Diane Sutliff began her work with young artists in 1996, developing arts programming for a small Montessori preschool. She wrote the teacher handbook, Go Get Your Smock! Art Experiences from the Montessori Preschool Classroom, which was a perennial bestseller within the Montessori education community. This book grew from the belief that even very young children are capable of great artistic expression, with properly prepared materials and very simple instructions. She takes this basic tenet with her to the elementary classrooms she visits, always looking for ways to help children learn to control their art media so they can use it to express ideas, concepts and understanding.
She has presented her early childhood art curriculum and philosophies at early childhood conferences across the United States. These include the American Montessori Society, the National Center for Montessori Education, Illinois Head Start Association Training Conference and the Chicago Assocation for Education of Young Children Annual Conference.
She launched the organization Go Get Your Smock Inc in 2001 to fulfill the request from Chicago Public Schools to provide an early childhood art education program to the new Tuition Based PreKindergarten initiative. This art program was soon widened to include Head Start and State PreK classrooms, expanding the teaching staff to 10 traveling instructors in more than a dozen schools.
Diane extended the reach of GGYS to elementary classrooms, providing both professional development and in-school services to CPS schools across the city.
Recognizing the need for neighborhood children to have access to comprehensive art instruction, she opened an independent teaching studio in 2004. In 2009, that studio expanded into an afterschool program, bringing studio experiences to the schools for children on Chicago’s North Side.
In addition to maintaining a website for the company, Diane also keeps in close contact with teachers, administrators and parents via social media, regularly updating and tweeting new work in the studio, complete with “I can” statements to highlight the learning goals of the project.
She has substantial experience in the classroom, seeing a wide variety of students in classrooms every week. She has worked closely with classroom teachers to collaborate on cross-curricular projects and learning experiences. She has developed curricula and materials for a variety of lessons and experiences, always paying particular attention to the needs of the student to explore, absorb and express understanding of concepts presented.