th. Visit the NJPOL webpage to see video clips of our 2017 State Champion as well as all the students who participated! Amos will be representing New Jersey in the upcoming Poetry Out Loud National Finals, hosted by the National Endowment for the Arts.

How old are you? 18

What year in school? Senior, Class of 2017

Are you originally from NJ? I was born in Newark, NJ and stayed there until 10th grade. I’ve attended Arts High School and Science Park High School.

Tell me more about growing up – what were some of your favorite things to do? Drawing, writing poetry and watching television (Glee, The Fosters, and Degrassi) and listening to Beyoncé. I also enjoyed supporting my friends’ performances. Since I went to a performing arts school the students were super-talented. I loved seeing kids do what they love.

Any hobbies? Writing poetry, performing spoken word pieces, and being an LGBTQ+ activist.

What led you to poetry? In eighth grade I was voted “most poetic” for my class superlative. I was severely bullied in middle school and used poetry as a way to express myself. Even though I was not one of the popular kids every time I read a poem out loud everyone would listen and clap for me. This made me realize that poetry is my most effective method for communicating with people.

Where do you see yourself in a year? I will be in college. Rutgers New Brunswick

What goals do you have for the future? I am going to school to become a social worker. I would like to be a spoken word artist. I would like to release spoken word albums and become a big star. I want to be like Beyoncé.

Is there someone who inspires you? All of the notable LGBT+ figures that are erased from our history books. They inspire me to speak up when I see injustice, and to never give up.

Is there a teacher who inspires you? I think of television as being one of my greatest teachers. From TV I’ve learned about topics that were not discussed in school or in my own home. It allowed me to know that my identity was valid. It gave me an opportunity to see my story and learn about myself.

What brought to the Poetry Out Loud contest?

I was introduced to this competition in eighth grade. I attended Science Park High School and the middle school and high school were together. I watched the students perform in this competition and I knew I wanted to be a part of it, unfortunately, I was too young at the time. I always knew that I wanted to be on stage in front of people, but I didn’t know how. After watching the other students participate I knew that this would be my outlet.

What are your thoughts about being involved in Poetry Out Loud for the past three years?

I love it. I love being able to interact with new people. I don’t really fit in at my school and through Poetry Out Loud I was given the opportunity to make new friends. Also, I have a strong passion for performing poetry but the people around me do not. I am able to meet people that I share common interests with. This year I was very grateful to win the State Competition. I can’t afford to go on my senior trip and I am not attending prom, so Poetry Out Loud is my prom and senior trip. It’s basically the biggest memory I will take away after graduation. I also love the ability to go back and watch my past videos and see how much I have grown.

What are your favorite poems, and why?

Knock, Knock- Daniel Beaty: It is a spoken word piece that is not a part of the anthology, but it is a story I can relate to. I was lucky enough to be able to perform this poem at Yale University and it was the first time that I performed something that made people cry.

Ecology- Jack Collom: I’ve been performing it since I started with Poetry Out Loud. I believe it is one of the best poems in the anthology and one of the most fun. The language offers a lot of freedom with the interpretation. I am able to use my body and not just the words.

I Sit and Sew – Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson: This poem is very dramatic. Also the message is something I can relate to. It talks about wanting to do something important but constantly being told to stay in your place.

What are your thoughts on the potential defunding of Poetry Out Loud (and the National Endowment as a whole)?

I am very disappointed. Poetry Out Loud was something I looked forward to being a part of every year.  It was one of the only ways I could express myself and be recognized for my talent. As I said before, Poetry Out Loud is my senior trip. It is also my sporting event, my extra-curricular activity, it is my prom, and it is my yearbook. I save all of the pictures from each year because I have participated in it so much. I share the videos with my friends and family. It is basically one of my only positive high school experiences.

If you could speak to save programs like this one, what would you say?

