Monday, April 18, 2011

Elizabeth Willett and the DBAE

           Educational leader, historian, innovator, newsletter editor, collaborator, curriculum and grant writer, ecologist, mathematician, and philanthropist are only a few of the many vibrant fibers Elizabeth Willett, weaves into her fabric of everyday life in and outside of her career as professional art enthusiast at Oakhurst Elementary School in Lubbock, Texas.
In her eleventh year of teaching, Willett’s pedagogy is a reflection of those many strands, weaving the student’s minds through what would be deemed a discipline-based art education (DBAE) program at its finest. Leading by doing, her voice in the community and surrounding state of Texas carries a modest tone, but her firm stance, presence and partnership with vital arts organizations (district trainer and curriculum writer for Binney and Smith/Crayola Dream Makers Program and newsletter editor and treasurer-elect for the Texas Art Education Association to name a couple), convey that the arts play an essential role in the every day, that the spice of life comes from the experience, the expression, and not being afraid to question and dream.
A qualitative approach that very much mirrors the California Visual Arts Standards and that of the DBAE, Willett helps and allows her students to view, process the information, analyze it and respond to it with a language that they are familiar with, encouraging the Spanish speaking children to respond in their native tongue (CA Standard 1). She helps them to make connections to relevant mathematics and language, producing a visual connection to the world around them through discussion and visualization of the work of the artist and that of their own work, creating figurative examples similar, but related to their own lives (CA Standards 2, 4 and 5) while raising funds to create projects and plan trips that will allow her students to grow universally as well as culturally (CA Standards 3 and 6).
Holding with a formal structure of delivery paired with an underlying positive reinforcement at every moment of exchange, her classroom and the subject of study, discussion and implementation of the product of art produced, integrates many other disciplines into the threads of her fabric of leading. Tapping into her students’ multiple intelligences, modeling the way, and encouraging her students to think more deeply about community, world and self, that every discipline is interwoven and more easily understood if explored through the arts, helps to produce students with no discipline problems, only interested, excited participants.
The benefits of a program such as hers values the individual voice within the student while coupled with the views of others throughout history as well as those sitting directly to their left, that having a voice is acceptable. The drawbacks are few, given that her passion for the arts is evident and dyes the threads of the fabric that is designed into each extra curricular role that she takes on. Ringing true with the voice of Elliot Eisner, Willett’s art program exemplifies and champions that “arts are fundamental resources through which the world is viewed, meaning is created and the mind developed.”

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