U.S. Department of Education Ceremony Honors Reflections Winners

Reflections_Exhibit_ArtistsImage above: 2011-2012 Reflections award winners visit the U.S. Dept of Education.

Yesterday, a troupe of 2011-2012 PTA Reflections winners visited the U.S. Department of Education for an exhibit and ceremony. Audience members, comprised of Reflections families and arts education advocates and leaders from around the country, were treated to student performances by Polly Moser (Burleigh Manor Middle School PTA, Ellicott, MD)  in musical composition, and Racquel Charles, accompanied by Tija Passley (Sequoyah High PTSA, Canton, GA) in dance choreography.

Reflections winners had the opportunity to meet with and hear from Deborah Delisle, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education; Jonathan Katz, Chief Executive Officer, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies; Betsy Landers, President, National PTA; and Cindy Dearing, Chairperson, National PTA Reflections Committee.

Prior to the ceremony, we asked Reflections winners to share with us their thoughts on arts in education — from their mentors and inspirations to the role the arts play in their everyday life and future goals.

The following is a sampling of their responses:

Q. Who is your favorite author/artist/musician/etc?

My favorite artist is Vincent Van Gogh because I love his use of color. He painted common things in such a unique way.
– Emma Mykowski, Brooklawn Middle School PTSA, New Jeresy

My favorite dancer and inspiration for my dance is my aunt, a classical Indian dancer who lives in India.
– Smrithi Suresh, Millikin Basics + Elementary School PTA, California

Author- Tim Carvell, he wrote my favorite book. Musicians- Aquabats, I like the fast beat and the  funny words.
– Keawe Oliveira, Alta View Elementary PTA, Utah      

Q. What inspires you to write/paint/compose/etc?

A person can express feelings through a photograph. I use this skill to motivate others to understand other people.
– Andrew Reardon, Liberty Middle School, Missouri

My mom is the one who has inspired me to push my artistic limits and taught me the importance of art.
– Davin Jimeno, Hollis-Brookline Middle School PTSA , New Hampshire

The past is my one and only inspiration; to hear those beautiful sounds emanating from an instrument tens of thousands of years after it is composed is truly thought-provoking. I can gain inspiration to compose when I myself play pieces that strike me as beautiful. When I hear the sounds overflowing from the keys, the same notes that were played for kings and queens, the same notes that brought audiences to their feet, cheering “Encore!”, the same notes that inspired rebellion, I wish no more than to someday compose a piece that will inspire another student just like me.
-Polly Moser, Burleigh Manor Middle School PTA, Maryland

Q. Do you have any mentors or teachers who have inspired you to participate in Reflections?

 My art teacher is awesome — she always asks us to try to do different things.  I also go to a lot of museums and like to imagine that my art might be in a museum.
– Patrick Mannion, New Boston Central School, New Hampshire

My great grandfather handed me my first guitar when I was six.  He knew that I could be a musician.   I have now  taken guitar and voice lessons since first grade.  These teachers have inspired me to work hard, learn as much as possible about the guitar and singing,  to perform in front of as many people as possible, and to write my own music.   The Reflections program let me use all the skills I have learned.
– Jayden Mendez, Central Middle School PTA, Van Buren School District, Arkansas

Collectively,  my teachers, friends and parents inspired me to participate in Reflections program. My mother is my mentor and has always been supportive. She believes in me and encourages me to challenge myself.
– Sydney Warren, Alabama PTA, Alabama

 Q. Do you plan to continue creating artwork as a hobby/career?

Yes as a hobby.  I also hope to be a chocolatier and make art into my chocolate.
– Charlie Hough, Wheeler Elementary PTA, Nebraska

 I like to play the trombone, make films and create artwork.  Of course, I like to play with Legos and videogames, too.  My mom always says I’ll end up doing something in the arts.  Maybe I’ll be a video game designer and use my music and art skills to do that.
– Patrick Mannion, New Boston Central School, New Hampshire

 Q. What skill have you developed from Reflections and how does Reflections encourage you to explore these skills?

I’ve gained confidence, experience, and, most of all, my ability to create the wonderful sound of a watercolor painting on the piano.
– Ainsley Susannah Hoh, Shirley Mann Elementary PTA, Kentucky