I would say that the arts are important. I think it’s our society’s responsibility to provide a diverse education. I am a strong advocate for an inclusive curriculum. I think that it’s important for students to see themselves reflected in lesson plans. Not everyone is the same, and arts education teaches us that it’s okay to be different. It allows students to excel. Not everyone is a mathematician or a writer. It provides more opportunities for students to see what their options are. It breaks the rule that everyone has to be normal. The arts provide inspiration, and without inspiration nothing that we have today would exist.

Poetry Out Loud Nationals begin on Tuesday, April 25th with a series of three Semifinal rounds.  New Jersey’s State Champion, Amos Koffa, will be competing against 17 other State Champions from the greater Eastern seaboard region in the first Semifinal of the day, scheduled to begin at 9 AM on April 25th, 2017.  After all three Semifinal rounds conclude, a total of nine students, three finalists from each Semifinal, will compete for the title of 2017 National Poetry Out Loud Champion at 7 PM on Wednesday, April 26th.  All events will be webcast live on the Poetry Out Loud website

NJPOL 2017

NJPOL 2017


Are art classes a waste of resources… or the most important class a child can have?

In a test driven, results oriented public school system, the art department costs money. Supplies don’t come cheap, nor do teacher’s salaries. Is art just a class that allows core content teachers a bathroom break or preparation time? Is it a moderated block of time for kids to express themselves, have fun, and blow off some steam? The short sighted and ill-informed will say “AMEN!” They fail to understand something very important.
The solution to failing schools is right under our noses. It has been for a long time. Research, studies, and evidence prove it, but schools ignore it because they feel it’s counter-intuitive. Worse yet, when schools do decline, they cut the one program they should be strengthening. ART!
Not “craft time,” or follow-along busy work, but a rigorous, focused, inter-curricular program taught by a certified ART instructor. The facts show that schools that implement STEAM programs, outperform schools that promote STEM. The “A” (Art) is THE important key to student success!
A study by PlosOne (https://goo.gl/6XZ5KZ ) shows that exploring art and making art both help the brain make more neural connections, but that making art showed significantly greater cognitive gains.

Evidence from The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and the AEPsupport (https://goo.gl/op4zGo ) the fact that art students are more successful than their non-art involved peers by a significant margin.
72% of business leaders say that creativity is the number one skill they hire for. Art is one of the few places children develop these kinds of problem solving skills. Students who participate in art are 4X more likely to participate in a math or science fair. Art students are more likely to be recognized for student achievement. Art reduces truancy in schools and in poor districts student dropout rates go from an average 22% in schools without art to 4% within the SAME population in schools with art. Art students are 17% more likely to volunteer, and 20% more likely to vote. Art students outscore their peers on the SAT exam by an average of 100 points. https://goo.gl/wik68T and https://goo.gl/CBMB3R
Art does even more, like lowering stress so students can cope with the challenges of school. (https://goo.gl/pguZ2l ) A Missouri study (https://goo.gl/t796S2 ) of public schools in 2010 found that greater arts education led to fewer disciplinary infractions, higher attendance, graduation rates, and confirmed data that student test scores were higher. Conversely a New York City high schools study showed that schools that had a graduation rate under 50% offered the least access to art education with fewer certified arts teachers. (https://goo.gl/a9AOHY)
With such huge, verifiable benefits, it’s amazing that only 7% of schools require art education. State arts agencies receive 0.037%-less than one half of one tenth of one percent-of state general fund expenditures. https://goo.gl/E1VXAO
​The solution to failing schools is right under our noses. (https://goo.gl/Ps1YWN) More statistical evidence can be found on the Arts Ed Now organization publication located here: (https://goo.gl/a9AOHY)

by EJ Gibbons
Educator & Author




Spreading the Good News with Neptune Schools

If you were to visit the schools of Neptune Township, you would find many examples of students actively participating in the arts.  At any given point in the day students are making music, creating art, dancing, acting, and working with the media arts.  This happens at all grade levels across the district, starting from Pre-Kindergarten, all the way to Seniors in High School.  As a district we have decided to embrace the Arts Ed Now to spread the good news of the power of the arts in the life of a child.

