A Good Start
‘PGATI Has Come A Long Way’ Says One Of Its Founders Brenda Makle
Nearly decade ago, Brenda Makle and her colleagues Harriett Gossett, Pat Carmody noticed the academic potential in bringing the arts to schools and decided to do something about it.
“The goal was to increase the arts in schools. We thought that if we could get administrators to see the value of the arts, student exposure to the arts would do better on standardized tests,” she says.
She says: “The director for curriculum and instruction at the time showed that there was improvement in county schools where this was applied.” It was 2007.
The idea was to convince education leaders that the arts weren’t just about expression but also about balance and depth to the education system. “We knew that children learning a variety of ways. This was about getting them to improve their thinking skills and take the curriculum beyond paper and a pencil.”
At the time, although most schools had a music teacher, others art disciplines such as theater, dance and visual art were grossly underrepresented. For example, in 1997, an art teacher could be in as many as 10 schools, so they would only get to see their kids once a year.
Originally the program was called The Visual Arts Institute and it primarily drove in more art education. Today, the Prince George’s Artist/Teacher Institute is a much bigger and broader program in Prince George’s Public Schools. Makle says it has been a difficult path to success. “We had to keep going back and pushing for support fo this,” she says.
“You had to ask over and over and not quit.”
“Dr. Maxwell believed in this and he supported us,” she says of the current administrative leadership and others like PGCPS Arts Integration Officer John Ceshini. “That’s what it takes– someone to believe in it.”