Q&A: Mollie Leisinger named state's novice art educator of the year

Mollie Leisinger has been honored by the Nebraska Art Teachers Association as the Novice Art Educator of the Year.

First, how long have you been teaching, and how long at Lincoln North Star?

I student taught at North Star High and Humann Elementary in the Spring of 2013 and began my position as an Art Specialist at North Star in the Fall of 2013 and will be going into my third year of teaching.

Where did you attend elementary, middle and high school, and college?

I moved around a lot as a child so attended many elementary schools including: Twombly Elementary (Fort Lupton, CO), Gates Elementary (Grand Island, NE), Seedling Mile Elementary (Grand Island, NE), North Loup Elementary (North Loup, NE).  I attended 6th, 7th and 8th grade at Barr Middle School (Grand Island, NE) and then traveled on to Northwest High School in Grand Island for my 9th through 12th grade years.  As for my college experience, I graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) in 2009 with a Bachelor's degree in Fine Art.  After that I worked as an AmeriCorps member for the Lincoln Arts Council for three years and then re-enrolled at UNL as a Graduate student, receiving my K-12 Art Education Certification in 2013.

When did you realize (either as a K-12 student or later) that high school art was a great spot for you as a teacher?

I remember having a conversation with my mom when I was in high school about being a teacher but the realization that I really wanted to teach didn't come to me until I was working for the Lincoln Arts Council after I graduated from college.  I absolutely love being an artist and working in all mediums with my favorite aspect of being an artist being to learn new technical skills.  While working for the Lincoln Arts Council I wrote several grants for local working artists, through the Nebraska Art Council's (NAC) Artists in Schools and Communities program (AiSC) to do special art projects in Lincoln Public Schools. When these artists worked in classrooms, I worked alongside them and the teachers to help to teach students new art techniques and this is what made me realize that I wanted to be an art teacher.  It was my student teaching experience that made me realize that I wanted to teach high school art.  I student taught at North Star High, which is now where I teach, with Lynette Fast.  It was because of her mentorship, my experiences with the students and all of the staff of North Star that I figured out that not only did I want to teach this age group, but that I wanted to teach at North Star.

What is it about the high school age group that piques your interest as a teacher?

Seeing my students grow intellectually is what piques my interest as a teacher.  In my first two years, I have taught Level 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 pottery classes and would say that what is most rewarding is ability to observe students build a strong technical foundation and understanding of the materials we use in class and then transforming their ideas into reality.

There is a lot of talk about using more technology appropriately within a curriculum. How does, or how do see, that technology impacting your classroom?

The new Nebraska Visual Arts Standards were adopted by the Nebraska State Board of Education last year (2014).  In the art department across the LPS district, art teachers K-12 have been working to be sure our unit and lesson plans are in line with these standards.  The four core ideas in the new visual arts standards are: Create, Present, Connect, and Respond.  

Reflection is such an important part of being a teacher and over this summer I spent a lot of time reflecting on my curriculum and how it falls under the new state standards.  Not only was I reflecting on this, but with the district moving to all students eventually having their own electronic devices I decided this summer that I wanted to start this year with technology being a part of my curriculum.  This semester, my classes will be using Google Classroom to do writing and reflection in connection with the standards of Respond, Connect and Present.  Students will submit assignments in our Google Classroom through Google Docs that demonstrate understanding of how art conveys meaning and how they are able to relate their own artistic ideas to the work of others.  Students will also Present their work using their Google accounts through building online portfolios.

Published: August 19, 2015, Updated: September 16, 2015