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Teaching Philosophy

I believe that every student has the capability and deserves to learn the language of the visual arts. A shared language enriches each student by not only giving them a communal mode of communication, but also an expressive outlet for their creativity. The arts have a unique position in the learning environment that help bridge the gap between various subject matters which reinforces their entire education and engages student’s creativity. My eclectic teaching philosophy embraces formal skill building, cultivates creative thinking, and promotes a lighthearted, safe learning environment that helps to engage learning minds and produce well rounded, cultured, intelligent, global citizens.


My personal pedagogical stance is directly tied to my own childhood education, or lack thereof. I graduated high school illiterate. I had difficulty connecting with the rest of the world because I lacked the shared cultural structure that was found in most of the other studious students. As a result I was emotionally stunted and isolated at school. However, at home I was unbridled! Without teachers shoehorning my education I learned and owned advanced skills and gained knowledge that many strive to achieve during their whole lifetime. My grandfather worked at aerospace and had a secret lab in the backyard, which also happened to be a junkyard. I used the old machines in the yard and the lab to create what I refer to as “my Frankensteins.” I really enjoyed learning, experimenting, and being creative at home because no-one was preventing me from trying. I was able to learn at a pace my mind needed—lightspeed—in the physical manner that I learn best. I was frustrated with my education and could not focus on mundane practices like reading and writing.


This all changed as a senior in high school when one teacher, Mr. Grande, decided to believe in me. He was funny, so I listened. He helped me see my own academic value and also appreciated the person I had become. He guided me to college where I began learning to read and write. All it took was a small time investment by one cheesy high school teacher to completely change my future for the better. I now have my Masters degree, a very successful art career in the entertainment industry, fourteen years overlapping experience as a college art instructor, and over two decades of experience mentoring troubled youth. I hope to impact my future students in much the same way as this teacher impacted mine.


Much like Mr. Grande, I make an effort to show my students that I care about them through time and focused attention. However, in addition I add a bit of spice to my lessons and demonstrations through inspirational dialog, comedic quips, pop-culture references, pun-based-cheesy-dad-jokes, playful illustrations, eccentric miming gestures, shock value, and  non-standard approaches to projects. When you invest in a students life and spice up their education, there is no end to the efforts they will put into your class and their future.


Once I have earned their attention, I am able to teach them practical skill-based truths that an individual needs to know in order to represent the visual world, pictorially. In the visual arts these truths come in the form of the principles of design, elements of a picture and foundations such as perspective, observational drawing, composition, value/color, and the various mediums. These fundamentals give us strategies used to create pictures that represent the way the eye sees and where the viewer does not require a degree to interpret the image, conceptually.


To make sure everyone has an opportunity to learn the visual language, not just the intermediate and advanced students, I scaffold complex projects with many leading lessons and use alternate materials to make the lessons accessible to all. These lessons cover the basics while we build up to our final projects in order to elevate everyone at the same time. Take color theory for instance: I begin at the very basic level with teaching the components of color, using playdough instead of paints. This creates a non-threatening way for beginners and special needs students to understand and control the hue and intensity of a color, while allowing more advanced students a fun and tactile experience that reinforce these concepts. It is important to me that I help every student rise to the occasion without losing the intermediate to advanced students attention as we lead up to the final project.


Although the focus on artistic foundations are very important, the end game is for each student to have a natural command over the visual language for the purpose of self expression. I believe that only after a person has mastery over their language of choice can they truly be free to express themselves, in a purposeful and creative manner, rather than being a slave to the limitations of skill and process. As we move forward with learning the visual language, students can often become rigid in their thought processes. In order to combat this and allow for more abstract thinking, I like to connect other subjects to my lessons. I often work with other instructors to find out what big topics they are learning throughout the year and implement some of these ideas in my classes using the visual language. This helps to break down preconceived notions, sharpens their critical thinking skills, reinforces the material from other classes, and provides a healthy avenue for creative release.


My goal as a teacher is to create an environment where everyone has a chance to learn and feels appreciated, a classroom with healthy structure and a shared mode of communication—in this case, the visual language—yet, one that is exciting and where the students can grow beyond these foundations in order to innovate and add their own unique spin on the world (pun intended.)

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