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Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Spotlight on Gallery Artist – Michele Contala, Lambda, New Jersey

An Open Artists’ Discussion on Creation, Technique & Opportunity

1. Briefly, tell me a little bit about yourself as an educator and as a photographer?

I am a retired sixth grade classroom teacher in the middle school. When our sixth grade was transferred from the elementary to the middle school, we began an after-school club originally titled The Videographer’s Club and later renamed the Technology Club. The pandemic did not slow us down this year. With access to Zoom and breakout rooms we completed our thirty-first year!

In the elementary school we borrowed a VHS camera (even an extension cord on our shoestring budgets) and filmed in real time Great Lives of Great People, Time Travelers to Ancient Rome and Greece, and Just Say No to Drugs. When we moved to the middle school, we were able to edit on a VHS system and continued with curriculum inspired projects through a grant from Eco-Lab. With a grant from Tech 2000 our new creative life began with an eMac.  We added an iMac with a gift from the George Link Charitable Trust.

The focus of our club has been an orientation film for fifth graders and recently the township has added a district wide film festival.  Bringing my love of photography to the students has enhanced our learning experience and created a bond. Students researched, wrote scripts, filmed, and edited their work. We work primarily on iMacs and iPads but all others are encouraged.

In 2016, I applied for a grant for a community project through DKGNJ. We were able to preserve the legacy of our men and women who had served our country by filming their experiences as part of the Veteran’s Day Program.  The DKGNJ grant enabled us to purchase two iPads and accessories. We continue each year and add to our archives. Thank you, DKG!  The iPads allow us to continue to explore the art of film making with our Tech Club students.

2. As a photographer, where do you find your inspiration?  Do you search for a particular subject or seem to just have the camera ready?

I find inspiration in the beauty of the seasons, the innocents of a child, the wisdom of our elders, the smiles of loved ones, and in whimsical moments…. truly the world around us.  If I am out and about I usually have my camera and always my phone.

3. When you start framing your subject, is there a process that goes through your mind? As an example, your photograph in the Spring gallery called ‘Mac and Cheese’ is of two super cute donkeys.  How did you get them to hold still and how many photographs did you shoot before you settled on one?
‘Mac and Cheese’ are two rescue donkeys that are part of a retired teacher’s dream filled with many rescues and much love. We were visiting the ‘farm’.  Mac and Cheese were in the barn waiting for a treat and a nose rub. They were contained within the frame of the barn door.  I shot about a dozen and did a short video.

4. Your other entry, Saco River Bridge, shows a very different subject. Is there a story behind this one?

We were enjoying New Hampshire’s leaf peeking for the week. With NH known for its covered bridges we were on a mission.  The Saco River Bridge is operational, so off we went exploring, parked the car, and with an easy walk we were at the river’s edge.  It was a magnificent, clear day…. the beauty of the season.

5. Do you have any tips for others looking to take still photos?

Clarity and composition are the two fundamentals of photography that I strive for. Lighting is key. Capturing action requires to be aware of shutter speeds and aperture settings reflect the depth of field.  With today’s cameras and phones and built in editing capabilities, great photos are a click away.  I do read my manuals and search for tutorials on You Tube.  I’m just learning about a newly purchased camera, a computer in itself.
Enjoy the moments…click joyfully.  If we are lucky, we have captured a magical moment in time.

6. Have you entered your work in other competitions?

Personally, I entered a dachshund on the bow of a boat wearing a life jacket for AAA’s Pet Calendar.  Rosie’s parents loved it. AAA not as much.

As a teacher I was involved in a two-year Home of the Free Photojournalism project sponsored by Canon, the New York Historical Society, Washington Mutual Bank, and Pulitzer Prize photographer, David Hume Kennerly.  The project centered around our civil servants, and we were on locations throughout the township.  A worker feeding a pig in the park with a sign that clearly stated, Do Not Feed the Animals, captured the judge’s attention year one. Three police officers talking to a group of kindergarteners was selected the second year and hung in the Corcoran Gallery of Art with 19 other photographs from the tristate area.
It was an opportunity that I embraced with my students and their parents. As the students researched civil servants, subjects were photographed, selections were made, and I documented their journey. Each student received a bound photo book that captured the many facets of the project, from the moment we began to the thrill of seeing our photo hung in the museum in Washington, D.C. It was an exciting, magical, and unforgettable experience.

