Amherst principal to be honored for art education

  • Amherst Regional Middle School Principal Patty Bode. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Principal Patty Bode glues panels together to assemble “Connecticut River from Source to Sea,” a nearly 130-foot-long mural created by seventh-grade students at Amherst Regional Middle School, Dec. 14. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Thursday, March 08, 2018

AMHERST — Later this month, Amherst Regional Middle School’s principal will receive national recognition as the state’s art educator of the year.

The National Art Education Association has announced that longtime arts educator, Patty Bode will receive the organization’s 2018 Massachusetts Art Educator award at the association’s national convention in Seattle, March 22-24.

“It means a lot to me because I’m being recognized by my peers in the field,” Bode said. “And a lot of those peers are my former graduate students.”

After beginning her career as an art teacher in Vernon, Vermont, in 1992, Bode began working in Amherst’s public schools in 1994, teaching art at Wildwood Elementary School and then the middle school until 2006.

From there, she spent six years as the director of art education at Tufts University, two years as an associate professor of art education at Ohio State University, and a year as a lecturer at the University of Florida. She was also part of the founding faculty of the Springfield Conservatory of the Arts.

Bode was appointed to serve as interim Amherst Regional Middle School principal in 2016.

“That’s fantastic,” Amherst Superintendent Michael Morris said of the award announcement. “We see that in terms of how much the arts continues to expand across the content areas of the middle school.”

Recently, seventh-grade students created a nearly 130-foot-long mural of the Connecticut River — 70 panels that depict the river from the Canadian border to Long Island Sound, and which wrap around the seventh-grade hallway.

“It was a really beautiful collaboration,” Bode said, describing how students took a trip to Mount Sugarloaf in Deerfield, where they learned everything from math to social studies while studying the river. They then brought back sketches they did with the school’s art teachers, and those formed the basis of the mural.

In the middle school’s lobby — or, as Bode called it, the “lobby gallery” — the school has displayed several exhibits from the Family Diversity Projects, a nonprofit that has produced traveling photo-text exhibits, books and curriculum.

Last school year, the lobby featured the nonprofit’s exhibits “In Our Family: Portraits of All Kinds of Families” and “Pioneering Voices: Portraits of Transgender People.” The school’s teachers worked to incorporate those exhibits into the school’s full curriculum, which Bode said was meant “to expand our solidarity with people from all walks of life.”

This year, the lobby will again feature two of the organization’s exhibits: “Road to Freedom: Portraits of People with Disabilities” and “Building Bridges: Portraits of Immigrants and Refugees.”

As part of the latter exhibit, the school has won a $10,000 Amherst Education Foundation grant to fund student research and storytelling into their own families’ immigration stories, which will be displayed together with the Family Diversity Projects photos and text.

“This award is being given to recognize excellence in professional accomplishment and service by a dedicated art educator,” the national association’s president, Kim Huyler Defibaugh, said in a statement. “Patty Bode exemplifies the highly qualified art educators active in education today: leaders, teachers, students, scholars, and advocates who give their best to their students and the profession.”

In addition to receiving her award at the National Art Education Association convention later this month, Bode will also give two presentations there, one of which is on the interdisciplinary curriculum the school’s teachers developed around the exhibit “Pioneering Voices.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.