As a teacher, my goal is to facilitate student growth and development in the realms of design thinking, concept development, creativity, and visual storytelling. The ability to communicate visually is imperative to all aspects of art and design, from product to expression. Cultivating the Growth Mindset developed by Carol Dweck and clarifying goals for students, such as winning competitions at the school, city, state, and national levels is imperative to motivating students, particularly those in AP-level classes and those pursuing careers in the visual arts, who need dynamic portfolios that win scholarships from colleges and universities.
My courses take a multitude of approaches, which is dependent on the level of the course. For beginning classes, a process-oriented approach is important to build a classroom culture that instills a sense of an artist collective while we focus on art vocabulary and creative problem-solving. I begin by presenting the skills, materials, problems to be solved, and how I will grade projects followed by a discussion where we deconstruct what was presented to find places for innovation. I then follow up with the students individually as they brainstorm and begin planning projects, offering assistance and guidance. In intermediate classes, I emphasize the creative process and how to make art that expresses issues in the world around and within us. Conversations begin projects with more open-ended questions students interpret and explore. Advanced and AP-level courses emphasize breadth, concentration, and quality with students creating artwork using a wide variety of media to form cohesive portfolios. Students are led by examples of instructors own work, former student work, and examples from art history to create a body of work that expresses a personal artistic voice.
At all levels, I often bring multiple students into discussions informally and formally through critique strategies, which broaden perspectives and to build a culture of students constructively helping one another grow and develop as creative thinkers. At the end of each project, student work is assessed by peers, by the artists themselves, and by myself using criteria established at the beginning, while being mindful of student growth and development.
My interdisciplinary skill set in art-making pulls broadly and concisely from methods in art history, the humanities, visual culture, and technology. Digital technology is central to teaching visual art, which opens doors to new ways of being creative while developing digital literacy in emerging technologies. Traditional methods are equally as useful but in a different way, offering opportunities for physical manipulation of materials and translating ideas into objects.
I studied a broad range of philosophies of art education while earning a Master of Science in Education from Indiana University. I met with Gilbert Clark, the creator of Discipline Based Arts Education (DBAE) to fully understand his methodology in teaching the elements and principles of design. While Clark's philosophy has stood the test of time, I’ve also been influenced by the Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) theory where students’ choices are paramount, Socially Engaged Arts Education, which capitalizes on relative aesthetics and identity within culture, and historical educators such as the late Josef Albers and Robert Henri.
Aside from the range of philosophies guiding my practice, I am constantly learning about innovative approaches and methods of art education through professional development programs, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art’s year-long Teacher Institute Program and as an advisor for the Visual Arts Teaching Standards for the state of Illinois. My investment in learning best practices comes from my dedication to helping students connect with art and design in ways that appeal to their individual learning styles and to become the best art educator I can be.
One of the greatest strengths the arts offers schools and organizations is community engagement. Constantly connecting students to competitions, exhibitions, publishing opportunities, and other contemporary platforms such as murals and websites, student artwork is awarded and celebrated to encourage their investment in careers in the arts. In my role as a board member and Portfolio Coordinator at the Illinois State High School Art Exhibition (IHSAE) (501(c)(3)), I've helped secure over 50 million dollars in tuition scholarship offers from colleges and universities to students.