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Illustrators Visit Thunder and Lightning Students

March 10, 2020 | Melissa McCallihan

“You can learn to draw well. [When you do] your voice starts to come through.” Barbara DiLorenzo told the fourth and fifth graders. DiLorenzo is the author and illustrator of RENATO AND THE LION and THE CHAMELEON WHO COULDN’T BLEND IN. She shared with the students her sketch book of ideas and her strategies for writing accurate and engaging historical fiction.

Mike Ciccotello also visited and is the author-illustrator of TWINS, a story about a boy and a giraffe who think they are twins, and BEACH TOYS VS. SCHOOL SUPPLIES, featuring a sandcastle-building showdown. He also has a picture-book dummy that we’re waiting to hear from his editor about called TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAMWORK, featuring Cereal, Milk and Bowl.

He told the students how he had been drawing since he was four years old and that he practices every day much like an athlete.

Nathan Johnson, Nest and art teacher at Mustard Seed School, shared with the students alternative ways to create illustrations. He suggested fabric, clay, collage and using imagery rather than portraiture.

Composition, detail, shape or texture or pacing are four areas illustrators are concerned with when when creating images for a story. Zach Nordling, second and third grade art teacher at MSS, told us that good illustrators use all of these to make you feel something when you look at an image.

The student authors and illustrators have found this advice helpful and constructive. Our thanks go to the visiting artists!


Melissa McCallihan

Teacher, Grade 6; Science Grades 6-8

Teaching children to take risks and fail well is important to Melissa McCallihan, who has taught for over 30 years. She believes children learn as much through their failures as they do through their successes. She celebrates both in her classroom. In collaboration with the middle school director, art teacher, and other fourth and fifth grade teachers, Mrs. McCallihan has been instrumental in developing the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) program, an extension of the Lower School’s Shared Space model. “STEAM is where students solve problems and sometimes get it wrong,” says Mrs. McCallihan when asked about risks and failing well. “Students need to learn how to do that with grace, and to try again with grit and determination.” Mrs. McCallihan currently teaches sixth through eighth grade science.

Mrs. McCallihan cares deeply about relationships with her colleagues, students, and families. She works hard to make and maintain connections on a personal and professional level. And follows the mantra “Worship God, Love All.”

When not at school, you can find Mrs. McCallihan searching out a fantastic restaurant or hidden sight to see in New York City.

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