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, Current Past President

Mission Achievement and Success Charter, Middle School Assistant Principal

Michele Platis is a Level III K-8 Visual Arts teacher and now the Middle School Principal at Mission Achievement and Success 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 North Valley Academy in the regular education classroom and was offered her dream job as the Visual Arts teacher and Fine Arts Director in 2013. She teachers K-8 and loves the diverse groups of students. In 2015 Michele piloted the Model Cornerstone Assessments for the National Arts Standards. She has helped in editing the Visual Arts EoCs and is currently working on creating performance based assessments for NM. Michele has also participated as an FAEA reviewer. 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 served as the Secretary of NMAEA. In 2018 she was President-Elect. She is honored to now be serving as your President. 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


Cynthia Hanna, Interim Treasurer
High School Art Educator, Crownpoint High School

Cynthia Hanna has been the art teacher at Crownpoint High School in Crownpoint, New Mexico since 1995. In addition to teaching Art I, Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Ceramics and AP Art Studio, sponsoring the art club and the student council, Cynthia also has coached JV or C-team volleyball for 19 years. Prior to that she was a Peace Corps volunteer in Kopong, Botswana where she taught art at Kopong Community Junior School. Her teaching career began at Claude Jr-Sr High School in Claude, Texas. Cynthia grew up in Lubbock, Texas and will still occasionally lapse into a Texas drawl. She graduated with a BFA in Art Education from Texas Tech University in 1990 and earned a MA in the Humanities from California State University, Dominguez Hills in 2009. Cynthia was lucky enough to grow in a family of artists, and that love and support in the creative endeavors has led her to explore many artistic interests from ceramics and quilting to painting. However, she considers her most creative and satisfying endeavor to be the art of teaching. When not overly committed to Crownpoint High School, Cynthia enjoys walks on the mesa with her dog Basil and finding adventure in travels nearby or far-flung.

Contact Cynthia at

*Cynthia has finished her 2 year term. We are looking for a Treasurer that Cynthia would love to mentor through this year. (2019). If you are interested in the position for 2019, please fill out the volunteer form.

Cynthia Hanna, Treasurer

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, New Mexico. She is in her second year of studies towards her MA in Art
Education. She lived in Latin America for fourteen years in Mexico, Nicaragua, and
Argentina and is fluent in Spanish. She is a puppeteer, puppet maker, and story
writer. While living in Mexico she investigated a variety of creative disciplines at
Escuela Bellas Artes in San Miguel de Allende, where she discovered her love for
puppetry. Leslie and her family have been in Taos for ten years. She has a
fifteen-year-old daughter who is a visual arts student at NMSA in Santa Fe. Her son
is a junior at Taos High and is a talented photographer, designer, and actor. She
has been married for twenty-two years and met her husband while living in Mexico.
She has a passion for travel and experiencing the beauty and diversity of other
cultures and her dream is to teach art abroad someday.

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 Manager, Zones 1 & 4, MA Ed.

Michelle Sanchez-St.Andre is a Visual Arts Manager for Albuquerque Public Schools. 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 board 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. Now as a seasoned teacher, 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

Renee Mitsunga, YAM Chair

Art Educator, Los Alamos Public Schools


Renee Mitsunaga is passionate about representing the rigor and excellence the arts contribute to every student in her school, district, and community. After leading the art team at Los Alamos Public Schools for three years, Renee took a leadership position with the New Mexico Art Education Association.  She is the Council for Art Education’s Youth Art Month Co-Chair. Renee promoted and ran the YAM Flag/Banner Program for the state. In addition, she is working on collecting student artwork, recognition of outstanding programs, and educators from districts around the state. The YAM Program promotes the importance of building and sustaining an arts rich education. She continues to research and network with other districts throughout the state to obtain and share information about innovative resources and opportunities.

Contact Renee at nmyam @

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