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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Leadership: Are you Striving, Thriving, or Reviving?

A life of leadership can be broken down into three phases:

“Striving”, “Thriving”, and “Reviving”. 

In the early stages of a person’s career or membership in an organization, she is gathering experience and making decisions about which leadership opportunities to pursue.  This is a time of exploration, learning under the mentorship of others, and utilizing talents and strengths to pursue advancement. This is the stage in which a person is “striving to find a path to success and to influence others along the way.

The second stage of leadership is achieved when a person begins taking on offices or positions of responsibility, becoming secure in the knowledge that experience has wrought.  In this phase, a leader is confident in her abilities, but also aware of her weaknesses. She encourages team members to contribute their own complimentary strengths.  In this stage of leadership, the goals are for the sustainability and advancement of the organization.  The leader in this position cannot be self-serving, but should be focused on the mission of the organization and on growing new leaders.

The third stage of leadership includes those who have previously held offices and positions of responsibility but now are settling into other roles within the organization.  Individuals in this stage of leadership can be a vital force in mentoring, encouraging, and assisting others.  They can support the “thriving” leaders and mentor the “striving” members.  If current leadership seems to be drifting away from the mission, these experienced members can “revive” the vision and offer their wisdom and advice.  Their input and encouragement are invaluable to the success of the organization.

How can we as a Society nurture and support each phase of leadership?

For those “Striving” members:          

  • Provide professional development and leadership development opportunities at the international, state, and chapter levels.
  • Provide workshops at conventions and conferences that encourage leadership development and educate members about opportunities to serve. 
  • Encourage participation in committees and society events, while being careful not to cause stress or contribute to burnout.
  • Inform members of opportunities and benefits associated with DKG.
  • Mentor and encourage members.
  • Provide financial incentives for members to attend professional development opportunities and conventions.
  • Acknowledge and award achievement.

For the “Thriving” members:

  •         Provide training at the international, state, and chapter levels for officer and committee positions.
  • Provide financial support for officers and other leaders to attend training and conventions/conferences.
  • Support and encourage leaders by volunteering to help in areas of expertise.  Former leaders (“Reviving” members) can mentor and advise.
  • Acknowledge and award achievement.  
 For the “Reviving” members:
  • Make sure that all members feel valued and have a role in the organization.
  • Plan programs and activities for members in all stages of leadership.
  • Create opportunities for “reviving” members to mentor and serve.
  • Offer to provide transportation for older members to meetings and events.
  • Acknowledge and award achievement.

These are just a few ways that we can work to “revive” our society and “strive” to help our organization “thrive” and “survive”.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

DKG Arts Gallery Blog: Artist’s Spotlight: Dedra Davis – North Carolina State Organization – Alpha Iota Chapter

 An Open Artists’ Discussion on Creation, Technique & Opportunity

    Briefly, tell me a little bit about yourself as an educator and artist?

I am a recently retired art educator, teaching both elementary and high school art. I taught elementary students in the mornings and walked across the street to teach high school art classes in the afternoon. I had the same teaching position for 31 years. I'm blessed to live in an arts focused community in Western North Carolina and have been able to teach and take classes at the renowned John C. Campbell Folk School. I received my BSED from Western Carolina University. I have a master’s degree in Instructional Technology from East Carolina University. I also received my National Board Certification in Art education.


     It was a pleasure meeting you and other Gallery artists at the International Conference in Phoenix, AZ this summer. Thank you for sharing your artistic creation ‘Sunflower Angel’, at the live gallery. Tell us a little about your experience. Were you a newbie? Why did you travel so far to be a part of this gathering of exceptional DKG members?

I have attended several international conventions and conferences and had other works of art accepted into the gallery in previous years. As the NC Liaison to the International Fine Arts Jury, I just facilitated my first showcase exhibit of the International Gallery artists from NC at our state convention. I wanted to see how International handled the logistics of an exhibit during a conference. I knew I could take away some ideas to make our next convention exhibit even better. I was not disappointed!

     Your recent entry to the Gallery is titled ‘Sunflower Angel’?  She is only 10 inches high but incredibly intricate and delicate. Tell us about her creation.

