New Mexico Art Education Association Council
Michele Platis, 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.
Steve Heil, President-Elect
Santa Fe Public Schools, Middle School Teacher
After a BA in Music at Lawrence University in Wisconsin, Steve Heil received his MA with distinction in Art Education at the University of New Mexico. He has been teaching in New Mexico since 1997 and is National Board Certified in the area of Early/Middle Childhood Art. He taught art at all levels in various settings in McKinley County, from Zuni to Crownpoint, public and private school. As the PreK-5 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 with Santa Fe Public Schools. Steve is interested in maximizing student inquiry to meet all students’ needs and helping his students grow as creative and critical thinkers with the practical skills to get things done. Special interests include Teaching and Assessing Studio Thinking, Visual Art as Research, Teaching for Artistic Behavior, and meeting the needs of High Ability Visual Artists from groups that are typically underrepresented in specialized art programming.
Michelle St. Andre, Current Past President
Rio Rancho Public Schools, High School Art Teacher, MA Ed.
Michelle Sanchez-St.Andre is a Level III Visual Arts 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. As a teacher, Michelle enjoys sharing her knowledge of graphic art and design, ceramics and art history with 9-12th grade students. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
*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.
Mary Durfey, 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.
Leslie Warnick, 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.
OPEN, Membership Director
Steve Heil is standing in as Interim-Membership Director until the spot can be filled at the next election cycle, if not sooner.
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.
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 @ newmexicoarteducators.org
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 @ newmexicoarteducators.org
Position Open, Awards Chair
Belinda Hardin, Advocacy/Resource Development Chair
Elementary Fine Arts Coordinator, Lovington Municipal Schools
Belinda Hardin is originally from Santa Fe and graduated from Santa Fe High School. After high school, she graduated from NMSU and later did her graduate work at ENMU. She is a 28-year employee of the Lovington Municipal Schools, having taught gifted & talented, 2ndgrade through 7thgrade, before becoming the Elementary Fine Arts Coordinator for the District in 2003.
As Coordinator, she has begun several new programs for the arts to be visible within the community. Some of these include the “Celebrate the Arts” night at the annual art fair and the “Artist Signing” where the students sign their artwork for the annual calendar sales. One can see framed student artwork all around the district as well as at the local hospital, public library, museum, courthouse and student health clinic. She is an advocate for the fine arts and was instrumental in developing the “Wildcat Singers”, an elementary honor choir and the “Wildcat Ringers”, an elementary bell choir. Belinda has enjoyed mentoring classroom teachers who struggle with integrating the arts.
She has created an Art Resource Center for teachers, filled with art resources, art examples, musicals, costumes, and art supplies. Students look forward to attending her Art Camp each summer, where they get to experience all the disciplines of the arts.
Belinda is a member of the New Mexico Advisory Council on Arts Education, and a Board member of the Lea County Museum. She is a CASA volunteer and was awarded “Rookie of the Year” in 2015. She was also the 2014 recipient of the NMAEA Association, Supervisor/Administrator of the Year Award.
She has been married for 37 years to a cowboy she met while at NMSU. They have two daughters, both of whom are doctors. The love of her life is her granddaughter, Charlee.
Elijah Nieto, Communications Chair
Art Educator, Carlsbad High School
Elijah Raul Nieto graduated with a BFA from Eastern New Mexico University in the spring of 2011. Then happened upon an opportunity to teach painting and drawing at his hometown high school in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Walking up to his fourth year of Art Education, Elijah has not gone unnoticed in numerous areas of his district and community.
Having a mind geared for optimism and a mutable attitude that just won't quit, Elijah has been able to reestablish a program that seemed to be undead. While working closely with students, high standing individuals within the city, and other art teachers. Mr. Nieto has helped establish city murals, updated decorations for Christmas on the Pecos, pushed for student art to be displayed within the main offices in his district and high school, and has stood against the opposition of student voice and expression.
Among other duties Elijah is the Head of the Fine Arts Department at CHS, Lead Fine Arts PLC facilitator, NMAEA Member, Sponsor for the National Art Honor Society chapter at CHS, lead collaborator of the district wide Art Gala event, youth mentor and musician at Word of Life Church, and a member of Creative Carlsbad.
Teaching art is challenging and takes dedication, passion, and a huge heart. Elijah is an individual that has the ability to rise above the mark and ignite others into action alongside himself. Within his professional community Elijah has received recognition for teacher of the year, teacher of the month, employee of the year, an outstanding teacher certificate awarded by the Mayor, a community character counts award, and is in the class of 2019: 40 under 40 awarded by the Chamber of commerce. Elijah Nieto is a world shaker and a lover of life and art. Though he has made strides these past few years his greatest accomplishment was not any of the things previously mentioned. For Elijah it was understanding that being an art educator is not a choice it's a calling.
Contactf Elijah at
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 @ newmexicoarteducators.org
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.