From Student to Award-winning Educator: Christine Jee Comes Full Circle to the Addison

As a seventh grader at Doherty Middle School in Andover, Christine Jee  visited the Addison Gallery of American Art for the first time. Though she did not realize it then, this field trip would shape Jee’s perception of museums as spaces that bring art and learning to life, as well as her future as the Education Associate for School and Community Collaboration at the Addison.

“It’s fun to think that I was actually a student here at the museum and I benefited from the educational programming that’s made available. The nice thing about the Addison too is that everything’s personalized, meaning that we don’t have structured tours that are scripted. We don’t have tour guides either, so I’m the one who works with teachers personalizing and designing every single class that comes through here,” said Jee.

This October, the Massachusetts Arts Educator Association (MAEA) named Jee as the 2019 Museum Education Art Educator of the Year. Ruth Zaimes, New England Arts for Literacy Project Director at Andover Public Schools, nominated Jee for the award.

“I don’t think that you could get much better in terms of having a museum educator than Christine. She really takes the museum both as a physical place and the art and she uses it in a way that transforms the learning that’s going on in the classroom. We say that she just extends the classroom learning. She makes museums alive. It’s not a field trip — it’s a museum experience,” said Zaimes.

For the past four years under a federal grant, Jee has worked with the Addison and Christina Hayes, previous Curator of Education at the Addison, on the New England Arts for Literacy Project. The aim of the project is to improve students’ reading comprehension using museum resources. So far Jee has collaborated with Andover Public Schools, Salem Public Schools, and the Quaboag Regional School District to bring students to the Addison.

“There’s a summer institute where there’s a week where teachers are learning about using what’s called the performance cycle in kind of a creative way to teach reading comprehension. A lot of that comes together in a museum visit where teachers bring their students, so what they do here is an extension of what they do in the classroom,” said Jee.

As a part of the New England Arts for Literacy Project, Jee invited fourth graders to the Addison while they were studying the theme of perseverance. At the Addison, they visited a Japanese Internment camp photography exhibition named “Photographs of Manzanar” by Ansel Adams.

“We made connections to the texts that they were reading at school, so the themes of perseverance and how arts can show us what that might look like. It always comes down to having the students see in real life through what artists are creating what they’re learning in school,” said Jee.

Judith Dolkart, Director of the Addison, has known Jee since the summer of 2014. According to Dolkart, Jee has made the Addison a favorite destination for partnering schools and for teacher professional development.

“I whooped with glee when I learned that Ms. Jee had been acknowledged with this award. Ms. Jee is one of the most creative educators I’ve ever met — she consistently seeks to learn, and she regularly stuns us all with new activities and projects,” wrote Dolkart in an email to The Phillipian.

In college, Jee majored in elementary education and taught second grade and fourth grade in Lawrence for seven years. During her second year as an elementary school teacher, Jee attended an Andover Breadloaf workshop with the Addison. According to Jee, her visit to the Addison reminded her of how welcoming museums can be, and she began bringing her second grade students to the Addison.

“It’s been fun for me to see arts integrated in a way where I’ve come at it from many different levels. I think that’s going to build on my appreciation as sort of a consumer of the museum as well as someone who’s utilizing museums and how important that can be, especially as a classroom teacher in Lawrence,” said Jee.

In March 2019, Jee will attend an award ceremony for recipients at the Hynes convention center in Boston as part of a MAEA national conference.