 Michele Contala

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Teacher appreciation in the example of Estonia, Netherland, Iceland, Finland and Sweden

 Part 2

Schools are so much more than just schools. Teachers serve many roles, especially during the recent pandemic times. Teachers are mentors, psychologists, crisis teams, coaches etc. Teachers inspire, motivate and guide students through their school time. We all know how under paid teachers and other educators are all over the world, but fortunately there are also other ways to show appreciation to the outstanding educators. In this two-part series of articles we are introducing how educators are recognized in Estonia, Netherlands, Finland, Iceland and Sweden. In the first article we introduced the examples of Estonia and Netherlands. In this article we will focus on Finland, Iceland and Sweden.  

Example of Finland - Eija Liisa Sokka-Meaney

Several societies award a prize for teachers every year like the Finnish Foundation for Teachnology Promotion (Universities), The Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters give a teacher prize and some others. Many Universities give a good teacher prize usually every year to some teacher in that university, e.g. at the University of Eastern Finland or the Young Teacher of the year prize, University of Oulu.

Many subject societies give an annual prize to a teacher in their subject such as physics teachers, textile teachers, the Textile Teacher of the Year, the Technical teacher of the year, the teacher of mathematical subjects, technology teachers, biology and geography teachers society and often these teachers work at schools for example Globaalikasvatuksen opettajapalkinto the Teacher prize of Global education given by Plan International.

International Teachers’ Day is celebrated on the 5th of October and it is noted in many schools, news and also the The Trade Union of Education in Finland, OAJ ( The Trade Union of Education in Finland has chosen recently the prize winner - i.e. the Finnish education influencer - and it is the Finnish teacher. This is due to the work teachers have done in the pandemic situation. 

Finland also has a very good example how to use social media for recognising educators. Kiitos koulu – Thank you school campaign launched by Studeo, teaching materials publisher, in January ( Studeo started a link “Thank your teacher – Kiitä opea” just by pressing a button on an app and writing your note on a wall. It has been tremendously popular, there are already over thousand thanking notes on the wall. 

Example of Iceland - Ingileif, Ingibjörg

The Icelandic Education Award.

Last year the Office of the President of Iceland with the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, the Ministry of Transport and Local Government, Universities, Unions, other education authorities and interest groups established The Icelandic Education Award. The agreement between parties is for five years. The goal is to draw attention to ambitious and excellent school and leisure activities and encourage reform in education for children and young people. The award applies to pre-schools, elementary schools, upper secondary schools, art schools and leisure and youth activities. The award is granted in three categories: Excellent work at schools or education reform, Excellent teacher, and Excellent development project.

In addition a Motivation Award is handed out to an individual, group or society that has initiated education reform or shown excellence in their work. Nominations, 3-5 in each category, are announced each year on the 5th of October, the International Day of Teachers. On the 13th of November 2020 the Awards were handed out to the winners for the first time:

1. Dalskoli (, a Primary school in Reykjavik, was awarded the prize for excellent work in their school or school reform for the development of interdisciplinary creative teaching methods in so called work-shops and job development projects where teachers research their own work (Forsíða - Dalskóli ( 

2. Birte Harksen, a teacher at the Health pre-school in Urdarholl, Kopavogur, was awarded the prize as an excellent teacher for outstanding teaching and an initiative to strengthen creative and play-centered activities in pre-schools by creating the web-sites: Children and Music (Forsíða (, A play with books (Forsíða ( and The magic of letters (Stafagaldur - Forsíða).

3. Workshops in Langholtsskoli, Reykjavik, were  awarded the prize for Excellent development project for increasing interdisciplinary activities with emphasis on creativity, key-competences and the use of information technology in the studies (Þróunarverkefni - útikennsla - Langholtsskóli (

The Motivation Prize was handed out to Ingvi Hrannar Omarsson, teacher and entrepreneur and the group UTIS that is a learning society of pioneers in teaching methods. The prize is for outstanding support to job-development of Icelandic teachers by sharing progressive ideas about creative schools, innovations and information technology where the student is in the center. Ingvi Hrannar Omarsson was a key-note speaker at the DKG International Conference in Reykjavik 2019 and was very well received by the participants that thought highly of his contribution. Shortly after the conference he started studies in Design and Technology at Stanford, USA (

 Example of Sweden - The teacher gala  Marianne Skardéus

November 2020 was the fifth year in a row that students from all Sweden nominated their favorite teachers from five different categories of educators; then the teachers were appointed by a jury. Normally there is a big gala evening but as the COVID-19 stopped this; The program presenter, Mark Levengood, took a grand tour around the country to give praise to our skillful teachers in their local schools.


