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What Does an Arts Ed Now Ambassador Look Like? – Arts Ed Now Teacher Contest


Posted On November 9, 2017

As part of the Arts Ed Now campaign, we asked educators in New Jersey to create a three-photo storyboard to describe what it means to be an Ambassador. Here is what our winners had to say on social media. Meet the Winners!

1st Place: High School

Cumberland Regional High School

Elisabeth Campbell, Drama Academy Teacher

“Arts education is so important for all children.  I always find that the students who participate in arts related activities in school are the ones who are the innovators of the future.  The arts are all about being creative and being collaborative, both of which are necessary to succeed in life.  Your campaign is so important for raising awareness about how necessary it is to have the arts in education.  I am so grateful for programs such as yours. “

Hello!  My name is Elisabeth Campbell and I am the Drama Academy teacher at Cumberland Regional High School.  We have a Drama Academy that has 4 levels (Drama Academy 1, Drama Academy 2, Drama Academy 3, and Drama Academy 4), in addition to having two elective courses (Drama/Public Speaking, Advanced Drama) for non-academy students.  I teach the entire Academy courses and the Drama/Public Speaking courses, so I teach grades 9-12.  This is my 14th year teaching at Cumberland.  When I started, there was only one section of the Drama/Public Speaking class. I saw that there was a need for more sections and more levels and I collaborated with a former colleague to help create the Drama Academy program.  Our students perform a fall play and spring musical each year.  They also participate in the annual Shakesperience competition at Rider University in May.  We were also selected to be a part of the Adopt-A-School Program at Papermill Playhouse, and we will be hosting a teaching artist this year.

I am excited to say that our program has grown into one that is very comprehensive and helps prepare students for careers in the performing arts.

1st Place: Middle School

South Orange Middle School

Jake Ezzo, Choral Director

“I participated in this contest because I have made it my mission to re-define what a middle school choral program consists of. Simply put, arts education is the only domain in which students have complete agency in the art that they create. Even though each ensemble strives for common goals in repertoire pieces for public performance, each child also has personal goals which creates both group and individual agency. ”

About the Program-

Led by Mr. Ezzo, a Westminster Choir College alumni, the 300 member+,South Orange Middle School (SOMS) choral department seeks to redefine what a middle school choral experience is in the 5 different choirs offered to students. Mr. Ezzo came to SOMS in 2013-2014, and immediately began rebuilding the choir program from 11 6-8 in the past to 370+ last year. In the current school year, choir members have organized a benefit concert for hurricane victims and invited other schools, local bands, and even Broadway performers to help raise money for this cause. Choir members participate in 8 concerts throughout the year, and our select choirs travel to 6 flags for a competition, where they have scored a 99 and 100 last school year.

New for 2017-2018, Mr. Ezzo hopes to make the SOMS Chorus department the first S.T.E.A.M.(Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) classroom in the state of New Jersey. Currently, Mr. Ezzo has introduced LittleBits (a modular STEM-based building system) and project-based learning into the 6th grade choral curriculum, and also has started an afterschool Robotics club to help empower students, especially girls, into the field of S.T.E.M!

Student choice and a strong community culture are absolutely key for the success of the choral program. An 8th grade executive board of 8 diverse students help make all we do possible, assist Mr. Ezzo in planning, come up with fundraising and programming ideas, and perform community outreach. Students regularly conduct, arrange, accompany, write, and perform solos for the community through the program.

2nd Place: Middle School

Crockett Middle School

Lora Marie Durr, Artist / Educator

The goal of the art department is to make it clear to all visitors of the building that arts education matters to Crockett students and staff! By creating larger-scale collaborative artwork, such as the examples in the photos we shared, students are able to make their learning visible to all who view it.  “

I am Lora Marie Durr – art teacher at Crockett Middle School (Hamilton Township School District, Mercer County). I teach 6-7-8 arts and have been here since 2001!

I love creating projects with my students, which are collaborative and involve our school community. The photos I included were part of what the art department contributed to back to school night – a scavenger hunt that encouraged parents to look closely at our student-created public art and a Photo Booth for parents and staff members to enjoy.

In addition to teaching, I paint – I recently had a piece accepted into the NAEA juried members exhibit. I am on the Board of Directors for AENJ and was named my building teacher of the year last year.

Arts Ed NJ congratulates these educators for winning the Arts Ed Now storyboard contest!

These Ambassadors have shown us how a student’s learning is enriched as a result of their advocacy and hard work.