New Mexico Art Education Association Council

Executive Officers 

Elected positions

Steve Heil (he/him), President
Santa Fe Public Schools, Middle School Teacher

Steve Heil serves Santa Fe Public Schools as Gifted Support Specialist. In 2020 he received his MA with Distinction in Art Education at the University of New Mexico. He has been living and teaching in New Mexico since 1997, shortly after earning a BA in Music from Lawrence University in Wisconsin. Steve maintains his National Board Certification in Early/Middle Childhood Art and has taught art at all levels in public and private schools. As an elementary art teacher in Gallup, Steve’s colleagues, students, and their families championed his recognition as a 2010 recipient of the Golden Apple Award for Teaching Excellence. Since 2012 he has been developing the talents of diverse gifted students, first in McKinley County and now in Santa Fe. Steve is interested in maximizing student inquiry and helping his students grow as creative and critical thinkers with the practical skills to get things done. The intersection of art and gifted education and principles of equity are Steve’s favorite topics to explore. Special interests include Teaching for Artistic Behavior, art assessment for equity, and meeting the needs of High-ability Visual Artists from groups that are as yet underrepresented in advanced art programs.

Contact Steve at president

Steve Heil,Membership Chair

Justin Makemson, President-Elect

Assistant Professor of Art Education, UNM


Dr. Justin Makemson moved to New Mexico from Tennessee where he was the art education program coordinator and an associate professor of art at Belmont University. Prior to this tenure in higher education, Makemson taught 15 years in community art programs and the public schools of Missouri and Indiana.

Makemson received his PhD in Curriculum and Instruction Art Education from Indiana University in 2014.  His research interests include student-artist identities, place-based technologies, material studies, and neuroaesthetics.  Makemson was recognized as TAEA Middle Region Art Educator of the Year in 2016 and TAEA Student Chapter Sponsor of the Year in 2015. In terms of creative experience, Makemson trained in printmaking and oil painting as an undergraduate but through teaching discovered a passion for numerous other creative outlets– Branding, toy design, and game design dominate Makemson's recent creative initiatives.

Contact Justin at presidentelect

Justin Makemso, Higher Education Division

Michele Platis (she/her), Current Past President

Rio Grande Academy of Fine Arts, Co-Director

Michele Platis is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of Rio Grande Academy of Fine Arts Charter school. She has a BFA from Alfred University (1993) in NY and a Master’s of Education from Wayland Baptist (2010). Michele began teaching in 2007 at an NM charter school in the general education classroom and was offered her dream job as the Visual Arts teacher and Fine Arts Director in 2013. She taught K-8 and loved her diverse groups of students. In 2015 Michele piloted the Model Cornerstone Assessments for the National Arts Standards. She helped in editing the Visual Arts EoCs and worked briefly with the NM PED on creating performance-based assessments for NM. Michele has also participated as an FAEA reviewer. She was Middle School Assistant Principal at another charter school for two years. Prior to becoming a certified teacher, Michele taught visual arts in her home to home-schooled children (and her own three children) for ten years and was the preschool educator at the Albuquerque Children’s Museum. In 2016-2017 Michele also served as NMAEA Secretary. She believes deeply that in order to close the opportunity gap, all students must have access to the arts. Through NMAEA Michele has grown as an educator and a leader and strongly encourages others to join the association and get involved.

Contact Michele at pastpresident


OPEN Treasurer

 If you are interested in the position for 2019, please fill out the volunteer form.


Mary Durfey (she/her), Secretary

Elementary Art Educator, Farmington Muncipal Schools

Mary is from the Southwest and has a passion for the arts.  She has a BFA from Brigham Young University (1992) and later a Masters of Arts in Education from the University of New Mexico. She worked many years as self-employed photographer, owned a scrapbook store for a while and then devoted some time to raising her small children. During this time is when she started volunteering in the schools and knew she needed to add to her education to become an art teacher.  Children’s art brings her joy and she loves her career. Appreciating beauty and nature, enjoying the outdoors, traveling and learning are some of her other enjoyments. She is also a strong advocate for women and children’s issues and hopes someday our world will be a little safer and a little kinder. Children need to be able to feel successful and have ways of expressing themselves and have joyful and fulfilling lives. She believes the arts is a way to help this happen.

Contact Mary at

Mary Durfey, Secretary

Leslie Warnick (she/her), Divisions Director
 K-8 Art Education Coordinator for Anansi Charter School in Taos

Leslie Warnick is the K-8 Art Education Coordinator at Anansi Charter School in Taos, NM, and recently earned her MA in Art Education. She serves on the board of NAEA’s LGBTQ+ Interest Group, working in advocacy to support LGBTQ+ youth in art education programs. Leslie’s creative passion is puppetry, puppet making, and writing stories for her puppets to tell, and also loves working with collage. She enjoys swimming to stay fit and beat stress and loves to travel and experience the beauty and diversity of other cultures. Leslie and her family lived in Latin America for many years before arriving in Taos in 2010. She has two awesome sons, now 16 and 18 years old.

