Send A Teacher Traveling Winner Announced

by ExperiencePlus! - Thursday, May 3, 2012

The ExperiencePlus! Send a Teacher Traveling Award (S.A.T.T.) recognizes outstanding K – 12 public school teachers throughout the US by encouraging teachers to participate in educational, active travel opportunities, like those offered by ExperiencePlus!. This year we received 15 applications, all deserving educators doing amazing and inspirational work with their students. Deciding a “winner” was unbelievably challenging but we think you’ll agree that Sally Miller, our honoree, is doing some amazing work. Here’s an interview with our 2012 S.A.T.T. winner.

So now that you’ve recovered from the shock — how does it feel to be the 2012 S.A.T.T. winner?

I am still in total shock.  I am thrilled beyond my imagination, and still haven’t slept since I won this outstanding opportunity.  

Who was the first person you shared the news with?

I called my husband who was with his biking buddy having coffee after their ride. It was great to be able to tell him “I WON…now tell John and I want to hear ya’ll cheer!!!”.

Have you told your students?

Are you kidding?  THE next class that came into my room, I pulled down my world map and said “You know that artist from Austria we’ve been studying?  I just won a free bike tour to Europe and might see his work in person this summer!!”

We loved your idea for Art Beyond Borders – can you tell us more about your art program and how you hope to inspire your students?

Every year I change our art curriculum, but the theme for the art program this year has been Art Beyond Borders.  We have been studying about the Australian Aborigines, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, and African cultures. I enjoy learning about different cultures and incorporate different ones each year. Through this study, I would like for students to be able to examine historical and cultural influences, identify visual differences, and create unique works of art documenting their own voices. Also, the elements and principles of art are stressed starting from kindergarten up to fifth grade to give the children a solid foundation for creating their best art possible.

Being fully immersed in the culture of another country, as your bike tour will enable me to be, I will develop a totally new and personal outlook on the people, landscape, architecture, language, traditions, life, and culture of that country, and then pass that outlook on to my students.  I will use my travel experience with ExperiencePlus! Bicycle Tours to provide everyone at my school with new insight into a culture they might otherwise never have the chance to explore.

What inspires you most about your teaching?

I love children’s art more than anything.  It makes me happy.  What makes me happy is their enthusiasm and eagerness for the joy of creating without any limits.  Their unique colorful paintings light me up.  Traveling allows me to help them expand their ideas of a world they would never know and, thus, their ideas of what art is.  

Our summer schedule has a number of trips in various countries including, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Austria and Hungary – how will you decide where to go?

First of all, I am limited to the weeks I’m out of school this summer.  Second, how can an art teacher not want to go to Italy where the Renaissance started or Provence where Van Gogh and Cezanne painted?  It is a VERY hard decision, but I think Provence may win out!

Who is your favorite artist?   
Who is my favorite artist?  The one I’m currently teaching is always my favorite.  It’s usually new and fresh for me, and that is what gets me excited.  Currently, we just finished studying about Friedensreich Hundertwasser from Austria.  So he’s my favorite today.  However, my longtime favorite is Vincent van Gogh, but my list is long….don’t get me started!

Do you have a preferred medium for your own art?

In my own art, I currently work with acrylic paint.  I have worked with metals, clay, jewelry, sculptures, and mosaics. But I really want to be a better painter, so I’m sticking with that for now.

Do/Did you have a mentor who inspired your interest in art and other cultures?

I really didn’t have a mentor.  My interest came from studying art history in college which also fueled my desire and hopes to travel one day.

Any advice for parents who want to encourage their children to pursue art?

Parents need to provide the opportunity, the materials, and the enthusiasm for their child to create.  The supplies can be simple items recycled from the kitchen: cereal boxes, plastic tops, and paper towel tubes along with scissors and glue.  They truly need to compliment their child’s art as much as possible and get excited about their child creating.  The finished product isn’t important at first.  The JOY of exploring and creating is.  Parents could have a future inventor or scientist in their family if they nurture the creativity and imagination that every child has when they are born!

Have you seen any changes in how kids react/participate in art classes over the years?

You really have to stand on your hands to get the children’s attention these days. I get bored easily just like they do, so I am constantly trying to come up with new ideas and techniques to keep them excited.  I try to incorporate lots of new, innovative and unusual techniques in the classroom.  I find that if the teacher is excited about what she is teaching, the students are, too.

Do you use computers in any of your classes?

I can’t teach without a computer in my classroom.  I use a SmartBoard to introduce lessons, which really grabs their attention. I have also had the children make their own art movies introducing art vocabulary on the computer.  Furthermore, they share one ipad to create art. So I use a variety of technological tools to try to reach children on every level possible and hold their interest.

How did your friends in your bike club, the Blackwater Cyclists, take the news that you won a trip to bicycle in Europe?

“Woohoo!”   My good friend and biking buddy, Judy, had seen the free tour on the Internet and when she saw it, she said “this is the Send Sally Miller to Europe Contest”. She could not be more excited or thrilled if she had won.  They all have been so supportive and knowing how much I talk about art and traveling while I ride, they knew this was the contest for me. They are excited and are ready to celebrate!

Do you name, or decorate your bikes?

I don’t name or decorate them.  It might slow me down!!  I’m not fast enough to go any slower.  

Any training tips to share  for flatlanders who want to travel any hilly places?

I actually like hills.  A flat road bores me to tears. North Florida does have some rolling hills and some steep ones.  Dennis, a biking friend, has been encouraging me lately to ride longer and faster which is building my stamina. My favorite tip of his is that if your saddle is starting to bother you, you aren’t pedaling hard enough!  Guess what?  I’ve tried it and it is true. He also has reminded me to pedal downhill as fast I can to get up the next!

Any question that you wish we’d have asked, and how would you have answered?

Whew!  I think you have covered it all. I am READY to buy my airline ticket and pack my bags!

Some of Sally’s very talented students share their work!

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