As a teacher, my goal is to facilitate student growth and development in the realms of design thinking, concept development, creativity, and visual storytelling. Communicating visually is imperative to all aspects of art and design, from product to expression. Cultivating the "Growth Mindset" developed by Carol Dweck and clarifying objectives for students, such as winning competitions at the school, city, state, and national levels is imperative to externally motivating students, particularly those in AP-level classes and those pursuing careers in the visual arts, who need dynamic portfolios to gain admission into colleges and universities. To motivate intrinsically, relationships are built from day to day and me acting from an underlying notion that I believe all my students can grow and develop in a rich learning environment where a learning community is nurturing and safe, so mistakes and failures are perceived as the greatest opportunity for reflection and development.
My courses are designed to include a diversity of learning experiences, which are dependent on the level. For beginning classes, project-oriented learning builds a culture that instills a sense of an artist collective working toward common goals that encourage the use of new vocabulary and creative problem-solving approaches. I begin by presenting skills, materials, problems to be solved, and how I grade projects followed by a discussion where we deconstruct what was presented to find places for innovation within the project's structure. I then follow up with the students individually as they brainstorm and begin planning projects, offering assistance and guidance. In intermediate classes, the creative thinking process is emphasized and how to address issues in the world around and within us. Dialogue and reflection guides projects with more open-ended questions I pose for students to interpret and explore. Advanced and AP-level courses emphasize breadth, concentration, and quality with students utilizing 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 art that expresses the refinement of a personal artistic voice that acknowledges the past, present, and what students offer to the future.
At all levels, I 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 and problem solvers. At the end of each project, student work is assessed by peers, by the students themselves, and by myself using criteria we establish together, while being mindful of growth and development as the main learning objective.
I studied a broad range of philosophies of art and design 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 is grounded in the mastery of skills, I’ve also been influenced by the Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) theory where students’ choices are paramount, Socially Engaged Arts Education, which capitalizes relative aesthetics and identity, 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 and design education through professional communities, such as my two-year residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art and serving 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 mentor and educator I can be.
My interdisciplinary skillset in art-making and design is developed broadly and concisely with technology as a tool for innovation. Digital technology is central to teaching visual art and design, which opens opportunities to creative thinking while developing digital literacy in emerging technologies. Traditional methods are equally useful, but in a different way—offering opportunities for tactile manipulation of materials and translating ideas into objects, images, and designs.
One of the greatest strengths the arts offers schools and organizations is a medium for community engagement and expression. 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 future education and careers in the arts. In my role as a board member and Portfolio Coordinator of the Illinois State High School Art Exhibition (IHSAE) (501(c)(3)), I've helped secure over $110 million dollars in tuition scholarship offers from colleges and universities for students in Illinois.