“This is a great school; great things are happening in education. The arts are important and they can make a difference in any school setting.”
"Real Lives: Art Teachers and the Cultures of Schools" by Professor Tom Anderson was published in 2000 and tells stories of the day-to-day lives of K-12 visual art teachers. The book is used across the country by teachers-in-training as a way to get a picture of the job and learn from the best. However, a lot has changed since the year 2000.
That's why Dr. Jeff Broome, an associate professor of art education at Florida State University and the Director-Elect of the Higher Education Division of the National Art Education Association (NAEA), partnered with Dr. Renee Sandell, retired professor from George Mason University, to co-author an updated edition: "Real Lives 21," which will incorporate new stories, new technologies, new laws and the ever-changing classroom environment of the 21st Century.
After securing the publishing contract with NAEA, the real work began: finding, securing permissions, observing and interviewing the "highly qualified and effective art teachers working in a variety of contemporary contexts in North America" to be featured in each chapter of the book. Due to the rare combination of a highly-educated and experienced digital media and graphic design teacher working in a Title 1 middle school with a diverse population, Dalton Middle School's Dr. Xiomara Romine was a perfect fit.
"She met the criteria immediately, but after we received several recommendations and learned about the unique story she has to tell, the selection became easy. We knew we had to include her," said Broome. "We want to offer future teachers some inspiration, and the best way is through storytelling. Storytelling is a way to share what counts in life and in our profession."
Dr. Romine has taught at Dalton Middle School all 13 years she has been a teacher: 11 years as the visual art teacher, and the past two years teaching digital art. Dr. Romine has her Bachelor's degree in Graphic Design, her Master's in Art Education, Post-Master's Certificate in School Administration and her Doctorate in Education, with an emphasis in Leadership and Learning. To say she is passionate about her craft and education is almost an understatement.
Dr. Broome spent March 30-31 in Dr. Romine's classroom, observing, interviewing and getting a feel for her story and her teaching style. "What I want for him to take away is that this is an important and rewarding profession," she said. "This is a great school; great things are happening in education. The arts are important and they can make a difference in any school setting."
Dr. Romine teaches all grade levels at the middle school, focusing on the mastery of platforms like Photoshop for the older students and online design programs for the younger students. She also mixes traditional art into her classes, like sketching, and then looks at ways to transform the pieces onto a digital platform.
Dr. Romine is disciplined, some would even say strict, but she balances her lesson plans that way. "I expect a lot of my students. My lessons are two-part: they should be engaging because I want the students to get excited about the work they're doing, but also disciplined because I want them to know I care about them."
Her students are currently working on projects like comic portraits, optical illusion posters and interpreting landscape paintings on the computer. They have created pieces for various school departments and clubs, such as the Hoops for Heart Banner, new SGA Logo, the Talent Show poster and the "Bye Bye Birdie" drama poster. "It's kind of like we have an in-house design studio here at school," said Dr. Romine.
One of the major attractions for Dr. Broome was that DMS is a Title 1 school with a diverse population. He applauded the fact that the district has done an excellent job of providing her with the resources she needs – her room is full of computers, all equipped with Photoshop, etc. "You just don't see many middle schools teaching the subject of graphic design," he said. "Dr. Romine would be an excellent teacher in any setting, but the rareness of her class is what really makes her stand out."
"When you have great students, co-workers you consider real-life friends, administrators who are supportive, caring and funny, it makes everything a lot easier," she said. "I am always supplied with the tools I need. I have great people surrounding me. I'm blessed."
Dr. Broome said he noticed how dedicated and caring Dr. Romine is about her job right away. "Dr. Romine is an expert in her craft. She is organized, a firm and fair class manager, but she also has a warm and caring relationship with her students," he said.
The current plan is to finish up observations of the other teachers and have a first draft of the book done this fall. However, editing and publishing is a lengthy process, so the finished book is most likely a few years away. When NAEA does publish the book, it will be well circulated among the art teaching profession and available through any major book retailer (i.e. Amazon).
"I'm so excited about this opportunity. It has invigorated me and made me reflect on things I haven't thought about in a while," said Dr. Romine. "It gives me a sense of pride in the things I've accomplished because I can see the pay off. I can see what my students are learning. I'm just really proud."