Thursday Notes – December 11th, 2014

How We Do It and Why

By Mary Siebert


He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.
― St. Francis of Assisi


Heather Smith, one of our most actively supportive ABS parents, often comments: “What I love best about ABS is that we don’t play at art, we do the real thing.” Heather’s own background working both at the Reynolda House Museum of Art and as a Montessori teacher have given her many opportunities to witness the intersection of great art and young children.  It’s true that this is our goal, but “the real thing” is not easy to define. We help make it real by having accomplished artists as staff, by bringing working artists into the building, and by building relationships with arts venues throughout the community. At ABS, the snarky old adage that “Those who cannot ‘do’, teach,” does not begin to apply. Our classroom teachers weave, knit, draw, paint, make pottery, appear in musicals and plays, play instruments, perform jazz, tap, contra and African dance, weld, sew, sing in choirs, write poetry and children’s literature, photograph, and even clog, in their spare time. Our middle school arts specialists, curriculum coordinator Liz Green, and I are all learning advanced 8th grade algebra so we can work with students to design a multi-media presentation that will reinforce and share math via the arts. Music teacher Mr. Wilbur played professionally from rock ‘n roll to jazz in both in his San Francisco years and here in the South. Dance instructor Jan Adams toured as dance captain with a Broadway production of “A Chorus Line” in addition to solo appearances in ballet, and has taught pre-ballet at UNCSA for years.  Band director Peter Perret is conductor Emeritus of the Winston-Salem Symphony, and wrote the book A Well-Tempered Mind. Art teacher Elizabeth Gledhill designed and created backdrops and carved foam figures for Sony themeparks. Art teacher Betsy Messick, directed the “Arts for Life” program at Baptist Hospital, and drama teacher Heidi McIver teaches at UNCSA and has worked tech and acted in professional productions for years. Drama teacher Nick Zayas has a master’s degree in film acting from USC and worked professionally in the film industry in LA. He also works professionally with adults with autism. Guest artist “Mr. Bob” Moyer studied directly with the iconic drama games inventor and teacher, Viola Spolin, and has led workshops nationwide in her approach. He also originated the Shakespeare Lives! program through the Kenan foundation and has performed professionally as actor, director, and lighting designer. It is also helpful to have role models in our midst who are currently recognized as masters of their arts. Jan Detter teaches creativity at Wake Forest, and mixed media masterpieces valued at thousands of dollars. She works with both ABS students and teachers. Award-winning photographer and published writer Diana Greene leads student in writing/photography and now film explorations.  “Mr. Bill” Scheidt, founder of Tam Tam Mandingue Drumming School, performs world-wide with celebrated djembe master Mamady Keita and has taught drumming at ABS for ten years. This semester alone we have also had visits with African dancer Olivia Sledge, “The Healing Force”, and the Bolton Wind Quintet, to name a few. Metal sculptor Duncan Lewis created his masterful Widows of Wonder in our courtyard, and muralist Kendall Doub created a whimsical game-court area upon which our 5th – 7thgraders play. PLUCK modern dancers from UNCSA work with our Kindergarteners annually. In March, we are joined by the old timey band Reel Shady during a 4th grade study about North Carolina culture. This is only a sampling, not to mention our many forays to see dance, music, art, and theater in the community. Real art, shared with an enthusiasm that betrays a richly passionate fascination, sets the standards high and captures the students’ desire to learn. Our students swim in the real thing; it’s what they recognize as home.


ABS Spelling Bee

We will be holding our annual spelling bee for third through eighth grade students on Thursday, January 8th. The top three winners from each classroom will participate in the school wide event.   Winners will proceed to the Regional Spelling Bee.


ABS Capital Campaign

Like many people, I’ve been employed in several different career fields in my 20+ years of working history. I have been a museum professional, a teacher, and an accountant. Let me also add that I am a very exacting person, especially in those three areas. Having worked in the museum field for over 10 years, I have come to appreciate quality in the arts. Having been both a Montessori teacher and a homeschooling mother, I have very high standards for education. Having been an accountant, I expect financial responsibility. I’m also very quick to voice my concerns or displeasure in any of those areas if they do not meet my ridiculously high standards. I have found all three areas to be of the highest caliber at The Arts Based School.

When my daughter began attending The Arts Based School five years ago, I was incredibly impressed with the quality of the arts programming.  When the children learned mnemonic devices for remembering science facts, they were not singing Hey Diddle Diddle, they were singing Bach or Beethoven, or in this case, Monteverdi transposed into a singable key by a Monteverdi expert. In the art room and the classroom the children were introduced to artists and experts in dance, drama, literature, film-making, music. Sometimes those experts are their own teachers! They were also allowed to express themselves. I never saw a teacher take the pencil out of the child’s hand to “fix it” or “make it look better”. So not only were the students shown the best examples of fine art, they were allowed to create on their own. This standard of quality permeates all areas of the arts program at The Arts Based School.

Educationally, I also could not be more pleased. My child struggled with reading when she started at the school and I’ve never seen such commitment to helping children.  Tuesday Tutoring and extra work with the teachers, from top to bottom, she was given so much time and attention and educationally it has really paid off. The lack of letter grades, minimal homework and the narrative-based conferencing with parents, teachers and students is the most developmentally appropriate and love-of-learning affirming way to communicate progress in the classroom. It does take more time for the staff, but it is just another example of the students-first educational philosophy at the school.

And now having served as a board member at The Arts Based School, I can tell you that the fiscal responsibility is stellar. Financial resources are used well and there is no waste. I have no hesitation at all in saying that The Arts Based School has the highest levels of quality in the arts program, in their educational practices, and in their financial responsibility.

For these reasons and others, our family has committed to making the Capital Campaign of The Arts Based School a major part of our philanthropy for the next three years. Of course, we will still support school activities like Fall Fest and the Annual Fund and Community Creates in the spring. But we want to make a strong statement of our support for The Arts Based School by consciously stretching our resources to make a contribution to the Capital Campaign. And I feel very confident that those campaign funds will be used to support the high quality of arts education and will be used in the most responsible manner to support that programming now and into the future.

As you look at your year-end charitable contributions and even your holiday gift-giving, please remember The Arts Based School and consider making a donation to the Capital Campaign to support this quality arts education that your child is currently receiving and into the future for your child and other children.

Please click on this link and make your pledge to the Arts Based School capital campaign.


December Parent Council Meeting

Our next Parent Council Meeting is tomorrow,  Friday, December 12th at 8:15am in the Teacher Resource Room of the MLK building.  Please find the agenda attached.



Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Carter on the birth of their baby girl.  Violet Gail was born December 5,  at 8 lbs 4 oz. Mrs. Carter will be returning to ABS to teach speech therapy after her maternity leave.


ABS Garden Work Day
Saturday, December 13
9:00 am to 1:00 pm
Planting and transplanting, mulching, pruning, weeding, and more.  Bring your kids, a snack, and tools/gloves.  RSVP to Matt Mayers if you can come to part or all of this work day.