I choose to teach because I want to be of service to others. As an educator, I acknowledge the exceptional issues that encompass an education in the fine arts and work to prepare students with the skills, knowledge and wherewithal that will lead to long-term success. I believe learning outcomes pivot not only on the students’ efforts but also upon the levels of research, organization and dedication that I, as an educator, proffer.
I strive to be inclusive and remain present with my students. I do not teach a group but rather a group made of individuals. Understanding the difference is the baseline to successful teaching. I appreciate that each student has endless potential as well as a current place of knowledge tied to their personal experience. What makes my students different also gives them the very perspective that can make them wildly successful.
I work to develop activities that foster a genuine sense of community. I design my courses to follow in the tradition of individual application while also building in opportunities for peer-based learning. For example, I may have students work in a group to build a still-life, or, after an in-class exercise, I might ask them to exchange their experience in small groups. I find that fostering conversation from day one establishes a safe community and leads to more productive critiques. My intention with critiques is always two-fold, to gain feedback but also to develop vocabulary and the ability to articulate ideas effectively.
I also want my students to find their place in the greater community. I aim to give my students a strong sense of agency. I provide information about local art resources and events and encourage my students to be self-directed learners outside of the classroom. When providing references, I place a focus on contemporary artists and minority artists. I organize field trips to local art clubs and exhibits that reaffirm such connections. Additionally, I take the time to learn my students’ majors and interests and, whenever possible, provide connections between what we are doing in class and their individual interests.
I also make a great effort to stay abreast of teaching pedagogy via professional development. I strive to embody a wide variety of learning styles by incorporating readings, visual references, lectures, discussions, demonstrations, short-term exercises and longer-term projects. I provide supplementary resources beyond what we have time to cover in-class.
I allow for risk and failure in my studio art courses. I find many incoming students mistake accurate rendering and draftsmanship as the pinnacle of fine art. While such skills should be prioritized in an introductory course I also provide an overview of other considerations. I believe notions of concept and process should not be withheld for higher level courses but woven in with the basic fundamentals.
I have come to realize the energy I give as a teacher equals the experience and knowledge I gain. Learning never stops, and it goes both ways. I am both an artist and a teacher. These are not opposing forces in my life but rather congruent and embedded practices. To make art and to teach is a life-long pursuit. It is my life’s work. There is no replacement for enthusiasm and genuine passion and such a force is contagious.