A+ Schools of North Carolina is recruiting A+ Fellows.

North Carolina Arts Council

Monday, November 7, 2022

 Are you interested in becoming a learning and contributing member of a diverse network of professionals? Do you have a collaborative spirit and the ability to facilitate large and small groups of adult learners?

A+ Fellows conduct high-quality professional development for A+ schools and partner organizations. Because A+ professional development is based on a strong practitioner model, the Fellows are leaders in the arts and education. Our current cadre of Fellows consists of practicing classroom teachers, arts and special-area teachers, administrators, and teaching artists. “A+ Fellows are the driving force of our exemplary professional development,” according to Jennifer Huggins, A+ Schools program coordinator. “The training our Fellows provide to our network of A+ educators impacts hundreds of students each year and strengthens the creativity of school communities.”

A+ Fellows enter the network as apprentices with a wide range of expertise and experience and are asked to serve in this “cognitive apprenticeship” role for one year, observing and assisting veteran Fellows as they conduct professional development. During this first year, Apprentice Fellows consider how their strengths might be used and what areas they need to develop. A+ Fellows are then assigned to work on teams that allow them to use their expertise. “I've been an A+ Fellow since 2007. My longest professional relationships and now personal relationships are because of A+,” says A+ Fellow, Josh Batenhorst. “The benefit of being an A+ Fellow is getting to know people and appreciating the opportunity to learn from them,” he added. Peter Shanahan, an A+ fellow for the past 12 years shared a similar sentiment, "I love that through A+ we get a lot of opportunities to engage creatively. We also get to work with and learn from other Fellows who have amazing ideas, and then we share those ideas with dedicated teachers." 

To thrive as an A+ Fellow, experience in integrating one or more art forms in a specific subject area or grade level is valuable, so knowledge of North Carolina state standards or experience in curriculum design is important. “I really love the fact that what we're teaching works for all kids,” says Glenda Mackie, a veteran A+ Fellow. “I think about myself as a student. If I had been taught under the A+ model, I would have thrived even more, and I just see so many kids who could benefit from the A+ philosophy. As an educator, I'm just excited that the A+ model gets kids excited about learning.” Mackie has been a Fellow since 2014. 

Earlier this year Victoria Lightfoot, a newly inducted A+ Fellow, was awarded the Milken Educator Award. "As an A+ Fellow, I get excited about working with teachers and facilitating professional development through the arts. I really enjoy showing other educators strategies, tips, and techniques that can assist in providing meaningful, rigorous, relevant instruction," Lightfoot said.  

A+ Schools is striving to diversify the A+ Fellows cohort. We are specifically seeking applicants who reflect the people of our state, as well as professionals who can work during the school day. To learn more about the essential characteristics of A+ Fellows and the experience required, head over to the A+ Schools website—bit.ly/become-an-aplus-fellow—and register for an upcoming information session. Registration closes on January 31, 2023.

Nearing their 30th anniversary, A+ Schools of North Carolina's philosophy is as impactful as ever

North Carolina Arts Council

Monday, November 7, 2022

Since 1995, A+ Schools of North Carolina has transformed how schools approach teaching and learning. Each school in the network teaches the state’s mandated curriculum in a collaborative, multidisciplinary way, and weaves the arts into every aspect of a child’s learning experience. Through professional development, technical support, and mentoring, schools develop a unique, creative approach that elevates student engagement and achievement, as well as teacher satisfaction. A+ Schools is the nation's longest-running arts-based, whole-school transformation model, and is a signature program of the North Carolina Arts Council.

For the 2022–2023 academic year, 67 pre-K through grade 12 schools in all regions of North Carolina are following the A+ model, impacting more than 30,000 students and 2,200 teachers and administrators. A+ Schools also has a cadre of more than 40 highly trained practitioners—the A+ Fellows—who provide engaging, hands-on professional development for schools across the A+ network.

In this video, discover how A+ schools transform teaching and learning. Directed and edited by filmmakers Jim Havercamp and Alex Maness.

We spoke with Michelle Burrows, the director of A+ Schools and a 25-year A+ veteran, about the impact of A+ Schools and the value of integrating the arts in education.

Where does your passion for the A+ philosophy come from?

I am passionate about creative, arts-infused, engaging learning, and the A+ model helps schools to build environments that support that. My own education as a child was creative and heavily infused with the arts, and that helped to make me a well-rounded person and a lifelong learner. I want that for all children and, really, for all teachers, too. To me, A+ practice is simply best practice in teaching and learning. I want all students, no matter their age, to have access to the kind of learning that sparks their curiosity and imagination and helps them to make meaningful and lasting connections.

In your experience, what does the A+ Schools philosophy accomplish?

A+ philosophy helps schools to engage their students in compelling and lasting ways. It allows schools to strengthen their morale, build their team, and make room for collaboration among teachers. It helps bring joy into the school building by creating an environment where teaching and learning are enjoyable, engaging, and relevant. And most important of all these days, as the teacher in the video says, A+ practice helps to remind teachers why they became educators in the first place.

What are some of your favorite examples of ways in which A+ schools or A+ teachers have integrated the arts in their standards?

There are so many ways; each school finds strategies that work for them and for their students. Remember, A+ implementation isn’t only about the arts; it’s about building a creative and engaging environment for everyone in the building. And while there are many examples of outstanding arts integration across the A+ network, some of my favorite ways that schools model A+ practice is in how they support and engage their staff. From standing, pep-rally style staff meetings to involving the teachers in collaborative art activities, when the school staff and administration are immersed in A+ practice and they experience creativity and joy, the practice naturally follows them into each classroom.

For schools interested in joining the A+ network, what advice do you have for getting started?

Because this is a whole-school transformation model, my advice to a teacher or administrator is always to start by talking with the rest of the staff about how implementing A+ practice could transform the school. Watching our informational videos, visiting an A+ school, and observing an A+ professional development session are all ways to see what it means to be an A+ school. Learn about the A+ model together as a staff, talk about your wonderings and excitement, and discuss and problem-solve potential challenges. This will go a long way to building the whole-school buy-in that is needed to enter the A+ network.

Head over to the A+ Schools website to learn more: https://www.ncarts.org/aplus-schools.

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