“My teacher has changed me to the better and that is why I started the Teachers´ Gala in order to have the spotlight on the teachers of our country”, says Beata Kull, the founder of The teacher gala.

Through the gala we recognize the important work made by the teachers of our country and can at the same time highlight all the good school results, and this is done through the participation of the students.

The purpose of the Foundation Lärargalan is to strengthen the teachers´ corps and is also of great importance as it provides in-service training, networking, contacts with students and with working life.

Our Crown Princess Victoria and her husband Prince Daniel are supporting the Gala through their Foundation with the purpose to counteract exclusion and support good health for children and young people in Sweden.


"The teacher gala is an excellent initiative" – Nobel prize laureate: Tomas Lindahl


”The most essential for children of today and thus also for the future of the world are two things : what values they get from their parents and that they have good teachers at school,” said Martin Lorentzonm founder of Spotify, supporting the teacher gala.

“The best we can do for the future of Sweden is to support our teachers,” said Niklas Zennström, founder of Skype and a supporter of the teacher gala.

” Being a teacher is about leadership.  Having the ability to make every single individual to believe in him/herself, to make decisions and to develop individually and in a group. A good teacher is a person that is involved, spreads knowledge, is clear and shows respect,” said Carolina Klüft, former Atletico with Olympic medals.


Carolina Klüft

These qualities are also those who are mentioned in the nominations from the students. Often being mentioned is the encouragement the students get and the feeling that the teacher also is a mentor and a friend to whom they can turn with all kinds of problems.

It is a great pleasure to share such stories where educators are valued and highlighted for their immense work and role in the society and these are only few. I invite you to also share your stories about how educators are recognized and appreciated in your institutions, home towns or countries.


Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Are You Ready for the Conference? Conference to-do list.

Hotel reservation - check; Conference registration - check; Flight or car reservation - check; DKG App downloaded and explored - NOPE! Let's get that one checked off your to-do list today. Here are a few steps to follow:

1. Log into 
2. Visit > Resources > DKG App
3. Review details and directions
4. Follow directions to download the DKG App
5. Spend time exploring the nuances of the "NEW App."
6. Enjoy the app and see you at the conference!

The DKG New App's for You!!! 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

ISF Committee Members Go Virtual in 2021

Whether you are attending the 2021 International Conferences in Portland or San Antonio, in person or virtually, the members of the International Speakers Fund Committee are excited to be offering you a virtual presentation at each location. 

Your ISF Committee members have been meeting via Zoom since last summer when we officially joined the Administrative Board in July and were appointed members of the ISF Committee. It was during these meetings that we decided we could offer our members some tips on being a virtual speaker while informing them about the International Speakers Fund. The ISF Committee members who will be presenting virtually at the International conferences this summer live in Canada, Estonia, and Panama. 

Look for our 2021 ISF presentation, Keys to a Successful Virtual Presentation: 

Do you want to be a captivating virtual speaker?  
Is there a recipe for a successful virtual presentation? 
Join us as we explore the keys to becoming a successful virtual presenter.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Spotlight on Gallery Artist - Valerie Millet, Upsilon, Louisiana

Inspired by her love of nature and a background growing up in a small, “everyone knows your name” south Louisiana community, this DKG Gallery artist, Valerie Millet, hails from Upsilon Chapter of the Louisiana State Organization. In the floodplains of the Mississippi River, a deeply-rooted Louisiana native from St. James Parish, Valerie agreed to share her artist insights in a Q&A format. Enjoy this sojourn into Valerie’s beautiful story and her Spotlight responses. Her two-dimensional art is reflective of her childhood and continues to influence her strong belief in the importance of encouraging young and seasoned artists through the creative arts.  

“Peace at Peggy’s Cove,” is a 2-D oil painting of Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia. It was done after we traveled there to explore our Acadian heritage. I am grateful for my retirement years, so I can go back to my “file” and paint what had left such a lasting impression on me.”