My “Sunflower Angel” was created using the process of needle felting which I discovered  about seven years ago when attending an art education convention.  Needle felting is a dry felting process. It involves sculpting shapes and figures using wool and special felting needles that have sharp, barbed blades that tangle the wools fibers into felt by using a repetitive jabbing motion. The Angel design is loosely based on a corn husk doll with a bit of inspiration from the Waldorf fairies.  I created a wire armature for support that I carefully felted around, layering the wool to form the body.


     What is needle felting, as I’ve seen it done by knitters for hats but not for sculpture. You mention in your artist’s description that ‘Sunflower Angel” was created from various colors of wool roving. What is the difference? How is this done?


Felted hats, scarves, bags, even shoes are typically created using the wet felting process. Water soap and friction are key components of wet felting. This is not my area of concentration although I have done some pieces that I really enjoyed.


Needle felting is very relaxing with the repetitive movements of poking the wool. In addition to sculptures, I also have begun to “paint with wool” creating 2-D framed landscapes and florals with the layering of beautifully dyed roving just as you would layer paint or pastels. I use needles to attach the fibers to a base of pre-felt. A foam base is placed under any needle felted project so as to not break the needle or stab oneself.


A little history- The needles used for needle felting were not originally designed for hand crafting – they were designed for industry. At the turn of the 20th century, machines with beds of these barbed needles were created to tangle fibers into felt fabric. These machines are still being used today to make industrial felt out of a wide variety of fibers. The next time you open the trunk of your car, you will know the thick liner was made with machines containing hundreds or even thousands of barbed needles. It wasn’t until the late 1980’s that innovative fibers artists got the idea to use a single industrial needle to sculpt wool into 3 dimensional shapes. What kind of wool can be used for needle felting? There are lots of possible choices ranging from Roving, Tops, Batting…from so many varieties of sheep. You can even needle felt with other animal fibers like Alpaca. Some also use their cat and dog hairs to felt with.


Various forms of wool


Batting – After being scoured, the wool is sent through a picker to remove debris and vegetable matter (vm) which breaks up the lock structure. It is then brushed out using a method called carding. This can be done with hand carders and the brushed fiber that comes from that is known as Rolag.


Carding- can be done on small drum carders and commercially on large carding machines – the final product resembles quilt batting.


Roving – roving is similar to batting, but it’s produced into long ropes, rather than wide sheets. After scouring and picking it is brushed into long ropes – the fiber in roving remains rather messy, like batting, and should not be confused with combed top.


Combed TopThis is a confusing term because much of the combed top you see is referred to as roving.

Roving that has been combed so that all the fibers run the same direction. It is known as top because only the top quality, long fibers remain after the process. This is desirable for spinning into yarn and wet “felters” love it but for needle felting it is more difficult to work with than fibers that have been brushed but not combed.

·                  Do you work in other media, or do you solely work in Fiber arts?


I create using many different media. I like to draw, paint, as well as create assemblages and work in glass and metalsmithing. Needle felting is my most recent passion. I plan to enter some jewelry pieces in the next submission cycle. 


     As the past arts(liaison/chair) for North Carolina, tell us a little about how the NC ladies support your creative endeavors? (What I’m trying to say is …NC has a very strong presence in the gallery…how do you ladies make it happen?)


NC DKG does a great job publicizing and supporting members in entering their work into the gallery. I have offered workshops and done presentations for members /chapters to make submitting their art less intimidating. Additionally, our website, chapter newsletters, state newsletter, and Facebook page all publish the submission windows and encourage our members to let their talents shine! 

     What does the value of Creative Arts in Education mean to you?

Arts education has always been a passion of mine. Music, theater, dance and visual arts are so crucial to a student’ well -being. Access to a well-rounded arts education helps students’ critical-thinking skills, creative confidence, hands-on skills, visual literacy, self-esteem, and an appreciation of other cultures. It breaks my heart to see schools not hiring new teachers in the area of the arts when a teacher transfers or retires.  So many students live for that opportunity to create art in some form and express themselves freely.

     Parting thoughts/Insights?