In addition to teaching our students to create, perform, present, respond, and connect to the arts, we believe in the transformative power of the arts to change a life.  We encourage students to use the arts to achieve and succeed.  The arts provide an avenue of success for students, which then provides them with the encouragement to tackle all of life’s challenges.  It is with this philosophy can we then ask today’s art students what they aspire to become tomorrow.  

Active engagement in arts education activities give students a safe and positive environment to learn skills beyond those in the specific art form.  Students learn skills such as teamwork, time management, resiliency, and learning to utilize creativity.  With the help of the Arts Ed Now Campaign, we have used our Social Media presence to spread the good news of our student’s success with the arts, as well as their hopes and dreams.  

As you walk through our hallways and see the MANY “Today and Arts Student, Tomorrow…” prompts that students have completed, it shows the hopes and dreams of our students.  It shows the power of the arts goes beyond the artistic relevance, and moves into a more human and personal relevance.  To our district, it provides a connection for ALL of our students: participate in the arts and it will inspire you and change your life!

The goal of Arts education is to develop a student into a well-balanced young person who is educated, cultured, has a healthy appreciation for the arts, and will make positive contributions to society.  The Arts Ed Now Campaign provides students the opportunity to show their life and career goals.  What do they aspire to be? What have the arts taught the student, beyond artistic skills?  What positive experiences from their art participation will students remember as they move into adulthood?  

The Arts Ed Now Campaign has empowered our district to spread the good news of arts education, so as successful adults, they realize the positive influence had, and hopefully still has, on their lives.


PVA Website: https://www.neptuneschools.org/domain/417

Link to Superintendent’s Notes: https://www.neptuneschools.org/Page/1621

PVA Dept. Twitter Feed: @NeptuneNJArts


2017 National Arts Advocacy Day

This year’s National Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC had an undercurrent of energy that came from word that the President had proposed, just days earlier, elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts for FY2018. Over 700 people attended National Arts Advocacy Day sponsored by Americans for the Arts, and New Jersey’s delegation of 40, coordinated by ArtPride NJ, was the largest in NJ history. There were veterans who had attended previous years with of training and visiting the offices of NJ congressional representatives, and many who were first timers, learning facts and figures and understanding how best to make the case for federal support of the arts and humanities. We learned about how NEA funding affects the arts in New Jersey, and from each other we learned not to fear the short time allotted for advocating, but how to make the best use of that time with fresh approaches to storytelling.

In advance of the convening, ArtPride held a webinar for attendees to answer questions and explain the two-day event that included intensive advocacy training along with the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy, this year presented by Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation. Mr. Walker’s powerful remarks were compelling and portrayed how he became familiar with the arts as a child, perusing art magazines that his mother brought home from her job as a domestic in a wealthy household where attending cultural performances was a part of life, far removed from his own experience. He emphasized what we all felt deeply as arts advocates–that the arts are not a special interest, but a national interest that strengthens who we are.

Besides saving and increasing funding for the national cultural agencies, policy issues included arts education and support of all arts disciplines as part of a “well-rounded education” stipulated in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Representatives who are not currently part of the Congressional STEAM Caucus were invited to show their support for the arts in STEM by joining over 75 other members. The fact that arts programs are now eligible for through ESSA for Title 1 funds and other federal resources, was also stressed to elected officials.

If you were not able to attend National Arts Advocacy Day, there is still action you can take to help #SavetheNEA. The federal budget process is a long one that extends throughout the summer months to come. Visit ArtPride NJ’s online NEA toolkit for data on NEA grants in New Jersey, and information that will inform your personal communication with members of US Congress. From email to postcards to phone calls to social media, there are plenty of ways to keep this message alive and assure that federal funding remains in the budget and will help New Jersey arts programs continue to grow and thrive.


