The Season of Giving with Ms. Megan Bonistalli
Ms. Megan Bonistalli, Seneca Valley Senior High School Art Teacher
Megan Bonistalli is an art teacher at the Seneca Valley Senior High School and has been with the district since 2006. She performed her undergraduate studies at The Pennsylvania State University, where she received both a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in ceramics and a Bachelor of Science degree in art education. Her Masters in Art Education was earned from Carlow University. Megan's love of clay led her to develop a Pottery and Ceramic Techniques Program for Seneca Valley, which she has taught exclusively since its inception. She currently serves as the National Honor Society Adviser, The Scholastic Art Awards Coordinator for the Pittsburgh Region, and the Mud Geeks Pottery Club sponsor.
IN THIS EPISODE, WE WILL REVIEW
•How Seneca Valley Foundation (SVF) funds extra needs in the classroom
•Why the SVF donation was so valuable
•How the donation impacted students
•What teachers, parents, students and community members would benefit from knowing about SVF
Episode 49 - Megan Bonistalli
File Name: Voices E49 Megan Bonistalli.mp3
File Length: 00:12:19
FULL TRANSCRIPT (with timecode)
00:00:02:27 - 00:00:10:06
Introduction: Welcome to Voices, a National Award-winning podcast brought to you by the Seneca Valley School District.
00:00:11:24 - 00:00:16:15
Jeff Krakoff: It's Jeff Krakoff today I'm with Megan Bonistalli. Thanks for joining us.
00:00:17:21 - 00:00:18:18
Megan Bonistalli: Thanks for having me.
00:00:18:20 - 00:00:32:20
Jeff Krakoff: So as we are, we're going to talk have a few segments on Voices podcast titled The Season of Giving. And you are an art, pottery and ceramics teacher at the Senior High School. Correct?
00:00:32:27 - 00:00:33:12
Megan Bonistalli: Correct.
00:00:34:01 - 00:00:51:02
Jeff Krakoff: So tell us a little bit about, you know, we really want to focus on the Seneca Valley Foundation a lot of the great work they do. And then even better yet, what are the benefits seen by our staff, our faculty and our students? So tell me a little bit about what your needs were for pottery and ceramics.
00:00:51:26 - 00:01:35:04
Megan Bonistalli: Well, last year, when everything was kind of up in the air from the the pandemic where that was going to leave us, we were in cohort model of having half students half days and there was this kind of looming presence of someday we're not going to be in school again. You could feel the shutdown coming. You didn't know when, but we definitely we definitely knew that there was a chance it would not be able to come back in our doors and back in the spring, what March of 2020, when everything shut down initially? I mean, my courses all are hands-on, you have to be in the studio.
00:01:35:06 - 00:02:05:15
Megan Bonistalli: You can't take your piece home and work on it and bring it back and work on it. You need the equipment. You need ways to care for your clay. It's it's well, not impossible because we found out that there are ways to make it possible, but it's very difficult to have any kind of ceramic or clay experience when you can't visit a studio. And so those couple of weeks at the end of 2020, I pretty much had to work instead of in clay.
00:02:06:11 - 00:02:12:21
Megan Bonistalli: I had to work with art history and art theory, starting with a clay concept or
00:02:14:07 - 00:02:54:18
Megan Bonistalli: a way of working in clay and then working through to how we can look at that as a philosophy of art or love, life, and how you can use creative exercises to come up with with creative artistic solutions that didn't involve clay. So it was more of a theory class which was really sad and hard because not that that's not useful. And you know, for an art nerdtake like me, super fun. But for students that took a class where they're going to get to play in the dirt essentially and see the magic of what happens when you let your clay dry, put it through a kiln and put glaze on it, they were missing so much of that.
00:02:56:07 - 00:03:28:20
Megan Bonistalli: And I didn't want that to happen again. So my whole beginning of our semester last year, all I could think of is what can I send home with them in case we get shut down? And you know, everything costs money, right? And so I have clay, you know, well provided for and supported so well at the school. I always say that art is the necessity. Ceramic experience is more of a um, it's it's a luxury because it does takes very specialized equipment.
