New Mexico Art Education Association Council

Executive Officers 

Elected positions

Justin Makemson (he/him), President
University of New Mexico, Assistant Professor of Art Education

Dr. Justin Makemson co-coordinates the visual art education programs and teaches at the University of New Mexico (Albuquerque, New Mexico). Makemson’s work with preservice teachers spans 14 years and includes extended periods at Belmont University (Nashville, Tennessee) and Indiana University (Bloomington, Indiana). Prior to Makemson’s tenure in higher education, he worked 15 years in community art programs and the public schools of Missouri and Indiana. Makemson served 2017-2021 as the NMAEA Higher Education Division Representative. Before moving to New Mexico, Makemson served as the Higher Education Representative for the Tennessee Art Education Association (TAEA). He currently serves on the National Art Education Association’s PMC Committee. Makemson’s research interests include teacher resiliency, student-artist identities, and place-based technologies. Makemson curates/coordinates the UNM Young Artists Exhibition (a highly-selective exhibition for New Mexico’s middle and high school student-artists) and the NMAEA Member Exhibition for the Masley Gallery of Art.

Contact Justin at president

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Mary Durfey (she/her), President-Elect

Farmington Municipal Schools, Elementary Art Teacher

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 presidentelect

Mary Durfey, Secretary

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

After graduating from Lawrence University, a Wisconsin liberal arts college, and following his roots to New Mexico in 1997, Steve lived and taught art in Zuni, Rehoboth, and Gallup. As an elementary art teacher in a Gallup Northside neighborhood school, he was recognized with a Golden Apple Award for Teaching Excellence in 2009 and earned his National Board Certification for teaching Early/Middle Childhood Art in 2010. He began a new journey in gifted education in 2012 and served on the board of the New Mexico Association for the Gifted before moving to Santa Fe. For Santa Fe Public Schools, Steve took the role of Gifted Support Specialist, helping to coordinate talent development in all subject areas. Long a member of NMAEA, in 2016 Steve became active first as Middle School Division Representative, then Membership Chair, and Membership Director. He was appointed to the vacant President-elect position in 2020. That spring he also received his MA with distinction in Art Education from UNM, with a thesis exploring the intersection of gifted and art education and a focus on social equity. That year he also was elected Co-chair of the Arts Network of the National Association for Gifted Children. His interest in equitable recognition of art talent persists into 2022 as he explores an independent research project funded by the National Art Education Foundation. The CDAT Project ( uses his own bespoke Python-based web app to collect and analyze art teachers’ assessments of student drawings (Clark’s Drawing Abilities Test) based on pairwise comparison. Steve equates this comparative judgment method of assessment to the engineer’s use of simple machines; it provides “psychological mechanical advantage” to the heavy lift of assessing levels of excellence in art. 

Contact Steve at pastpresident


Christine Martinez (she/her), Treasurer

Farmington Municipal Schools, Middle School Teacher

Christine Martinez was born and raised in New Mexico and loves being a New Mexican. She received her Associate of A.S. in Media Technologies and Communications from the San Juan Community College and attended NMSU for a year. She then ventured out to earn her Bachelor of Art in Multimedia Authoring and Communications with a Minor in Photography from Sam Houston State University outside of Houston, TX, where she then worked as a graphic artist for several years. She returned to NM to raise her family where she worked for the Farmington Daily Times as a graphics department manager. Soon after she discovered her passion for teaching and went through the alternative licensure program to earn her teacher credentials and has been working for Farmington Municipal Schools ever since. In 2016 she earned her Master of Education in C&I in Educational Technology Leadership and she worked as a technology teacher integrating art throughout the course. She has worked as a 7th grade science teacher, a computer teacher, an art teacher and now as a gifted teacher all at the middle school level. She loves traveling and spending time with her family.

Contact Christine at

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Elisabeth “Lisa” Gillett (she/her), Secretary

Secondary Art Educator, Jewelry Instructor, Albuquerque Public Schools


Lisa grew up in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. After graduation in 1994 from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, with a BA in Art History, she moved to New Mexico. In 1999, she received a Masters in Art Education from the University of New Mexico. She has been teaching art in the Albuquerque public school system for twenty-two years. Presently, she teaches Jewelry at Albuquerque High School. She lives in Albuquerque with her daughter Izzy, dog Luna, and two cats, Star and Nova. Eddie, her partner, lives nearby. For Lisa, the visual art electives provide a place for students where they are nurtured & encouraged in a caring educational environment. Author and art educator Joan Erikson once said, “So attuned are our physical senses to the arts that through the ages human beings have stressed an ultimate form of expression unique to each sense: music and poetry became the arts of the ear; the visual arts the aesthetic media of the eye, sculpture and ceramics the arts of touch; dance the experience of motion motivated by the pure enjoyment of the body.” The senses are nourished, expressed, and vitalized by involvement in the arts. The jewelry classroom is a space that supports rich sensory experiences. Lisa strives to create a safe and curious space for her students; filled with joy, play, acceptance and intention. Lisa loves making collages; analog and digital. She also enjoys writing. 

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Corey Pickett (he/him), Divisions Director
 Assistant Principal, Clovis High School

Corey Pickett was born and raised in Brunswick, Georgia. He moved to New Mexico in 1995 as a member of the United States Air Force. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Eastern New Mexico University as well as a Master of Secondary Education in 2009. He received his Master of Fine Art from Vermont College of Fine Art in 2017. Corey has been teaching for Clovis Municipal Schools for over twenty two years. He has taught in the Special Education, Gifted and Talented as well as Art. He has been an art instructor ranging from Kindergarten to College. Corey enjoys sharing his passion for the arts with children and being an advocate for the arts throughout New Mexico. 

Contact Corey at

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Liz Olive (she/her), 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

Michelle Sanchez-St. Andre and Liz Olive, 2022 Conference Co-Chairs

Contact Michelle or Liz at

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 @


Michele Platis (she/her), Advocacy/Resource Development Chair

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.

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Michelle Sanchez-St. Andre (she/her), 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

OPEN POSITION, Professional Awards Chairperson

Please reach out to one of our executive officers if interested in this position.


OPEN POSITION, Youth Art Month (YAM) Chairperson

Please reach out to one of our executive officers if interested in this position.