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Berrendo art teacher receives prestigious award

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Jeanette Main (center, in the red and blue checkered blouse) was in her element during the HeART of Winter Arts and Language Arts Extravaganza last year. Main created the show to recognize all her students. (Christina Stock Photo)

This year Jeanette Main, Berrendo Middle School art teacher, received recognition for her work in the form of the prestigious New Mexico Art Educators Association Middle School Teacher Award and — she almost missed it.

“I found out that I was nominated, beginning of October. I hadn’t seen the previous email in September and then, I got another email from the president of the Art Educators Association of New Mexico — Jennifer Furman — she is with the CLC (Creative Learning Center) in Roswell. She had sent me another email saying, ‘Hey, nominee, you might want to get your information in.’ I was thinking it was just a newsletter, but then I clicked on it and knew it was a nomination. I thought, ‘Wow.’ I think that was on a Tuesday and I had to have the information in by Friday,” Main said.

Main said she had to hurry to get all the information together, including references. One she got from her principal.

“I put in my information and everything I needed and then, when they emailed me back and said that I had won it. I was totally shocked,” Main said.

“It was great and that was going on the heels of Jessica Sanders (also at Berrendo Middle School) getting the New Mexico Teacher of the Year Award. That is pretty awesome. They are starting to see we can shine,” Main said.

Main was able to go to the award ceremony in Albuquerque on Nov. 10. “It was very nice, very elegant,” she said. “They held it at the Embassy Suites in Albuquerque. They had several people, high school and elementary teacher of the year, and there were also advocates for the arts that we could nominate.

“I had my daughter and my mom with me, my principal Licia Hillman called, (said) that she wanted to be there to support me and then I found out that our school board member Kathleen Pitman was going to be there, too. That was awesome. I didn’t know I was supposed to speak. I tried — let’s put it that way,” Main said and laughed. “But I made it short and sweet.”

It was a journey for Main to become an art teacher. She had wanted to be a teacher, but considered elementary classes.

“It’s funny, when I was getting my Bachelor’s in Elementary Education, at first I was going for a history emphasis and I ended up taking a bunch of art classes out of the college here,” Main said. “I ended up getting more art classes. I had only a few more hours for art emphasis and three or four more for history, so I went with art.

“I started teaching in El Paso. I did all grades. I started off with fourth grade, went to sixth grade and seventh grade on to high school. I’ve enjoyed the higher grades. They understand a little more. They are not quite as sensitive, so I can joke and be a little bit more myself — still being the teacher, of course — but you can put a little more humor in it and the kids go, ‘Oh, OK.’ The little ones don’t quite get it,” Main said.

After receiving her Master’s in Science Education, Main returned to Roswell. “First I applied at Sierra, but didn’t get the job there, then at Berrendo (Middle School),” she said. “They were having a science and art position opening. They found somebody who could do science, but asked if I could do the arts. That was my emphasis, so I said, ‘yeah.’ There was a reason why I didn’t get Sierra. That was in 2011.”

Main started her new program — a first for her — teaching art full time. “I had done art classes, but not taught the whole day art. I had to learn a lot, as far as organization, starting the kids off on a routine.”

Developing this program was one of the reasons for Main to get awarded — another one was her HeArt of Winter show she created specifically for some of her students, who did not get recognized for their work.

“We have a district art show that we always have at the end of the year, in the previous years we only had semester-long classes, so my kids changed every semester. My winter semester kids didn’t get a chance to be juried. We display art at the Eastern New Mexico State Fair, but it wasn’t judged with ribbons. So I said, let’s do something at the school where kids could be juried, then the spring could have the district art show. Both semesters were covered. They got to display their art, showcase their artwork and brag about it basically,” Main said. “And win something. They get excited about it. It has worked out good.”

Main could have been content with this program, but instead she was looking for ways to include everybody in school. Together with the other teachers they integrated the language arts in the show and then the music classes. She didn’t forget her fellow teachers either, and an art contest for the teachers was included, judged by the children.

“We started it out with the teachers doing their own art and bringing it in, but then some wonderful person gave me the idea to add the teacher into a 30-minute art competition during the show and that made it really more fun and the teacher loved it.”

Some of the kids at last year’s show had voiced that it would be “cool” if they could do art projects that would be connected to other classes, such as geography and in math. Egypt was mentioned, pyramids and mummies.

This year is the fourth year of the HeART of Winter show — which now carries the name HeART of Winter Arts and Language Arts Extravaganza — and Main is working on the details. There will be surprises for the show and for her fellow teachers, which are still a secret.

“I am still floored just getting the award,” Main said. “I was very humbled and then I found out that there were several other people — even in this district — that were in the running for this award and they are fabulous art teachers — talk about being very honored to be in that position.”

Asked what she would tell a young teacher who is just starting out, Main said, “I think part of it is, have a heart for it. You have to have passion for it — if you don’t, it’s going to burn you out. You just have to have that passion and keep going. You are going to have those days, that’s with any job. But there are huge awards with teaching, especially teaching art. I mean, what more can I ask for and in a wonderful school district? I can’t complain.”

Christina Stock may be contacted at 622-7710, ext. 309, or at vision@rdrnews.com.