I knew from the time I was a little girl that art would always be a part of my life. I just didn’t know how big of a part it would be.  By high school I had figured out that I wanted to be an art teacher.  I was then diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and in a wheelchair for my sophomore year of high school.  My hands as well as every other joint in my body were affected by the disease. I knew the Lord intended for me to teach art and I never let anything get in my way. Multiple joint replacements and time spent on crutches, or a wheelchair never kept me from pursuing a degree and from being the best art teacher I could be.  I have had the best career I could have ever had! Never boring or repetitive. I loved having the freedom to experiment and explore and getting to watch the joy on my students’ faces when they were in the moment creating! 

Thursday, November 16, 2023

“ART - Ask for More”

Spotlight on Vickie Skavenski, West Virginia

Basketry, art and craft of making interwoven objects, usually containers, from flexible vegetable fibers, such as twigs, grasses, osiers, bamboo and rushes, or from plastic or other synthetic materials. The containers made by this method are called baskets.

Balfet, Hélène J.. "basketry". Encyclopedia Britannica, 20 May. 2019, Accessed 30 October 2023.

Our spotlighted artist this month hails from the great state of West Virginia and is a true-spirited Appalachian, proud of her culture and heritage.  Seeing her basketry artwork in the DKG Arts Gallery found the key to this writer’s heart.  I have always loved baskets and have a collection of my own.  With the combination of nature, tactile sensory, and utilitarian usage, the art of basketry has its beginning in every early and present civilization.  Seeing the beautiful weaving of Vickie Skavenski, West Virginia State Organization President, inspired us to find out more about her journey in keeping this three-dimensional artistry alive and thriving in her community.  Take a twist and turn with us, as we get to know this former 4-Her and college professor.  Always the dedicated teacher, Vickie continues to devote herself to the preservation and love of her Appalachian roots.

Tell us about yourself as an educator and craftmanship artist.

I taught 24 years in a K-12 school at Circleville WV, that had an enrollment of around 200 students. Then the two high schools in the county consolidated and I taught 10 more years at Pendleton County High School. I taught English 11/12, AP English, yearbook and newspaper, speech and drama, and Appalachian Literature and Culture.  I also taught English 101 and 102 for Potomac State College and Eastern WV Community and Technical College.  For several summers I taught English for the Upward Bound program at Davis and Elkins College.

How did your journey begin as a basket weaver?  Are you interested in other avenues of artistry?

When I was in high school, WV Extension sponsored Heritage Weekends to get students interested in Appalachian music, dance, and crafts.  From that time on, I was hooked.  I made my first basket with a friend, and then as a 4-H leader, I began attending craft weekend at Jackson’s Mill State 4-H Camp where I learned from Barbour County 4-H agent John Lloyd how to make a variety of baskets and how to do reed chair bottoms.

I had a group of students around 1981 at Circleville High School who convinced me that we could do an Appalachian Class after we had performed Jesse Stuart’s “The Thread That Runs So True” as their junior class play.  After receiving permission from the county to add the class, we gathered apples, made cider to sell, and purchased our textbooks - “Voice from the Hills” by Higgs and Manning which had been recommended by Berea College.  From that time until I retired, each class learned how to make a basket and how to do chair bottoms as my personal effort to see that these skills did not die.

Tell us what inspires you and how you developed the artistic basket(s) that you entered in the gallery.

I like to look at patterns and then see if I can make them.  I liked this basket because it had a swing handle, and the autumn metal leaves added to the overall effect.  Some baskets I’ve made because of their names, like the Sunday Go to Meeting basket which women would take to church. They carried whatever they needed, covering the top with a handkerchief. 

What is the best artist advice that you’ve been given by an artist or anyone?

You just need to try—nothing goes wrong when you are trying a new project that can’t be fixed.  Fix it, and go on to finish what you are doing.  I had students who would say, “This is wrong, but I don’t want to take it out.” I would reply, “You will be much happier at the end, if you do.”  Then, together, we would fix it. 

What does the value of the creative arts in education mean to you?

The last two years that I taught, 2006-2008, I was part of a team of teachers (art, music, and drama) that were trained by the WV State Department of Education to go into counties in my RESA to do in-service training on how to incorporate the arts into every classroom.  This was very important to me, because often other teachers do not see a need for the arts.  We all wore buttons that said ART—Ask for More.”

Is the anything else you’d like us to know?