00:03:29:16 - 00:04:03:22
Megan Bonistalli: And so I was trying to think of what could I send home with them? That would be wouldn't take up too much space, would be usable. I'm looking around at dollar stores trying to figure out what I could get. And at the end of the day, I was going to foot the bill myself because we can't hold any of our budget over. And a coworker of mine who's sat on the board, he may still be on the board, Dean Walker of the Foundation came by one day and he's like, Megan, you know, you could ask the Foundation for help, and I was like, Tell me more.
00:04:04:23 - 00:04:40:19
Megan Bonistalli: And because I I've worked with the foundation through, I run our National Honor Society here, so I've worked with them in the sense that they run certain events. And I have kids that help support things and National Honor Society has made donations to them in the past from our kitty that we built up over the year, but I've never thought to ask for anything. And then I was like, Well, this is going to get costly. I had 88 students, which is low for me, but everything's pandemic and bizarre.
00:04:41:06 - 00:04:42:01
Megan Bonistalli: And so
00:04:43:29 - 00:05:13:15
Megan Bonistalli: I figured out that I'd need math and math doesn't always work in my head, but I think I needed like 14 to 18 dollars per student. And so I came up with the number and I sent an email just asking, what are the steps if I was going to request this? And basically, that was the stuff. And they said, Well, what are you going to use it for? What do you need? I sent them pictures, I made a little PowerPoint and I got approved. And without it, I'd be either like a thousand dollars less
00:05:14:03 - 00:05:14:18
Jeff Krakoff: Right
00:05:14:28 - 00:05:17:29
Megan Bonistalli: myself because you know you do what you do for your kids.
00:05:18:09 - 00:05:32:21
Jeff Krakoff: I don't know if people realize how often teachers do buy things of their own pocket to bring into the classroom, but this is even a step above that. What kinds of things, I'm curious, where are you purchasing with the help from the Foundation and and sending home?
00:05:33:19 - 00:06:14:09
Megan Bonistalli: Yeah, so clay, I was covered had that. But you need so you need a space. You need tools to be able to make things easily. You need water. You need a sponge. So dollar store fill in a bucket. That would be strong enough. So each kit included a bucket, some dowel rods of different sizes, two sets of dowel rods, which you can get a pack of of I think 10, which would make five sets for, I don't know, six dollars or something so that several sets out of a pack, but I needed different sizes because you, you use a rolling pin.
00:06:14:11 - 00:06:40:26
Megan Bonistalli: And if you roll against your dowel rods, it keeps your clay from getting thinner. So it's not like if you have a rolled cookie dough. Mm-Hmm. And you get frustrated, like, why can't I get it even? Well, if you put dowel rods in between where you're rolling pin hits, your dough will never get thinner than what you're hitting against. So it's like a slab roller, so you have high-quality pieces. And so it had those it had.
00:06:42:15 - 00:06:59:11
Megan Bonistalli: You need this thing called a needle tool. So I used kebab skewers that worked for that nice little sharp pieces of wood, a fettling knife that was the most expensive thing. It's a very specialized knife. They were like, wait, you're sending knives home with the kit?
00:07:01:01 - 00:07:29:23
Megan Bonistalli: But they're dull knives meant just for clay, but they're special. You can't use a butter knife. It's not going to work correctly. So I put all this stuff in there, a sponge, a little thing to make slip with, which is clay mixed with water. It allows you to stick your stuff together. And they had this bucket and they took it home, and I said, You may never have to use it. But you may and you'll want it. And so they just had
00:07:30:29 - 00:07:53:15
Jeff Krakoff: that is say it sounds like you spent a lot of time doing your shopping, figuring out how do I get a great deal getting the right kinds of items where two students could could do something fun and worthwhile and and experience art? Tell me what, how did this impact you, the donation from the Foundation, I guess how that impact you and how the impact the students.
