Fell Charter School principal Mary Jo Walsh was recently honored by NEIU (Northeast Intermediate Unit) at an Arts in Education Luncheon held at POSH in Scranton. Ms. Walsh has been the principal at the Fell Charter Elementary School since 2006 and has been a strong supporter of including various fine arts activities in the school’s curriculum.
Ms. Walsh believes that by providing opportunities in education encompassing a rich array of arts including dance, music, theatre, literature, design, and visual arts as part of the core academic subjects and after school opportunities, students gain an added essential element of a complete and balanced education.
She also believes that the arts are a great equalizer for students of varying abilities. Opportunities in the arts give students a vehicle to express ideas, develop passions, and ask questions in a non-threatening environment. For Ms. Walsh, as an administrator, the arts are about transitioning from "right" answers to questions to conversations about “what if.”
Her years of experience have led Ms. Walsh to firmly believes that given the opportunity to practice being creative, being inquisitive, and seeing inherent value in works they don't always understand can contribute to students being successful and, most importantly, to being happy. She believes that the arts develop happiness in children, and that happiness a staple for personal success as well as confidence builder.
At the Fell Charter School, creative and fine arts are not seen as extra or "tacked on,” but rather, they are an integral and integrated part of the curriculum from kindergarten through 8th grade. The goal of the arts programming at the school is to focus on exposing students to possibilities. Ms. Walsh credits the NEIU staff for always offering great partnerships through available grants and commends her staff for being willing to integrate the arts into their daily classroom activities.
Ms. Walsh attended the luncheon with Fell Charter School board member Luis Melgar, the school’s music teacher Katie Talarico, and several students from the school. Centerpieces for the tables were origami butterflies made out of book pages by students who participated in the school’s After School Art Program with the school’s artist in residence, Michael Sorrentino. The students who attended the luncheon sang a song, “My Wish” by Rascal Flats, to Ms. Walsh under the direction of the school’s music teacher.
Ms. Walsh received the Administrator Award at the 2018 luncheon. Eight other awards were given to people who have demonstrated support for the arts in education. NEIU 19 is comprised of twenty area school districts.