Ann Marie Miller

Director of Advocacy & Public Policy

ArtPride New Jersey Foundation

The Beat: NJAEP’s Newsletter – March 2017

March On Through March and Beyond

March is Arts Education in Our Schools Month and in this issue of The Beat we are celebrating that in a big way.

The history of this event appears to date back to the 60’s when the Arts and Creative Materials Institute created an event to emphasize the value of children participating in the visual arts. This was followed by Music in our Schools month in the 70’s followed by dance and theatre creating a month long celebration of the arts.

In this issue, see what is happening across the state. From Cape May to Warren County, schools and communities are hosting events and programs to highlight the arts in our schools. We are so excited to hear from Acting Commissioner of Education Kimberley Harrington as she reflects on the huge influence the arts had on her as a student and how that shaped her teaching and her family. Very powerful and touching.

And don’t forget to check out ArtsEdNow.org throughout the month where you can see the excitement build as we post a daily record of ways people are recognizing March.

Keep it going every day this month and every day this year. Arts Ed Now!

ArtsEdNow Q & A with Acting Commissioner of Education Kimberley Harrington

1. What role did arts education play in your own education?
The arts played a large role in my education and in my personal development. I began playing the flute in 3rd grade band and continue to play to present day. In 8th grade, I joined the marching band and played piccolo for one year. Then my band director sent me to leadership camp and I served the next 4 years as the drum major of the marching band. As a drum major, I learned life-long lessons about myself, the structure, sense of community, and leadership skills. Additionally, I danced for 16 years – tap and ballet. Dancing served as an excellent stress release for me and I enjoyed the creativity I experienced through the interaction of music and movement. Finally, when I was performing in our school musicals I found a community “family” similar to the one I found in the marching band. I developed the discipline required to budget my time well to balance late night rehearsals while maintaining my grades.

2. Was there an arts educator who had an influence on you? If so, please tell us about him or her.
Mr. Robert Bauknight was my band director. He was the man who, other than my parents, first saw my leadership potential and he fostered it until I began to see my own potential. He had a thick southern drawl, a wonderful sense of humor, and we adored him. He was always available for us, not just in our band period or at after school practices. He was always a wonderful listener and guided us to search for answers to our own problems. Mr. Bauknight remained a huge part of my life until he passed away while I was in college. I still hear his voice and refer to his pearls of wisdom I keep tucked away. I always say he was the wind beneath my wings and he quietly guided me to recognize strengths and talents within myself I didn’t realize I had.

3. What role does arts education play with your own family/children?
Growing up, my father played the piano and sang. I would fall asleep at night listening to him play and sing. I have many fond memories of music and dance in my household. My father also took professional dance lessons in Manhattan for much of his life. We were always dancing, singing, and listening to music throughout the house. My mother affectionately termed herself “the audience” and she would sit and listen to my sister and I play with my father (my sister played the clarinet.) Mom would join in the dancing and she and my father are wonderful dancers.

My youngest son plays trumpet, violin, marimbas, and just recently added the ukulele to his list. My eldest son played the marimbas and did Irish step dance. He also enjoys photography. Both boys are/were in the marching band. Music, for all of us, is our therapy and “go-to” activity. Thankfully, my sons have both had the privilege of having their own “Mr. Bauknight” in their lives and have been inspired and guided by excellent music educators.

4. What is your view on the role of arts education for our students and how may your experiences have shaped your viewpoint once you became an educational leader?
My own experiences as a child and student definitely had a huge impact on me as a teacher. For example, when teaching Kindergarten, I began each day with singing and dancing with my students and ended each year with a musical put on by the children for their parents. When I taught the middle school grades, I ran the drama club and always did a musical with my children and asked students to design and create the sets, costume, and makeup. Throughout my career as an in-district educator, I always incorporated the arts into my classroom in a variety of ways, encouraged and my students as they experimented in their interest areas to find their own passions, and supported my students by attending their performances, recitals, and shows.

