Recipe for Success – Artists First, Educator Second

Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

Jennifer Merry of Kennebunkport, Maine was recently named Secondary Art Teacher of the Year, an honor bestowed by the Maine Art Education Association. Merry credits her successes to her mantra that she is an artist first, and a teacher second. “That’s what is going to make a good art educator,” she said.

An art educator for 30 years at Thornton Academy, Merry received a degree in education from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and later worked as a freelance instructor before the teaching bug bit her. “I love seeing the magic that happens working with children, seeing them develop an idea and carry that idea through the different steps from start to finish,” she shared.

Merry was thrilled when she was hired as an art educator at Thornton because of its highly respected arts program. She loved that the school covered a variety of art forms so students could begin with foundation classes and then move up to advanced classes. Merry ‘s foundation classes give students an overall understanding of art including art language, art history and critiquing art. “Even if that’s where they begin and end, we hope that they will then have the skills to be creative problem-solvers,” she explained.

Some of Merry’s students have gone on to pursue careers in the art industry. One student works in Los Angeles as an animator while another had a textile design chosen for an Olympic Stadium. “It just makes me beam,” said Merry.

In addition to her many years as an inspiring art teacher at Thornton, Merry also directed a summer arts camp for 10 years and recently began teaching Sailing Through Girlhood, an after-school class which is designed to empower females. Merry’s colleagues feel she is an inspiration not only to the students but also to the parents and her peers.

Describing her dedication, Thorton school counselor Mark DeFrancesco said, “She has passion, skills and love for art and her students.”