- Upper School
This week’s featured faculty is visual art teacher, Jodi Thomas! Ms. Thomas has more than twenty years of teaching experience in the arts and has been part of the TA community since 2002. Before that, she taught for three years at
High School, and three years at Spaulding High School in Rochester, NH, where her career began. As an education major at the University of Maine at Farmington, her love of art was “reignited.” She transferred to USM and graduated cum laude with a BFA in art, with concentrations in art education and photography. She earned a graduate degree in art education in 2008 from Fitchburg State University.
Since 2002, Ms. Thomas has been teaching Visual Art I, Photography, Honors Fine Art Portfolio Preparation, Honors Visual Arts, and Advanced Placement Studio Art classes. She has been recognized for excellence in art education on multiple occasions; in both 2019 and again this year (2021) she was named Maine’s Art Educator of the Year by the Maine Art Education Association (MAEA) and National Art Education Association (NAEA)! She also received the Award for Teaching Excellence by the National Education Association (NEA) in 2020. Thornton Academy alumna Megan Bainbridge ‘19, a former visual art student, shared her thoughts about Ms. Thomas as a classroom educator with the MAEA, saying, “I think this is the most notable aspect of the class environment she creates is that students are comfortable enough to express creativity, while still understanding the effort that they must put in to succeed.”
Fellow arts department faculty, Jennifer Witherell-Stebbins, shared that “Jodi’s commitment to creating original works of art with students runs very deep. It is not just a job for her—it is her. Jodi’s mission, if you will, is to have students search for their true selves through their work in art. Her level of care and concern goes beyond grades, scores, and college acceptances. Jodi’s contribution to the development of teenagers in her care cannot be measured by any of those things. Students who are lucky enough to be in her class have a rare opportunity at self-discovery, reflection, and growth. Not only does she hold students to high standards, she celebrates with them when they have finally found what they were searching for.”
What is the best thing about teaching at TA? What is the most challenging?
“The best thing about teaching at TA is that the administration and TA community fully support the arts and encourage the student body to explore and nurture their creative interests.”
What do you hope for your students?
“My hope for students is to take full advantage of the plethora of opportunities available to them while at TA, whether it is joining a club, playing a sport, or performing on the stage. There is no other place where you can truly experience a well-rounded education, to try something new, or become the best version of yourself.”
What do you hope for the future of TA?
“The pandemic has impacted each and every one of us, and as individuals we experience situations differently. My wish is that we accept each other's uniqueness and continue to cultivate an atmosphere where we embrace each other with compassion and kindness. No matter the situation—we are stronger together.”
Thank you for your sincere commitment to cultivating and celebrating the creative work of your students, Ms. Thomas! You bring an infectious energy and enthusiasm for the arts to the TA community. Not only Thornton Academy, but the entire State of Maine, benefit from all that you bring to art education.
B&W photo taken by Grace Thibodeau '21