My view of arts education is multi-faceted. I believe the arts provide rich experiences for students to find and express their inner creativity; learn critical life skills – self-discipline, time management, leadership skills, poise, presentation, etc; find ways to relax, release stress, and explore their feelings through art expression; and most critically, find their voice and use this voice to speak loudly and powerfully on behalf of oneself or on behalf of others who may not have found their voice.

5. As Acting Commission, what is your view on how arts education may play a greater role in the educational development of our students?
I believe the arts are a way to bring content to students in a way that may be intimidating for some. For example, mathematics and science are critical skills for students to have a firm foundation before they graduate from high school. Many of our students are afraid of these content areas and don’t identify as having strengths in mathematics and/or science. How many adults have been heard saying “I’m not a math person” or “I was never good at math”? The arts are rich in science and mathematics – imagine introducing the two content areas through context by leading students through composing a song. Composition requires you bring the mathematics behind beats per measure, timing, length and duration of notes and combines it with the science of sound. My father, who taught mathematics and music, was responsible for showing me how the arts have the power to connect content for students in dynamic ways.


Kimberley Harrington
Acting Commissioner
New Jersey Department of Education

100 Eleventh Grade Students from the Academy for Fine Arts and Academics at Bayonne High School have the Experience of a Lifetime at Hamilton on Broadway!

On Wednesday, February 15th, 2017, one hundred eleventh grade students in the Academy for Fine Arts and Academics (AfA2) at Bayonne High School were treated to an immersive full day experience at the Richard Rodgers Theater – home of the record-breaking, smash-hit musical Hamilton – in New York City. Thanks to the efforts of AfA2 teachers Lori Alexander and Jessica Mintz, Bayonne High School was selected as a recipient of the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History and Rockefeller Foundation Hamilton Education Grant Program.

Through the Hamilton Education Grant Program, selected eleventh grade high school students and their teachers receive a rich, interdisciplinary curriculum that connects the Founding Era to the performance art of Hamilton. Funding from the grant provides schools with tickets for the musical Hamilton for the incredible price of $10 per ticket!

Interdisciplinary Learning Activities in Preparation for the Trip:

Through the Hamilton Education Grant Program, high school students have the opportunity to participate in a rich, interdisciplinary learning experience that culminates in the creation of an original performance piece inspired by the Founding Era. History teachers James Murphy, Keri Toomey, Neil Carroll and Jessica Mintz worked with Musical Theater teacher Lori Alexander to present a three day lesson using curriculum and materials provided by the Gilder Lehrman Institute. Students explored the Founding Era in depth, using primary source documents to research Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and additional founding fathers, as well as other important historical figures like Elizabeth Schuyler, King George III, John Lawrence, and Aaron Burr. Students then worked individually or in pairs to write original performance pieces, including poems, raps, monologues, and dramatic scenes.

One student piece was selected to be shared with the Gilder Lehrman Institute as a representation of the student’s hard work. This piece was written and performed by Abigail Isaac and Kermena Abdallah, and is a poem about the life of Elizabeth Schuyler, the wife of Alexander Hamilton. Abigail and Kermena were chosen to perform their original piece on stage at the Richard Rodgers Theater for over 1,500 students and staff from all participating schools! The girls were treated to backstage entrance to the theater through the Stage Door, and a personal meeting with cast & crew members of Hamilton!

