NCCAT is not a vacation—I went to NCCAT and it changed my life. I went to a visual journaling workshop with David Modler and Eric Scott to renew my artistic practice as a visual art teacher here in Guilford County. Before I left for NCCAT, I had sent in my application for graduate school to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro trying to better myself and my teaching. While I was at NCCAT I worked from 7am—well into the night, inspired and fueled by the teachers I was learning from and the environment that NCCAT provided. At the end of the time that I was at NCCAT, UNCG called me for an interview the same day that I was leaving NCCAT. I finished my session and cried to my fellow participants about how much the experience there had opened me up and changed me for the better. I went to my graduate school interview and talked about my portfolio and the experience I had just received at NCCAT. How it had opened up my eyes to new ways of reflection and working and changed my studio practice as an artist. How the conversations and connections I made at NCCAT had changed me. I left my graduate school interview feeling good. While going through graduate school at UNCG I asked one of the professors who reviewed my application what it was that they saw in me that showed I was a worthy candidate for the Masters in Fine Arts (MFA), the terminal degree in my field. The professor told me it was how connected I had seemed to my practice in the visual journal I had just completed at NCCAT and how open to experimentation I was. I have finished my MFA and now teach at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Because of how NCCAT and the visual journal impacted my life as an artist and educator I now require all of my students to have a visual journal hoping that it as a tool might give them one tenth of the gift I have received from it and the workshop at NCCAT.
NCCAT is the only center of its kind in the nation. North Carolina has set a standard for how teachers are to be treated. NCCAT is evidence of the commitment; its representatives are committed to quality education for all teachers across the state. Continue that commitment and show the rest of the country the standard that North Carolina is commiting and that they should duplicate when it comes to quality education in the classroom by providing quality professional development for teachers and learning in the classroom for its students. NCCAT is a reason to recruit new teachers and retain them. As a college professor and a middle school teacher I tell all my students what a blessing it is to be a part of North Carolina's education system. I continue my commitment to serving North Carolina's students in art education. I ask that you join me in that commitment and renew funding for NCCAT.
The proposed budget will result in new challenges for classroom teachers that will make their jobs even more difficult; this is all happening at the same time that we are shifting to the new Common Core Standards. Grappling with all of this requires high-quality professional development of the type that NCCAT can and has provided. Data show a higher rate of retention for NCCAT teachers than for NC teachers who have not attended NCCAT (96% NCCAT versus 90% for NC); for beginning teachers the difference is far greater (81.8% NCCAT versus 60% for NC). Many of the proposed budget cuts will further undermine the potential to retain new teachers (elimination of mentor funding); this reinforces the need for the beginning teacher support provided through NCCAT.