Chatham County Schools’ (CCS) Arts Education faculty is a group of 42 educators—teaching visual arts, instrumental music, choral music, theatre arts, photography and dance—in 17 schools, in diverse communities, with students across a ten+ year age span. In addition to a teacher’s particular specialty, they also teach their discipline’s history, technique, performance, critical evaluation, and more.
How does the administration maximize the effectiveness of this talented resource? Share the expertise of veteran teachers? Mentor new faculty? Disseminate information and resources? Provide professional development? Facilitate collaborative activities? Document and publicize the work of these educators and their students? Support opportunities for arts integration—using the arts to enhance learning in other disciplines?
Sound like a job for Wonder Woman? Or Mary Poppins? Or Samantha Stevens?
Fortunately, CCS has Sharon Allen, Arts Education Lead Teacher, who comes to the job with an impressive teaching record of her own.
A dedicated educator with a BA in Music and a Masters in Music Education from UNCG, Sharon taught choral and general music for more than 30 years at Henry Siler, Silk Hope, and Siler City Elementary Schools. She served on the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee and chaired the School Improvement Team. A member of the National Association for Music Education and the NC Music Educators Association, Sharon served on the board of directors and was both a District President and Recording Secretary. In 2002, she received her National Board Certification and has been named a Siler City Elementary Teacher of the year and the 1999–2000 Chatham County Teacher of the Year. She is the recipient of the Perry Harrison Cultural Arts Award and the Sarah Belk Gambrell Award for Excellence in Arts Education.
Now, as Arts Education Lead Teacher, she visits every K–12 Arts Education teacher on a monthly basis. To support new and veteran teachers, the Lead Teacher observes classrooms, teaches demonstration lessons, and covers classes so teachers can visit other arts teachers in and around Chatham County. She assists Arts teachers as they participate in the Analysis of Student Work (ASW) process required by the Department of Public Instruction as a part of the teacher evaluation process. She attends regional and state arts meetings, gathers and shares teacher information and resources, connects teachers with strong skills with others in need. Sharon plans & coordinates staff development and assists with logistics to produce county arts events (opera for fifth graders, Arts Extravaganzas, All-County Chorus and All-County Band in April).
We got her to take a breather and answer a few questions so you can meet Sharon and learn a bit more …
CAC: Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
SA: Actually I was born in Siler City. My family moved to Dobson, NC (Surry County) when I was 7 yrs old. Now I Reside in Liberty, NC on a farm that has been in my husband’s family for over 50 years. My husband is a CPA and the CFO for a small business in Brown Summit. Our daughter, Laura is a senior at NC State University majoring in Business Administration.
CAC: When did you first know you wanted to be a teacher?
SA: I always wanted to be a teacher. School was a most positive experience for me. I was one of those kids who had my own classroom complete with a blackboard and bulletin board and stuffed animals as students! I knew I wanted to teach music when I was allowed to shadow an elementary music teacher. It combined my passions for music and working with children.
CAC: What is something most people don’t about you?
SA: Most people don’t know that I am a second generation Chatham County teacher. My father, Clyde Johnson, taught math at Chatham Central High School in the early 1960s.
CAC: Tell us about a Chatham artist you admire.
SA: Tommy Edwards is such an amazing musician who is so willing to share his talent. When I was teaching elementary music he was always willing to visit my students to share his knowledge of NC music and perform for them.
CAC: What reading material is now on your bedside table?
SA: You’ll find my journal, Real Simple magazine, and my current read, a compilation of stories from people who wrote about near death experiences.
CAC: What can we look forward to from the arts education programs in CCS?
SA: We always have exciting programs on the horizon in Chatham County Schools. For our students, there are upcoming All-County and invitational events. For our teachers, we are debuting an Arts teacher portal on the website that will feature grant opportunities, ASW information, and anything else they might need. For the Chatham community, we will be showcasing our Artist-in-Residency partnerships and, of course, the myriad student concerts, exhibits, and performances offered throughout the spring.
CAC: Finally, what is the best advice you’ve been given?
SA: Find a career based on your passion!
Clearly, Sharon took that advice to heart. When most people would be happy to settle into retirement, Sharon continues to use her considerable skills to impact the lives of our young people.