Entering Reflections has helped me explore film and animation and has encouraged me to learn more about the process.
– Griffin Keeter, Belinder Elementary, Kansas

Reflections has made me think more, made me branch out into other areas of talents that I really haven’t considered before. Music, as I have said before was definitely something I take pride in, but composing was a different matter. With the abounding support from my family, friends, and teachers, I finally made the decision to enter in the composition section of the contest. Reflections has also taught me persistence and patience. Throughout composing “The Flow of Water”, I constantly felt discouraged and impatient to finish. However, I learned that composing, like everything else in the world, had a gradual process, and that I must persevere despite everything to succeed.
-Polly Moser, Burleigh Manor Middle School PTA, Maryland

Q. What advice do you have for other students who participate in the Reflections program?

Try, Try and Try Again even if you feel like giving up and you can surely find out that you have the talent!
– Smrithi Suresh, Millikin Basics + Elementary School PTA, California

 Do not let any fear, or uncertainty keep you from participating, this is a great opportunity and a wonderful growing experience. You’ll be surprise of what you are capable of doing.
– Racquel Charles, Sequoyah High PTSA, Georgia

It is very important that you  stand behind your work. Don’t be afraid to be open and honest in your interpretation of your work.
– Sydney Warren, Alabama PTA, Alabama

Q. What advice do you have for others who enjoy writing but want to get better?

Never give up; just keep trying.  You can do anything you want in life if you just set your mind to it.
– Ainsley Susannah Hoh, Shirley Mann Elementary PTA, Kentucky

Be happy, because when people are happy, they are more productive and make better things.
– Andrew Liu, Bentwood Elementary PTA, Kansas

Stayed tuned to One Voice blog for more on Reflections and our talented student artists!

What We’re Reading: Nutrition


Tonight’s Biggest Loser episode features PTA parents

Biggest_Loser_PTA2Between 8-10 p.m. Monday night, parents and educators at Bay High School near Cleveland, Ohio will tune into NBC’s famed weight loss show, The Biggest Loser, with the hope that they will see their school featured. The Sun News reports that the show filmed PTA parents learning how to prepare healthy meals from Biggest Loser chef Devin Alexander. This season the show focuses on preventing childhood obesity and even features young contestants. The recipe will remain a secret until the show airs so leave your own healthy recommendation in the comments section or take a guess at what dishes they learned to cook.

A ten-year-old pleads for healthier school lunches

Andrew Misura, 10, of Maryland has some advice for President Barack Obama as he enters his second term: provide healthier school lunches and longer periods of physical activity for students nationwide. “I eat three times a day and I don’t look forward to lunch, so I bring lunch,” he wrote. “We should at least get real food! They should be healthier and something more than a microwaved box with food. You should also make longer school recesses so there is less childhood obesity.” Recently, the Washington Post published his full plea in a compilation of other student letters sent to the President in advance of the inauguration.  Read how child health and nutrition will continue to be a staple of the National PTA Federal Policy Agenda in 2013.

 New video on nutrition standards features National PTA President Betsy Landers

Earlier this year, we collaborated with the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project and the USDA to help promote the new national nutrition standards. National PTA President Betsy Landers helps to explain the changes and their importance in a short video that also features White House chef Sam Kass and includes student reactions to the improvements. Help us spread the word about these changes using the new photo gallery of healthy foods and a list of five facts you should know about school meals.

Related Content


Heather Parker is the Manager of Health & Safety for National PTA in Alexandria, VA. Contact Heather at hparker@pta.org.

Reflections: A Gallery of 2011-2012 Student Art

Since 1969, the PTA Reflections program has encouraged students across the nation and in American schools overseas to explore their artistic talents. Each year, students in preschool through high school are invited to create and submit works of art in the areas of dance choreography, film production, literature, musical composition, photography, and the visual arts. In the 2011-2012 school year, Reflections students shared their artistic interpretations on the theme “Diversity Means…” We received an abundance of inspiring, insightful works from talented, perceptive students whose art shines light on issues of acceptance, harmony, and celebration. We are proud to share with you this year’s Outstanding Interpretations in each art category, the top honor Reflections bestows upon our young artists.


