Monthly Member Highlight: Melissa Kristiansen

Melissa Kristiansen is our highlighted VATA Member for the Month of December! She shares with us how she got into the realm of art education.

Melissa shares, “Painting took a back seat when I gave birth to my sons in 1988 and 1990. When I began taking my boys to pre-school the director found out that I was a graduate of the Boston University School of Fine Art. She asked if I would come in twice a week to teach art projects to my children’s classes and in return I would get a discount on the tuition. After the first class, I was hooked. It was loud, chaotic, messy bliss and I thought to myself, “you should get paid to do this full time”. With two young children, I could not see myself sitting in a classroom again so I decided to join the low-residency program at Vermont College back when they were affiliated with Norwich University. I worked with a mentor, spent three weekends on campus, student taught,  and completed my teacher portfolio in 18 months. At first it was discouraging applying for positions because I had a masters degree which made me “overqualified and under experienced”. The right fit came along one year later and I have been with the same district for 24 years. I remember a professor talking to the painting majors about how “those that can’t, teach”. It was a slam to a friend of mine who was double majoring in Art Education. What a load of crap. It is an absolute joy to enter my classroom and work with my students and the enthusiasm and inventiveness within my classes has improved my own artwork. I share my creation ups and downs with my students and they love giving me feedback when I have a piece “going wrong”. Experimentation and risk taking are the norm in the art room and I love being there when a student “gets hooked” on a media. Getting my degree in Art Education was a life changer and one of the best decisions I have ever made.” 


Melissa has been a member of VATA for over 20 years and decided it was about time she took on a leadership role and is President Elect. Since the current president had to do her Art Methods classes under Melissa, it is appropriate that Lisa now gets to teach her. Melissa teaches at Poultney High School and is National Board Certified. When she is not happily creating chaos with her students she loves to paint and travel.