Enthusiastic Monroe School art teacher keeps students excited
Monroe School art teacher Theresa McGee works with fifth-graders Cole Jensen and Ella Baderman. | Photos by Chuck Fieldman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 27, 2012 8:13AM
When it came time for Lauren Niedergang to look for a school at which she would work as a student teacher in art while completing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Illinois, she knew exactly where she wanted to go.
Niedergang previously had read an online blog written by Theresa McGee, who has spent the past 15 years as the art teacher at Monroe Elementary School.
I really wanted to work with her,” said Niedergang, who got her wish and has been a student teacher working with McGee for about five weeks. “She is one of the most passionate art teachers I’ve ever seen. She’s all about technology and is very creative.”
McGee’s students at Monroe seem to feel the same way.
“She’s really fun,” said Dani Peters, a fifth-grader at Monroe. “I don’t really know what makes her fun; she just is, and it makes you want to learn more. She is really enthusiastic.”
McGee’s enthusiasm as a teacher stems from a major motivation.
“I want to get others as excited about art as I am,” she said. “I don’t want them to forget how art impacts their lives.”
Advancements in technology have changed much in the way teachers teach and children learn over the 15 years McGee has worked at Monroe.
“I always want to be on the cutting edge,” McGee said. “I make it a point to keep up with technology as best I can. I think it’s so important because this is the world kids now know. If we don’t change, we’ll become irrelevant. It’s all about embracing what’s available to us.”
One of the very recent innovations McGee has implemented into her classes is the Google Art Project.
“It’s really the same technology as Google Earth, and it allows our students to really get an incredible look at some very well-known paintings and artists,” McGee said. “We were fortunate enough to get the use of iPads for our students about two months ago, and we’ve been using those to help with this.”
McGee’s passion for teaching art resulted about 10 months ago in her being named one of 12 national recipients of a PBS Teachers Innovation Award. The program recognizes the creative and inventive use by educators of public media to engage students and improve learning, according to PBS.
“My teaching focus encourages my students to develop their own ʻdesign thinkingʼ habits by combining technology with creativity and ingenuity,” McGee said.
Along with her PBS award in 2011, McGee also was the winner of 2010 Elementary Art Educator of the Year award from the Illinois Art Education Association. She, along with Walker School art teacher Hillary Andrlik, publishes an award-winning art education blog, The Teaching Palette http://teachingpalette.com.