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My Story: Education & Training

I never thought I would become a teacher.  Actually, I resisted it in college (Carlow University when it was still just a College).  Most people in the art therapy crew pursued an arts education certificate as a back up plan.  We were all required to take an arts education class, or two for our art therapy certificate.  So, I did, but I am not a back up plan kind of person.  Going all out for my dreams is ingrained in me and I, mistakenly but in a sweet naive kind of way, thought that teaching was not my thing.  However, after college, I found out pretty quickly that there are a) not many art therapy gigs out there b) I was way, way, way too young and broken to be someone’s therapist.  So, I picked up some teaching gigs through the Society for Contemporary Craft, then with the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and Gateway to the Arts.

I discovered I really love to teach and I am pretty good at it.  Since 2001,I have taught over 60 classes, residencies, or workshops (most of which lasted through a school term, or more) including residencies working with elementary and middle school students, high school student workshops, Stroke Survivors in the Visiting Nurse Association, adult artists, summer camps for kids and more.  The class I took in college didn’t really help that much to prepare me for the different kinds of situations I would be in (though if I had taken more classes and student taught I think that would have been good!).  Instead, I have learned from every class and student and honed my teaching skills to where they are today.

Students from a 2004 class walk through my “Touch” art installation from the 2004 Fiberart International exhibit

Also, I have used some of my natural tendencies to my advantage…I’m kind of nerd…I love to make outlines!  It all started in public speaking class in college.  The only dagdarn way I was going to get up in front of people and give  speech was if I was well-prepared.  So, I wrote all of my notes and points I wanted to make on index cards, randomly at first.  Then, I went back through and placed index cards with similar points in piles until it became apparent by the number of cards in a pile whether, or not I had enough info on a certain topic.  Using this technique helped me to reduce down the number of points I was trying to make and made for some confident speech-writing.

I use these same techniques when it comes to writing lesson plans for classes and creative experiences.   I usually want to do WAY TOO MUCH in a short period of time (realistic time management is not my forte).  Using the outline techniques has helped me to edit my lessons down to the nitty gritty (while still keeping a back up list of things to do in case everyone gets done super fast).

Teaching has been such a blessing in my life.  Being with a student as they creatively problem-solve an artwork, or situation is so gratifying.  Being a role model for creative kids is also super important.  There are not that many creative arts programs left in the mainstream curriculum (at least in Pennsylvania public schools), so teaching artists coming in and teaching in the afterschool programs may be all some children get in terms of arts education.   Seeing me succeed at my dreams and investing myself in creativity encourages others pursue their own dreams and be open to creativity (which can be used in any job field!).

Want to know more about how to write lesson plans and facilitate creative experiences with children and adults?  Stay tuned for a Helpful Hints list!




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