After my Bachelor’s degree, I took a position with WIC, a federal supplemental food program, teaching parenting and nutrition to young, low income mothers. In the position, while I learned that I love to teach, I was surprised by the lack of art in the hospitals and clinics and saddened by how often this lack was mirrored in the lives of my students and coworkers. I realized that I wanted to teach in a deeper way. I wanted to facilitate students’ development of critical and creative thinking skills, and make art and making art accessible to everyone. In response, I applied to join and was accepted into the Marcus Fellowship, a rigorous Masters/PHD program designed to develop leaders in art education. My area of concentration focused on how art museum educators might best provide meaningful, rich learning experiences for students from low income and/or urban backgrounds.
I continue to return to John Dewey, Paulo Freire, and Lev Vygotsky because their understanding of the nature, process, and function of education aligns well with my personal experience as a teacher and a student. Further, as our understanding of how the brain learns continues to expand, I find that their work remains relevant. Like Freire, I believe that education is transformative when it connects to lived experience, facilitates dialogue, and empowers learners to create real world solutions/products; like Dewey, I have seen education that mindlessly recreates the status quo and how the process can be subverted when the focus is changed to good citizenship and interactive experience; and like Vygotsky, I have found that education is socially and contextually driven, rather than cut off from the ‘real world’.
Over the years, I have worked to translate these ideas into my practice. I strive to grow relationships with learners, which, among other obvious benefits, also allows me to design curricula that is rich and relevant, both to them and to the subject matter. I develop themes and ideas that are familiar, yet challenging, to scaffold exploration of specific learning objectives. As life is not separated into discreet subjects, my lessons are usually interdisciplinary. Finally, I present each lesson as a problem to solve, because I have seen that doing so encourages pattern recognition and imaginative thinking which lead to critical thinking, and because I believe this form best reflects the artist’s process.
In my eight years in education, I have found that I and programs thrive on the mindfulness of continually reflecting, evaluating, and improving. I believe my experience designing art education curricula, my deep understanding of the theory that underpins education programming, my drive to create meaningful learning experiences, and my willingness and desire to continue to explore and learn make me an ideal candidate for this position.