Saturday, April 20, 2013

Remembering Earth Day 1970

My college roommate, Linda, recently reminded me of my "radical days".   I was student teaching at Van Buren Middle School in Albuquerque under the supervision of Frank McCullough, master teacher, artist, poet and musician.  

Photo Via
Frank did not have space in his own Highland High School classes for another student teacher so made arrangements with a fellow art teacher at Van Buren Middle School for me to student teach there. 

I did join the group meetings and social events at Frank's north valley home and learned that the other student teachers had organized events to celebrate the first official Earth Day at Highland High School on April 22.  Thinking that sounded like a good idea, but having missed the official date, I talked with teachers at Van Buren and the student council and we settled on May 1st as a date to do an all student clean up of the school grounds.  Maypoles and flowers left on door knobs seemed a good image for an Earth Day celebration.  Posters were created and a time chosen.  At this point, we needed the principal's input about whether we could use the gymnasium for a rally to begin the event to educate the students about environmental issues.  

Thunder, Lightening, Consternation, Fury!  Or in other words, "Not on your life, young lady!  How DARE you plan something without talking to me first!  And we certainly are NOT having anything on May 1st, that communist holiday!"

Rashly, I tried to argue with the man.  TO NO AVAIL.  No earth day celebration. 
The principal called Frank and tried to talk him into kicking me out of the student teaching program.  Frank called me into his office and said that he would find me another school, or I could apologize to the principal and try to keep a low profile until the end of the semester.  Graduate or hold to my convictions?  Well, I caved.  Cowardly I crept back to Van Buren, apologized, and talked my students out of boycotting classes on my behalf.  Would I do that now?  Nope, but I am older and stronger now. And wise enough to involve the head honcho from the beginning to get his approval.

And the man who refused to kick me out and thought I would be a good art teacher?  Frank McCulloch went on to greatness as an artist, musician and poet while mentoring several generations of aspiring art teachers.

Here is a little peak into Frank's life and career...
Arroyo at the Bosque Via
By the Camino Real Via

Frank McCulloch in his studio Via
For a wonderful article by
Megan Kamerick, NMBW Senior Reporter, Albuquerque Business First about Frank's life click here. There is a story about Frank buying boxes and boxes of condoms at the local pharmacy in Roswell.  If you wonder what he did with them, read Megan's article.  Hint: he used the art supply budget that came with his participation in the Roswell Artist-in-Residence program in 1979.

When not in his studio painting, which he does almost daily, he can be found  playing most weekends at a downtown coffee shop, Java Joes. 
Photo by
Stephen Cussen

Image Via
And was Frank right?  Did I become a good art teacher?  Well yes and no.  My first semester at Mayfield High School was a disaster!  I followed a teacher who had only been there for a couple of months when her husband was transferred. The teacher before her had taken a medical leave.

The classroom was in disarray.   Most of the jewelry tools were missing.  All of the knobs on the cabinets were gone.  The butcher block wood tables were gouged and covered with graffiti.  And I was only four or five years older than most of my students, many of whom had already been afoul of the juvenile justice system.  One student slept through every class, completely stoned.  When I was busy unloading the kiln in the separate vented kiln room, some of the students tied him to his chair.  When the bell rang, he was halfway to the door before he realized the chair was attached to him. 

Slowly order was restored.  I took some "belonging" of each student as hostage until tools were returned.  With every paycheck, I replaced one or two of the cabinet knobs.  Any infraction of rules had everyone sanding the butcher block tables which resulted in powerful, peer pressure discipline.  Everyone hated sanding those tables, including me.  Of course, I couldn't make them sand without setting a good example by sanding along with them. By the end of the semester everyone was turning in all of their projects (with the notable exception of Mr. Sleeper).  Students won prizes in any competitions I could find for them to enter, and those butcher block tables had been sanded to their former splendor.  I taught there for two years until my husband took a job in Austin, TX. While it was never easy, when I was noticeably pregnant with my first child, the very tough boys suddenly became angels, refusing to let me pick up anything heavier than a pencil. 

I never returned to teaching in the public schools, but rather taught workshops through the years and worked art into all of my Sunday classes.   While my children were small, I stayed at home.. and those teaching skills helped with my own little "search and destroy critters..."  Now I hold an open studio tutorial on Mondays at my house located in Northeast Albuquerque.    Never painted before, but always wanted to?  No problem.  I will help you get started.  If you are a master painter, you may just want have a place to paint where you can share ideas.  Our group has room for two or three more artists.  Sometimes we paint for two to three hours, sometimes all day.  It just depends on how everyone feels their work is going.

If you would like to join us, contact me at for more information.

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