Like many of my students, I was fortunate to attend some of the best international schools in Asia as a child and this background of living overseas in a multi-cultural environment helps inform much of my character today. My many opportunities to better understand the cultural richness of my host country alongside my classmates made for a unique childhood education, for which I am deeply grateful. My international upbringing led me back to international schools but this time around, I was in a different role: as an educator. My ability to innately relate to the cross-cultural experience of living overseas allowed for an authentic connection with my students. Since kindergarten, visual art has been the subject that made me most excited to go to school and still is to this day. The visual format was where I expressed myself best, especially in my self-searching teenage years.
I have been an educator since graduating from college but everything has led me back to my passion: inspiring the creative spirit in young people through art. I am both a teacher and an artist. To witness the moment an emotion, a message, or simply expressing a definitive experience created through art brings me joy. I recognize my unique ability to awaken the creative artist in others, which has only strengthened over my years of teaching experience as an art educator.
My teaching career began in California but it was at Kaohsiung American School in Taiwan that I had the opportunity to begin to evolve into the art educator I am today. Upon my arrival, I was asked to develop a comprehensive visual arts program from grades 6-12 where none had previously existed. I carried out my assignment with hard work, ingenuity and passion, which resulted in a rigorous, high-achieving and streamlined visual arts curriculum. I was trained in the Diploma Program of the International Baccalaureate while working at KAS and all the students under my tutelage passed their IB Visual Arts assessments with high scores. Many of my students went on to continue their studies at reputable art and design colleges in the US and the UK.
After living and working in Taiwan for three years, I left for Beijing, China, where I was recruited by one of the most prestigious international schools in Asia: The International School of Beijing. I was eager to work at a large school where I would be able to collaborate, share and learn by being part of a Film/Art/Design department. The learning opportunities at ISB pushed me to grow as an artist and an educator in a multitude of ways. I successfully implemented the Project Based Learning framework for the Grade 6 and 8 art curriculum when I was a middle school art teacher and continued to utilize components of PBL into the high school art curriculum when I moved into the high school art position two years later. In the high school, I led the creation of an ISB Artist in Residence program in conjunction with an established contemporary art gallery, The Red Gate Gallery, where we hosted visiting artists to work with students for a month at our school culminating with a large-scale collaborative art project.
As part of a choice-based Experiential Learning week in the high school, I created and planned a learning experience for students aptly titled, “Cultural Sketchers”, where we learned about urban sketching and plein air painting. In the first year, I took a group of student artists to significant cultural locations in and around Beijing including the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City, where we drew and painted on location. Because the first year’s trip was a huge success, it was continued on for a second year. In the second year of “Cultural Sketchers”, we flew to the Yunnan region of China where we painted in several ancient villages and in stunning alpine valleys surrounded by impressive peaks. In my 5 years working at ISB, I took full advantage of the support from the school community to enrich the visual arts program at the school. With the support of parents and administration, I began an off-campus figure drawing group where student artists had the chance to draw from a live model.
I taught both the International Baccalaureate Visual Arts Grade 11 and Grade 12 Visual Arts classes and planned and managed the annual IB visual arts exhibition showcase at our school. I worked closely alongside each IB Art student to give them continuous feedback on their body of work and process portfolios. I was also an Extended Essay Advisor to several students per year who had focused their investigative essays on Art or the Art History subject. It was a priority for me to take advantage of the learning opportunities in the traditional and contemporary art scene in Beijing for my IB Art students so I planned bi-annual trips to visit various art galleries and museums. In addition, using the connections I had made with some local curators and artists, I was able to take my students on a couple exclusive studio tours where we visited the personal art studios of several renowned Chinese contemporary artists. As IB Art students are expected to create a cohesive body of artwork tied together with a common theme at the end of their 2 years of coursework, it was an invaluable experience for them to witness professional artists doing just that. I am a strong proponent of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program visual arts curriculum framework as the creative process is broken down into distinct stages supporting all students to be successful. I am determined to do my best in facilitating the creative process and believe that the comprehensive approach of the IB curriculum has strengthened me tremendously as an art educator, which is evidenced in the high quality of meaningful and personalized artwork created by my students.
My goal is that art class becomes the place where students are able to bring their interests, curiosities and pursuits from other subject areas and explore them further in the visual format. I embed collaborative learning opportunities like group mind-mapping and brainstorming initial ideas together. Critiques are regularly conducted to give students a chance to share their process with their classmates and give and receive feedback to move forward. I regularly share my personal art experiences with students and work alongside them to enforce the message that artistic growth requires endless practice, exploration, experimentation and reflection.