My theme this biennium as WVSO President is “DKG Proud. Proud Women Educators. Proud West Virginians. Proud Appalachians.”  I am planning to work my love for this state and Appalachia into everything that I do.  We are having our Leadership Conference at a beautiful state park where we will have music for the social time on Friday night by the Dulcimer Dames, and we plan to ask local artists and craftsmen to set up during that time.  We are going to work on a speaker’s bureau highlighting writers and artists from our DKG chapters and from the state.

Final thoughts…..

So, the next time you look at a basket; small or large, intricate or simple-weave, think about the artistry that went into its creation.  The Arts & Humanities Jury Committee loves the varied artists and their enthusiasm for the specific medium that we see in the submission process for the Art Gallery.  Vickie Skavenski is no exception.  Her passionate longevity for the craft and willingness to share her talents are truly a treasure for our DKG organization.  Vickie’s basketry will be enjoyed by many for decades to come.  Without a doubt, this WVSO President will be a successful leader as a proud West Virgina DKG sister, educator, and Appalachian.

We invite you to view the Art Gallery, click here.

Keep the conversation going, please use the comment section below to suggest new topics, ask questions, or give us your input. We love hearing from our readers and gaining new ones.  Spread the word!

Monday, November 13, 2023

Chapter Culture and Structure Aids in Member Recruitment and Retention

Do any of the following sound familiar?  I am dropping my membership because:

  •         Meeting times/places are incompatible with my schedule.
  • The chapter is no longer meeting my needs.
  • At meetings, I feel like an outsider.  No one welcomes or talks to me.
  • Some members are very unkind.
  • I feel disenfranchised because there is lack of communication and connection.
  • We don’t do anything. 
  • Meetings are a joke.  People only come to eat and socialize.

These comments are what members often share on the dropped member surveys.  These reasons are all linked to the culture and structure of the chapter; to what we do, how we behave (especially toward one another), and how the chapter is organized.  The good news is both chapter culture and structure are parts of chapter life over which we have control and about which we can do something. 

Culture of the chapter has to do with its overall atmosphere and is created by what members think, say, and do.  Structure of the chapter includes how the chapter is organized.  This includes such things as when, how often, and how long the chapter meets; number of standing committees; number of social events; types of programs; and types of service projects. 

Everyone in the chapter has a role when it comes to the chapter’s culture and structure. Chapter leaders build and drive a great culture; they set the stage.  They must create an environment that encourages diversity (everyone has a seat at the table), inclusion (everyone has a voice), and belonging (everyone’s voice is heard).  Members bring the culture to life through their behavior, behavior that should be kind, helpful, communicative, respectful and open minded.  All of this will lead to an atmosphere that is positive, considerate, kind, helpful, inclusive, welcoming, and one that will make members feel valued.  Members who feel valued are more likely to remain members.

A chapter culture that is inclusive, kind, respectful, open minded and a chapter structure that keeps the needs and preferences of members at its heart is a chapter that will be better able to retain current and recruit new members. 

International website resources that will help improve chapter culture and structure include:

  •          Resources>DKG Officer Resources>Membership>Guidelines for Chapter Leaders>p. 10
  • Resources>DKG Officer Resources>Chapter Strengthening>Tools for Chapters>
    Strategies for a Positive Chapter Environment

Members of the International Membership and Expansion Committee are also available to help.

Contact them by clicking on Committees under the About tab on the DKG International website. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

The Role of AI Systems in Today’s Classrooms

US Forum - National Legislative Seminar - March 10-13, 2024

Presenter:  Rob Weil, Director of Field Programs in the Educational Issues Department of the American Federation of Teachers.  Rob taught high school math in Colorado for 20 years and has been with AFT since 2001.

“There is a lot of speculation regarding the future of teaching and learning in K-12 education, especially with recent developments in technology. The world-wide release of ChatGPT and other generative artificial intelligence platforms have created a plethora of new, even more difficult, questions. What role will these AI systems play in classrooms? What do students need to learn to succeed in an AI saturated world? How will teaching change? How do you strike a balance between teachers and machines? And obviously, will AI replace teachers or other education workers?”

When: Sunday, March 10, 2024, 6:30 p.m. 

Register here. 

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