An excerpt from the original poem by Abigail and Kermena reads:

“Elizabeth Schuyler, in 1780, became a wife
However, when in 1804 she was bereft of her husband, she began a new life
From her father’s house she had learned to believe,
That through being a woman of fortitude, anything she could achieve
And in regarding this as true, she would succeed until her last day.
Elizabeth Schuyler, in 1780, became a wife
In the eve of her life, taking Alexander’s advice
She served God above all
Becoming an “object” of “veneration” for all who would recall
Her loyalty and her truth that persisted until her death on a Thursday.”
Written and performed by Abigail Isaac and Kermena Abdallah
The Full Day Experience:
On Wednesday, February 15th, the one hundred students, accompanied by faculty chaperones, traveled to the Richard Rodgers Theater in New York City for a full day experience along with other participating schools from New York City and New Jersey. Following the performances of the selected student pieces, all schools participated in a Q&A session with broadway cast members from Hamilton, in which two questions submitted by Bayonne High School students were selected to be asked to the cast!

Students enjoyed a pizza lunch at the famous John’s Pizzeria in Midtown, where they had the opportunity to meet broadway actor Joey Sorge (currently performing in A Bronx Tale), and Gregory Treco (current cast member of Hamilton), and then returned to the Richard Rodgers Theater to enjoy orchestra-section seating for a matinee performance of Hamilton!

Recognition & Thanks:

The participating Bayonne High School students and chaperones paid for their tickets and lunch costs, however funding for the busses to and from New York City was generously provided by the Bayonne Education Foundation and the Bayonne High School Drama Society Parent’s Association.
Dan Ward, Director of History for the Bayonne Public Schools, said of the experience: “Hamilton was amazing but more importantly the EduHam program transformed some of our students’ lives yesterday – so look out world because the next Lin Manuel Miranda is coming for you and she’s from Bayonne!”

Laura Craig, Supervisor of Special Programs and Coordinator of the Academy for Fine Arts and Academics stated, “This experience would not have been possible without the efforts of teachers Lori Alexander and Jessica Mintz. In addition to completing the grant application for their students, Ms. Alexander and Ms. Mintz oversaw the curriculum, preparations, and details of the grant program and field trip with enthusiasm and expertise, providing our students with a truly once in a lifetime experience that they will never forget”.

To see more pictures and videos from the day, including a video of Abigail and Kermena’s onstage performance, follow @bhsafa2 on Twitter or like The Academy for Fine Arts and Academics at Bayonne High School on Facebook.


Musical Theater Teacher Lori Alexander, 11th Grade AfA2 Students Abigail Isaac and Kermena Abdallah, Honors American History Teacher Jessica Mintz

Students await the start of the show, including Brielle Calianese, John Dugan, and Kacpar Danilowicz.

Abigail Isaac and Kermena Abdalla perform on the broadway stage at the Richard Rodgers Theater

Faculty chaperones (from left) Brendan Wahlers, Kelli McGovern, Lori Alexander, Laura Craig, Jessica Mintz, Kathy Bingham, James Murphy, Neil Carroll, Dan Ward, and Keri Toomey (front).

Laura Craig
Supervisor of Special Programs
Coordinator, Academy for Fine Arts and Academics
Bayonne Board of Education
(201) 437-5095

The Beat: NJAEP’s Newsletter – February 2017

February is the month of love at the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership. And this issue of The Beat focuses on teachers we love. Those are the teachers who bring learning to life and make us want to explore and grow. Those are the teachers we never forget.

I remember my third grade teacher, Miss Crown. She created a yearlong immersion program with a third grade class in New Zealand. We exchanged letters, artwork, tape recordings of songs and poems. We learned about the life of the students so very far away and they learned about our lives in New Jersey. Miss Crown taught us about the country and its history, culture and geography. We all became friends and the world seemed to be a much smaller place. I ran to school each day to see if there was a letter or package from our close friends a world away.

Miss Crown was a wonderful teacher and while I have not been to New Zealand, I know someday I will travel to that beautiful country. How could I not, I still feel a connection all these years later.

And because it is the month of Valentine’s Day, my story ends with Miss Crown announcing that at the end of the school year she would leave us to move to Wellington to marry the teacher of our New Zealand classmates.

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April 8, 2017
The Beat: NJAEP’s Newsletter – April 2017

The Voice of Arts Education in NJ: Keeping you up to date in our field...