Educational Leadership Through the Arts

Amanda Koonlaba
Amanda Koonlaba Community Member, Moderator Posts: 12 mod
edited March 16 in ASCD Chit Chat
Educational leadership is all about inspiring and motivating people to achieve their full potential. This involves creating a vision, building relationships, and creating a positive and engaging learning environment. While there are many different ways to achieve these goals, one approach that has proven successful is educational leadership through the arts. I have lived, witnessed, participated in, and led this first hand...and I'm here to shout about it from any rooftop that will have me!

The Arts as Drivers of Cultural Change in Schools

As I discussed in my recent presentation at the Emerging Leaders Meet Ups in both St. Augustine and Las Vegas, educational leadership through the arts involves using art as the driving force to promote learning and development. This approach recognizes that the arts are an important part of our cultural heritage and play a vital role in shaping our society.
By harnessing the power of the arts to spark and drive cultural change in our schools, we can create more engaged and successful learners, who are better prepared to face the challenges of the modern world. -Amanda Koonlaba, Ed.S.

In my presentation, I spoke to the tremendous value of arts-specific curriculum in arts classrooms taught by qualified arts educators. However, the type of large-scale cultural change I presented about goes well beyond the walls of arts-specific classrooms.

I spent 7 years leading this type of change at a school in Mississippi and have been lending my experience to a leadership role with Mississippi Whole Schools for several years since. During the mentioned presentation, I was able to share data garnered from these two roles that shows how the arts have been used to drive cultural change, improving outcomes for students in tremendous ways.

Educational leadership through the arts is whole child education at the finest, highest level. -Amanda Koonlaba, Ed. S.

Currently, I am serving as the Teaching Artist Coordinator with Mississippi Whole Schools (one of the many hats I wear). I have been working to develop programming to build the capacity of the state to ensure more students benefit from this type of educational approach. This partnership has resulted in a certification program for Teaching Artists that trains professional artists in the Mississippi Whole Schools approach to arts integration. Certification includes intense and comprehensive training to address four competencies. The work is centered on increasing the effectiveness of interactions between teaching artists and preK-12 learning institutions and organizations.

What Is a Teaching Artist?

There is no one, single definition of a Teaching Artist. There aren’t even any generally accepted definitions in the field. However, at Mississippi Whole Schools, we rely heavily on the Teaching Artists Traits developed by the Kennedy Center:
  • Exist at the intersection of the arts and education.
  • Demonstrate a depth of knowledge in their art form.
  • Are engaged in sustained creative exploration. 
  • Teach in, through, and about the arts.
  • Work in a variety of environments that serve the needs of local communities.
We have also developed four of our own core beliefs about Teaching Artists:
  • Teaching Artists work at a professional level within their artistic discipline but have also made arts education a central component in their work.
  • Teaching Artists are educators.
  • Teaching Artists can work in a variety of settings, including schools, youth arts programs and community centers, and with professional arts organizations.
  • Teaching Artists do not serve to replace in-school, certified arts educators.
These core beliefs led to the development of competencies and standards that are driving my work in aligning comprehensive training programs for Teaching Artists to the work of Mississippi's preK12 schools are doing with students.

Think of a Teaching Artist as an educational consultant highly skilled at using arts integration to educate the whole child.

Teaching Artists and the Whole Child

The Teaching Artists participating in our programs are able to work with students in PreK-12 classrooms to integrate the arts, provide high-quality professional development for teachers, and consult with schools on using the arts to drive school-wide cultural change. It's that cultural change that gets at the heart of the Whole Child education tenets: Healthy, Safe, Engaged, Supported, and Challenged.

In the coming months, I'll be breaking each of these tenets down from an educational leadership through the arts lens. I'd love for you to follow along.

Your Do-Now assignment is to check out Mississippi Whole Schools to learn more about how we are leading the way in arts integration as a model for cultural change.

Be sure to stay in touch in this space as my journey in educational leadership through the arts continues. Big things are happening in Mississippi!

Amanda Koonlaba, Ed. S. is an educational consultant and teaching artist partnering with Mississippi Whole Schools as the Teaching Artist Coordinator. She is the owner and lead educator at at Party in the Art Room (don't let the name fool you, serious but joyful educational endeavors are taking place over there). Her work centers on visual art education and arts integration as leadership and transformative educational pedagogy.