Outstanding Interpretation
in Photography

Student Artist: Kobie Long
“Scrambled Students”
Grade Division: Intermediate
Hubbell Elementary PTA
Des Moines, IA


Visual Arts

Outstanding Interpretation
in Visual Arts

Student Artist: Emily Lam
“Diversity Means Harmony in the World”
Grade Division: Primary
SKA Academy PTSA
Duluth, GA


Dance Choreography

Outstanding Interpretation
in Dance Choreography

Student Artist: Racquel Charles
“True Colors”
Grade Division: High School
Sequoyah High
Canton, GA


Film Production

Outstanding Interpretation
in Film Production

Student Artist: Ansel LaPier
“The Quest”
Grade Division: Primary
Liberty Lake Elementary PTSA
Liberty Lake, WA



I woke up with Nat next to me on the hard pallet that folded up into a hard couch when we weren’t sleeping together. She had been awake for a while and I knew this because her eyes were clear and bright and makeup-less and her hair was smoothed down and melled like coconut and the counch didn’t and maybe she was just sitting there for a second. She had a book in her hands but it wasn’t open. She saw me flex my calf under the blanket and said “Hi.”I turned halfway towards her and mouthed “Hi” back and pulled the blanket over my hair and stretched under the blanket for a while. When I was done I came back out and Nat had left and I heard running water in the bathroom.Continue reading…
Outstanding Interpretation
in Literature

Student Artist: Melanie Mignucci
“Es La Lluvia Que Le Molesta”
Grade Division: High School
Staples HS PTA
Westpost, CT


Music Composition

Outstanding Interpretation
in Music Composition

Student Artist: Polly Moser
“The Flow of Water”
Grade Division: Middle
Burleigh Manor Middle School
Ellicott City, MD


Award of Excellence and Award of Merit Winners

View a gallery of all Reflections photography and visual arts award winners, including Outstanding Interpretation, Awards of Excellence, and Awards of Merit:

To view the students’ names, schools, and hometowns, click to expand the slideshow, and select “Show Info” in the top right corner.


Watch all Reflections dance choreography and film production award winners, including Awards of Excellence, and Awards of Merit, on the National PTA Youtube Channel – Reflections Playlist.


Ethan Clark is the Manager of Arts in Education for National PTA in Alexandria, VA. Contact Ethan at eclark@pta.org.

National PTA 2013 Male Engagement Conference: Helping Men Make a Difference

Carey Casey is CEO of the National Center for Fathering—fathers.com—and author of the book Championship Fathering (2009). Carey has a reputation as a dynamic communicator and as a compassionate ambassador, especially among men, fathers, and those in the sports community. Carey and his wife, Melanie, are parents of four children and have seven grandchildren.

Carey_Casey_SmHere at the National Center for Fathering (fathers.com), we’re all about inspiring and equipping men to be the involved, championship fathers their children need. And a big part of that is challenging dads to be more active in their children’s educational lives.

We regularly ask dads questions like, “How often do you take your child to school?” “How often do you hang out talking about their teachers and favorite subjects?” “Can you even name their teachers?” “Or what subjects they’re studying?” (You’d probably be surprised at the answers from some dads.)

What difference could dads make if they simply made a New Year’s resolution to read to their children or help with homework at least three nights a week—and then followed through, of course.

There are many encouraging things happening, and one great example is the growth of our WATCH D.O.G.S. program, where men volunteer a day at their children’s schools as positive male role models.

To advance that idea even more, there’s an exciting event coming next month—the National PTA® 2013 Male Engagement Conference, and registration is now open!

I hope you’ll join me and many other fathers, grandfathers, male teachers, mentors, and experts here in Kansas City, on February 8-10. You’ll experience hands-on activities and gain valuable insights about building programs and resources to:

  • increase male engagement in the school, home, and community;
  • raise bullying awareness and prevention;
  • and increase male membership in PTA and school activities.

If you are a dad of school-age kids, a WATCH D.O.G.S. volunteer or coordinator, a teacher, or you’re just interested in how to get dads and father figures engaged in their kids’ education, this conference is for you!

You can find out more details or register for the conference right here.

Carey Casey CEO, National Center for Fathering