I'm always very moved by visionary teachers who are passionate about infusing the arts in the learning process. I can recall when I was in high school, a teacher supported my desire to shoot a fictious documentary about the Maine Potato Council, an actual political action committee, to present to my class. The experience still stands as one of my fondest educational memories. Throughout my education growing up, I was very fortunate to have some degree of arts programs available to me, whether it was instrument groups in elementary school or choral groups in middle school and high school.
The reality is, especially in the Chicago Public Schools, there is seldom enough money to adequately fund arts in education. While there are many foundations and groups that raise money to go towards arts education as well as the utilization of the arts in the teaching of traditional subjects, I cannot express how much admiration I have for those teachers who, by passion alone, go the extra mile in not only infusing the arts in eductaion but also spending money out of their own pocket to acquire the materials needed to accomplish their goal.
While Naperville is overly blessed with grammy award winning music programs in some of its schools, there is one such teacher in Chicago who I learned about yesterday on my drive home listening to the "Chicago Matters" program on Chicago Public Radio. His name is Jesse Senechal and he is a teacher and Kelvyn Park High School in the Logan Square neighborhood on the northside of Chicago. Senechal talked about the value of media literacy in skills development and works closely with his students, enabling them to utilize media tools as part of their education. He believes strongly in his students and advocates that aside from the impact of utilizing the arts to educate his students, they are also developing meaningful technology skills at the same time. The most touching aspect of the story was Senechal's almost reluctant confession that he pays for some of the media arts materials he uses in his classroom out of his pocket. He was quick to emphasis the need for increased funding and that most teachers can't afford, nor should they have to, buy materials to enhance the learning process for their students.
While we might be quick to demand that arts funding be increased in schools, I want to pause for a moment to place the spotlight on teachers like Jesse Senechal who uses ingenuity, passion and his own money to utilize arts in the educational process. We all know that teachers do not get paid anywhere near their worth and that most teachers are teachers because of their passion to educate.
I encourage anyone who reads this post to consider sending a donation to Jesse Senechal c/o Kelvyn Park High School, 4343 W. Wrightwood Ave., Chicago, IL 60639. Let him know his efforts are not going unnoticed and that hopefully such money can be used to the benefit of his students. In Naperville, we are very very fortunate and it is important that we put our resources towards helping other schools and communities… especially in the area of the arts, arts education and the utilization of arts in education.
A final note, Chicago Arts Partnership in Education (CAPE) is a non-profit organization that partners with schools to create innovative arts-infused programs to enhance the learning process in traditional subjects. Once upon a time I was a finalist for a development job with CAPE and though I came in second place, I have continued to believe strongly in the mission of CAPE and hope Arnold and his staff are able to continue to find funding for their important work. Their website is www.capeweb.org.