Contact Leslie at


Liz Olive, Membership Director
Art Educator, V. Sue Cleveland High School

Liz Olive has lived in New Mexico since 2004. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from UNM in 2012, and a Masters of Art in Art Education in 2017. She began her teaching career at V. Sue Cleveland High School in 2015, and is still there, teaching several different art classes. Liz lives in Albuquerque, has three cats, and an excellent internet connection.

Contact Liz at


Advisory Council 

Appointed non-voting positions

Jessica Parham, Conference Chair
Art Educator, Roswell High School

Jessica Parham holds a BAFA degree from the University of New Mexico. She has been teaching digital media, ceramics and studio art since 2001, and was awarded teacher of the year in 2008 at Belen High School for her groundbreaking digital arts media program. In November, 2017 Jessica was awarded High School Art Teacher of the year by the New Mexico Art Education Association. Jessica currently teaches at Roswell High School and is an active volunteer for anything arts related in Roswell and with NMAEA. 

Contact Jessica at

Jessica Parham, Co-Conference Chair

Nikki Turman, Scholastics Co-Chair

Albuquerque Public Schools, High School Art Teacher

Nikki Turman is an Albuquerque native and holds a B.A.F.A. in Art History and a M.A. in Art Education, both from the University of New Mexico. She has been teaching at Del Norte high school since 2009 and teaches Art I, Painting and Drawing, and the AP Art program and sponsors the DNHS Chapter of the National Art Honor Society. She is the former Membership Chair and continues to raise our secondary teacher membership and bring awareness of the NMAEA throughout the state. Together, with her co-chair Joseph Baca, she committed to bringing the Scholastic Art Awards to the State of New Mexico, and showcasing our students’ work at a National level. 

Contact Nikki at scholastics @

Nikki Turman, Co-Scholastics Chair

Joseph Baca, Scholastics Co-Chair

Albuquerque Public Schools, Middle School Art Teacher

Born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Joseph Paul Baca received his Bachelors of Art in Fine Arts with Honors and Master of Arts in Art Education from the University of New Mexico and has been teaching art in public schools for the past eight years. He is a current member of the NMAEA council and a co-chair of the New Mexico Scholastic Art Awards, one of the only state-wide art competitions that highlights the best student artwork from 7th-12th grade. Joseph is also a recent addition to the adjunct faculty of the Art Education Program at the University of New Mexico.

Contact Joseph at scholastics @

Joseph Baca, Co-Scholastics Chair

Amy Tanner, Awards Co-Chair

Christine Martinez, Awards Co-Chair

Position Open Advocacy/Resource Development Chair

Michelle Sanchez-St. Andre, Communications Chair
Albuquerque Public Schools, Visual Arts Director, Zones 1 & 4, MA Ed.

Michelle Sanchez-St.Andre is a Visual Arts Director for Albuquerque Public Schools, a Co-Founder of the Rio Grande Academy of Fine Arts (RioGAFA), and a member of the RioGAFA Foundation . She holds an administrative license along with a Level III Visual Arts Secondary Education license. She was a facilitator at NexGen Academy with APS and an art teacher at V. Sue Cleveland HighSchool in Rio Rancho. She received her BFA in Graphic Design from New Mexico State University and a Masters of Education through the University of Phoenix in California. Prior to becoming a Visual Arts teacher, she was a professional Graphic Designer in New Mexico and in California. She has been a member of the NMAEA since 2009 and on the council since 2014. Michelle enjoys participating in the association because of the support that comes with being a member and her love of teaching. She enjoys teaching other teachers and can be seen every conference teaching a workshop or two. Michelle continues her journey as a life long learner through professional development and continuing her own education with college art classes and exploring her wanderlust by traveling abroad.

Contact Michelle at communications

Michelle St. Andre, President



Ex Officio:

Vicki Breen, Arts Consultant, New Mexico Public Education Department

State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education, Vice President

Vicki Breen is the Arts Consultant for the State of New Mexico Public Education Department. She coordinates the Fine Arts Education Act (FAEA), elementary fine arts programs in the 89 New Mexico Public School Districts and 36 State and Local Charter Schools. The work required includes monitoring student participant numbers and funding guidelines, updating each district and school’s application each year, on-site monitoring, technical assistance and on-site professional development. Additional work includes coordinating the FAEA Winter Meeting, performing legislative and community work across the state for New Mexico students, with programs bridging to secondary schools. 

Ms. Breen is an advisor to the New Mexico Advisory Council for the Arts, a member of the Board of the New Mexico Art Education Association, and Past President of the National Association of State Directors of Art Education.  Ms. Breen monitored statewide public school district instructional programs K-12, acted as EPSS (Educational Plan for Student Success) Team Leader (on accreditation site visits). She has networked with higher education, developed and disseminated informational networks and workshops among educators, business and community leaders for visual and performing arts and other content areas, and she has coordinated the New Mexico Teacher of the Year recognition. She has conducted teacher training through assessment and curriculum designs, taped and edited teaching videos to provide educational models, developed and published art, art education and student recognition documents, as well as Youth Art Month development and design.  Ms. Breen holds a Master of Arts Degree in Arts Education from the University of New Mexico, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Arts and Arts Education from Eastern New Mexico University, and Administrative License from New Mexico Highlands University.

Contact Vicki.

Vicki Breen, Arts Consultant, New Mexico Public Education Deparment