Art Teacher's Pinterest, Social Media Networks Share Lessons and Ideas

By Joetta Sack-Min

Donna Staten, an elementary art teacher in Round Rock, Texas, has earned the title "Pinterest Queen" because she has shared thousands of lessons and amassed nearly 100,000 followers on the social media site Pinterest. Staten, who also serves on an advisory committee for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, says Pinterest has recharged her 30-year teaching career. She recently spoke about her strategies for using Pinterest and other social media in an e-mail interview.

LFA: How did you get started on Pinterest? How long have you been “pinning,” and how much time does it take you each day or each week to share projects and lesson plans?

I remember exactly when I started pinning. It was a rainy, dreary Saturday morning in January, 2012. I had heard of Pinterest, but mostly in reference to recipes, shoes, hair styles, etc. I had not heard of anyone using it for educational purposes

. Since I didn’t need to get out in the bad weather, I grabbed my laptop and decided to check out the site. The next time I looked up, it was dark outside and I was still pinning, reading, and learning! I could not believe the plethora of educational pins I was finding. My mind was spinning with the many ways Pinterest could be used in the classroom. I am a very organized person, and this seemed like a perfect virtual file cabinet for lesson plans, visuals, video clips, management strategies, and so much more.

I spend quite a bit of time on Pinterest, but it is relaxing to me and I look at it as awesome professional development! It’s really not much different from enjoying a good book or magazine. Sometimes I spend an hour or more at a time, other times I just check my daily feed quickly for new ideas.

LFA: Tell us about how you’ve used art projects to help engage and connect to some of your special needs students, including students living in poverty, those with limited English proficiency, and students with disabilities.

Today’s students are accustomed to using technology in so many aspects of their lives. So, anything multi-media will get and hold their attention better. I have instant access to hundreds of quick video clips that relate to my lessons. I may use them to introduce something or to fill those few extra minutes after cleaning up. Some of the videos teach songs related to concepts such as color or shapes. This is very helpful for my dual language and special needs kids. Plus, they leave the room happily singing about something that they just learned!

LFA: I saw a few items on your page that had gotten more than 1,000 pins. What are some of the most popular themes or most liked projects that you’ve seen? What are some of the best tips you’ve gotten for your classroom?

The first two projects that I tried in my classroom were the “Calm Jar” and “Crayon Brownies.” The calm jar has popped up all over Pinterest and on numerous blogs. It’s simply a jar filled with warm water and glitter glue and then sealed. When a student just needs quiet time, I have them shake the jar and watch the glitter fall. This seems to help kids quickly calm themselves. “Crayon Brownies” are given when students do something nice for someone else. They are a mix of crayons melted in a brownie pan. I also give them whenever I speak /present at conferences and the adults like them as much as the children!

I would say the most popular pin of mine is “Personalities,” colorful face sculptures in a cubist style made of all recycled materials. I get contacted frequently though all of the social media sites for my lesson plan.

LFA: What are your strategies for using Pinterest to convey information and ideas to other teachers?

When I first joined Pinterest, I pinned things that fit with my own lessons or classroom. I had no idea that I would have thousands of teachers following me so quickly. As those numbers continued to rise, I started hearing from other teachers who used my boards as a resource. So, I changed my boards somewhat so that they could be used by any art teacher and now I have close to 100,000 followers.

LFA: Do you use other social media to post classroom ideas or communicate with other teachers?

Yes! I am in an Art Teacher group on Facebook with around 6,000 members from around the world who communicate daily. Everything from lesson plans to preferred brands of paint, problems and accomplishments are shared within this strong PLN. We are like a family online and many of us meet up at national conferences in matching PLN t-shirts! The group also uses Twitter to communicate and has frequent Twitter Chats. My Gates Teacher Advisory Council communicates through Voxer as well as through a Facebook group. I also connect professionally through LinkedIn and Google+ and follow hundreds of blogs. Most of my professional development is now through online connections. I presented at the first online conference for art teachers a couple of years ago and have been invited by another group to present online this summer.

LFA: What can teachers and other school staff find on Pinterest that they may not be able to find elsewhere?

Teachers share their lessons and ideas generously online. You might be able to find things elsewhere, but it would take a lot of searching and might not be free.

LFA: Anything else we haven’t covered, or that you would like to add?

My first online presence was on the site Artsonia- the world’s largest student art gallery. I started with them when they began in 2000 and continue with them to showcase my student artworks. Each of my students has a personal online gallery that is added to each year. The students write artist statements on the site and receive comments from family and friends in their fan club. Schools are ranked by participation and we are currently ranked #1 in Texas and #2 in the nation! Many of the art teacher names that I knew for years from Artsonia are now in my PLN.  

Pinterest has led to amazing professional opportunities for me. In the fall of 2013, I was one of five teachers invited to meet with Melinda Gates and her education team in New York City. We discussed how we use social media in our classrooms and for professional development. That led to several invitations, including one to serve on the 2014-16 Teacher Advisory Council (TAC) of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  I have since spoken at various state and national conferences including the National Art Education Association and the Texas Association of School Boards. Presenting at TASB led to a “20 to Watch Educator” award presented by the National Association of School Boards at the COSN (Consortium of School Networking) conference in Atlanta this past March. I have been featured on the Pinterest Blog and was named an “Educational Pinfluencer” by the site.

This is my 30th year in education. Pinterest and other online resources have totally recharged my teaching. There is just not enough time to try all the good ideas!

School Characteristics