00:07:54:17 - 00:07:57:16
Megan Bonistalli: Well, I it impacted me that it gave me hope
00:07:59:23 - 00:08:32:10
Megan Bonistalli: because it gave me hope that I wouldn't have to have a situation where my students couldn't do any part of what they signed up to do and not really like that got me back in the spring. Not that Seneca wouldn't have or I wouldn't have been able to provide. But at the beginning of the pandemic, just changing materials and things like that was more than we were kind of permitted to make happen. In certain ways it was. So I, you know, I was able to make it all happen.
00:08:33:13 - 00:08:53:24
Megan Bonistalli: I actually to make dowel rods big enough to be rolling pins. The cheapest thing I could find was the handle to a plunger at the dollar store. It was the best piece of wood that would only cost me a dollar. And so I was rolling 88 plungers out of the dollar store at one point and I got some funny looks and
00:08:54:18 - 00:08:57:13
Jeff Krakoff: People probably wonder what kind of a situation do you have at home?
00:08:57:21 - 00:09:37:23
Megan Bonistalli: Yeah, exactly. I got some comments and some looks and but it was fun. But yeah, and then the kids, they got to use clay. I mean, some you don't know what you're sending things home in. And I told them, if it doesn't work for your household, there will always be a writing assignment that you can do instead. Because I'm not going to force them. Times were stressful enough. If if that was going to be a barrier to them enjoying the experience, they could do a written assignment, which I think I had maybe five kids out of the 88 that chose that the rest of them, you know, we got three projects in like the six week time frame.
00:09:37:25 - 00:09:48:17
Megan Bonistalli: I think that we were pretty much out of school and I was really pleasantly surprised. And none of that could have happened without the money from the Foundation to get that stuff home in our kids houses..
00:09:48:19 - 00:09:54:12
Jeff Krakoff: Now, if you weren't aware of the foundation as a resource or didn't have that money, what would have happened?
00:09:54:27 - 00:10:19:09
Megan Bonistalli: My husband would have probably been a little annoyed because I probably I would have done it on my own because I just I couldn't imagine a situation where I could let that not happen, especially with how stressful things were and how everything was too sad. So it was like I would have made it happen, but I would have taken some heat for it at home.
00:10:20:03 - 00:10:33:00
Jeff Krakoff: So what kind of feedback did you get from students and or parents about the experience? Because this is a unique kind of an innovative, innovative way of doing hands-on activities at home.
00:10:33:29 - 00:10:51:09
Megan Bonistalli: It was mostly positive. You know, I didn't get any complaints, which was good. No, no parents say, why did you send this messy stuff home? And it ruined my rug. I didn't hear that, and the kids were like, We're grateful. I think they were just really grateful to be able to take stuff home.
00:10:51:27 - 00:11:05:25
Jeff Krakoff: Well, that sounds great. So what should parents, students, teachers, everybody in the community know about the Seneca Valley Foundation that maybe they don't know about that?
00:11:06:03 - 00:11:41:18
Megan Bonistalli: If you can, anyone can ask. And if you, you know, have a need, they do what they can to to help, which is a big relief. And I know they've helped in a lot of other ways. They provided a lot as far as I think food resources and things like that when at the beginning of the pandemic, they help all classes across the campus get supplies that they need for special projects. And you know, it never hurts to ask, and they don't like to say no.
00:11:41:20 - 00:11:55:07
Megan Bonistalli: So if you have a good thing and you need some help, they the to my understanding, they do what they can to find a way or if they can't take care of it all, they're going to find a way to be helpful in some way.
00:11:55:22 - 00:12:08:21
Introduction: All right. Well, that was a great story. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. Again, that was Megan Bonistalli senior high school pottery and ceramics teacher. Have a wonderful rest of the school term.
00:12:09:15 - 00:12:12:14
Megan Bonistalli: Well, thank you. I appreciate it. Nice to meet you.
00:12:12:16 - 00:12:13:01
Jeff Krakoff: Take care.
00:12:13:19 - 00:12:14:11
Megan Bonistalli: You too. Bye.