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Focus on Teachers: Donna Staten, Leading Teacher Learning through Social Media

January 14, 2014

Even after 28 years of teaching, art teacher Donna Staten approaches every day as an opportunity to learn more about her field.  She exemplifies being both an expert and a learner.  And, she does so on her own time and in an incredibly public forum—on Pinterest where she hosts 350 boards related to art education and has more than 54,000 followers.   

Donna was one of the teachers I met with in New York about teachers’ use of social media.  She currently teaches approximately 600 students at Gattis Elementary, a dual language, Title 1 school outside of Austin, TX. 

Donna describes how networking with teachers through Pinterest has shaped her classroom: “When I started teaching, I didn’t have a budget, classroom or even set schedule.  I was flying by the seat of my pants with no curriculum, no colleagues to borrow ideas from.  That may be why I became so interested and involved in Pinterest.  I quickly realized I could create an entire curriculum with Pinterest and not need any other resources.”

Donna’s Pinterest boards range from famous artists to color theory to art classroom rules to art parodies.  Each pin is either a lesson plan, visual or video to use in the classroom, or a link to another art blog or website.  She includes her own comments when she uses a resource and often corresponds with other teachers who comment on her site.

“I pin if I see a good idea, an idea I haven’t done before, something I’ve done but it has a new twist, a new supply, or a new classroom management strategy,” explains Donna.  “My boards really happened so fast.  I started on a cold Saturday morning in January 2012 and then I was reading, learning and pinning and, before I knew it, it was evening.  I feel like I have a whole new world of teaching peers through these boards now.”

When asked about some of her favorite resources, Donna notes that she recently came across some easy, inexpensive and positive classroom management tools that she has started using.  For example, when students are studying drawing, she now keeps two baskets on the table—one with new, sharp pencils and one for pencils with dull or broken tips.  Students use the baskets as needed.  “This has completely reduced the amount of times students are jumping up and down to sharpen their pencils,” says Donna.     

Donna has also adopted something called the “Calm Jar”—just a jar filled with warm water and glitter glue and then sealed.  When Donna finds that a child needs to relax, she has them sit quietly, shake the jar and watch the glitter drop.  She has seen this simple technique help students to quickly calm themselves.  Another strategy she uses is the “Crayon Brownies,” which are a mix of melted crayons created in a brownie pan.  When a student does something nice for another student or the class, Donna has them choose a crayon brownie as a little reward. 

Donna also emphasizes the ease of using her boards as resources in the classroom with students. “I now have about 800 two – three minute videos related to my curriculum that I’ve pinned,” says Donna.  “When I want to introduce a topic or have a few minutes left in class, I just click on one that is relevant to my lesson.  It is just an easy way to work in multi-media.  I wouldn’t have access to such a great collection without my boards.” 

“These are just small examples,” continues Donna.  “But they add up to making a real difference in a classroom.”

Thanks to new colleagues she met at the recent social media conversation we held, Donna is now starting to use Twitter as a way to let others know when she has pinned something, as well as Linked In to connect with some of her Pinterest followers she has met in person.  She is part of Art Teachers on Facebook, a group of more than 3,600 who communicate on a daily basis from around the world.  According to Donna, an art teacher can ask a question in this group and will pretty quickly have 30-50 answers or suggestions.

You can check out Donna’s Pinterest boards here and also follow her on Twitter at @artgirl2.

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