Creating a Community Connection in your Art Class: AME 123



How would you describe the vibe in your art room? What do you focus on? Art? Classroom management? Colorful decor? Today’s guest, Rona Wilcox from New Zealand, claims that her focus is community. And she maintains that the strong community she has created is why she has a waitlist for her after school art classes.

Sounds intriguing right?

In this episode, Rona and I talk about the language that helps her students not only feel welcomed but brave and curious. Rona drops an art tip a minute so listen carefully her great advice!

Get to know and learn more about Rona Wilcox:

 1. What was your path/journey to becoming an art teacher

University and gained a diploma in Teaching and a Bachelor of Education. I was a general classroom teacher, teacher in charge of Visual Arts for Primary school and on the Arts Curriculum Development Team (24+ years). I did a Visual Arts Leadership Course to facilitate the implementation of the new curriculum into our school. Then I had an Art student from the States with me for her final 6 week teaching practice which highlighted how important art was and how much I loved it and wanted to teach more. So I started the specialist Art teacher role in my school 2-days a week and now I teach 4 days, and I began an after school art club, holiday art classes and an adult class.

 2. What do you feel is your best attribute or strength as an art teacher?

I think my best attributes are my creativity, adaptability and organizational skills. A particular strength is the ability to adapt a lesson to cover a variety of age levels.

3. What do you do well in the art room and how does this benefit your students?

I am able to build strong, positive relationships with students, I am encouraging and my art room has a calm, well organized atmosphere. I excite and motivate students with pictures, books, video clips and props and I give clear instructions and expectations.  This benefits students because they feel secure, safe to take risks, ask questions and work through mistakes. I give students freedom to explore materials and ideas within clear boundaries.

 4. Why do you feel teaching art to kids is important?

I believe teaching art to kids is very important because it encourages thinking, observation, participating, communicating, perseverance, problem solving, self management, self evaluation, goal setting, exploration, experimentation, to ask questions, to learn about history, science, maths, different cultures, different points of view.  Art is a fun way to learn and learning should be fun.

 5. Why did you join the Sparklers Club and how has the joining the group helped you?

I did the free webinar a few years back on how to choose the right project and I heard about the Sparklers Club. Generally in NZ, classroom teachers teach their own art and we don’t have Art specialists therefore there is very little Art Professional Development for primary schools.  So I signed up for the Sparkler’s Club for a month to see what it was like. I loved it so kept going for a few months then showed it to the PD organizer at school and he agreed for the school to pay for the year subscription. It now comes out of our curriculum budget.

Joining the group has helped by cutting down my thinking and planning time. It has given me all the skills to be confident in what I am teaching. I have expanded my repertoire of lessons – I love doing new things – new lessons. I have people I can share and glean ideas from.  I don’t have any actual formal art qualifications – so being part of the Sparklers, I get amazing PD, feedback on what I am doing, lessons done for me (I just have to fit it with our curriculum) I can support and encourage others, Ive made many new online friends around the world who I connect with through art – it’s like my safety net, my resource centre, one of my social events – I just love it!!!!!

Something I Love

Doing crafty activities and card making.  I have been working on decoupage tiles (make into coasters) and mixed media wood blocks. I have Wednesday night set aside for doing this and some Saturday afternoons. Sometimes my daughters or friends come along and bring their projects to work on. Lots of fun and very relaxing.


– How Rona got started on her art teaching path

– How she adapted her curriculum over the years to accommodate students of different skill levels

– Why starting an after-school program was the defining moment that changed her teaching

– What has allowed Rona to continually host sold-out art classes

– How her after-school art differs from the art she teaches during regular school hours

– What she feels is the best strategy for teaching art to kids and why she says you can’t fail at art





Rona’s Facebook Page

Inspired Education

Rona’s favorite Deep Space Sparkle Lesson: Starry Night Multi-Media Art Lesson

You can visit Patty through Deep Space Sparkle on Facebook and Instagram

Patty Palmer At Home Instagram


What do you think?

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  • Sane-Mari

    Very inspiring podcast. It so happened that Rona and myself have mutual connections (a person and where she lives and teaches).

  • Jill Suzanne Hatcher

    Great interview!! I loved hearing from Rona!! What an interesting journey she’s had! I loved hearing about all of her adventures and her tips as an art teacher in New Zealand these days. So inspiring and enjoyable!! Thanks for interviewing her, Patty!

  • Kara Sabatella

    I so thoroughly enjoyed this podcast. Rona and I are kindred spirits in our style of creating art with children. After teaching art in schools for 13 years , I am on a similar journey and finding my way to WONDERFUL destination of after school art clubs and summer camp art . It’s so obvious Rona is a gem of an art teacher!!!

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