Location: Wood Dale, Illinois
College: Taylor University (Indiana)
Currently Teaching: A whole bunch of elementary schoolers; one school with 1st/2nd graders, another with 3rd through 5th graders.
Her classroom in a sentence: Everyone can make something beautiful.
Jaime and I connected via Twitter about a year and a half ago–about painting murals, if I remember correctly–and in following her, I am constantly impressed by what she does. She is an advocate for her students, constantly sharing their work, pictures from her hallways, and Artsonia links. She’s showing how she integrates technology, and sharing what she’s learning while doing so. Add in a few funny tweets, some contemporary art awareness, and some teaching tips, and it makes for a great account to follow. In fact, if you’re not following @art_alper, go do it right now. Seriously. The interview will still be here when you come back.
What made you want to teach art?
I always wanted to be a teacher, but a middle school art teacher of mine was the first to tell me I was “good” at art, so I combined the two ideas and voila. I love children. I love art. I literally could not do anything else in the world for a living. This is it!
What do you do outside of school to keep yourself happy and healthy (physically and mentally) and avoid getting overwhelmed or dealing with burnout?
I’m very active at Harvest Bible Chapel, which helps me to NOT focus on myself, but the (much) bigger picture. I also love to read, paint, or do anything in the sun! It’s rough to only have a couple months of warm in Chicagoland, so I dream of moving back to FL where I can permanently thaw & be active year round. Also, I have a strict policy of not bringing work home.. There’s always more to do.. .so I just do what can be done and the rest will wait.
How much do you change yourself, your teaching style, or your lessons each year?
For the first few years at my current school, I only changed what was NOT working. This helped me to build my curriculum and program over time. Now I find myself changing things if I am bored because my enthusiasm for a unit transfers very clearly to my students.
What influences you as a teacher? Where do you look for inspiration?
Enter Pinterest & Twitter. These communities have influenced my teaching more over the past year than my 9 other years “professionally developing” combined!
Now I look for others that are doing what I am doing, to see how I can improve. I also look for new ideas, artists, etc to accomplish my goals in a new way.
An unexpected influence, from Twitter in particular, has been from the affirmation I get from other art teachers around the world. I always liked what I was doing, but it is so good to hear “Hey, you don’t stink at your job!” or “You’re doing the right thing.” That influences me to keep stepping up my game- Now I have an audience over age 12.
Tell me about your classroom. Organized, messy, or in-between? What’s on your walls?
At one school I have a cart. So, yeah..
In my classroom, though, I try to keep as much out of sight as possible to minimize distractions. My bulletin boards are very intentional, nothing that I wouldn’t use to supplement instruction: color wheel, “I can” statements, behavior chart, elements of art, & student work display. The kids bring plenty of creativity, so I like to present a blank space for them to organize their crazy.
With that said, I also have giant colored pom-poms hanging from the ceilings and a 25-ft long string of pennant banner in bright colors to get the energy pumping as it’s harder to get inspired when you’re bored, tired, or sitting in what seems to be a large doctor’s office. Plus, Pinterest inspired me & that is good for students to see!
What are your strengths as a teacher? What do you do best?
I have literally no behavior problems. The kids whisper to each other in my room, it’s ridiculous. I enjoy discipline because it allows me to have fun with my students without them going bonkers from a lack of structure. They know when to be silly and when to get busy.
On the flip side, what are you trying to do better?
On the flipside, I am just learning how to teach technology. We’re getting our feet wet, but until I can do what I need the students to do forwards, backwards & upside down I need to improve my understanding. That way, it’ll be more about the art and less about the tool.
Where do you stand on the neverending art teacher debate: Process, Product, or both? Why?
I am a fence-rider on this debate. On one hand, all that matters is the process. Learn the skills and one can translate that power into any creative “thing” forevermore. Make mistakes, start over, whatever- learning is gleaned most during the process. On the other hand, what’s the point if one doesn’t end up with a product? This validates the whole art making process into something tangible and worthwhile to share. It is the reason to begin.
What do you want students to take away from your class?
Since I teach low-income multi-lingual students at the elementary level, I simply want my students to know that art exists and adds benefits to our lives. I want to expose them to art and artists so that they’re artistically literate. I can also use my room to give them universal successes, regardless of success in any other facet of their little budding life. Everyone can make something beautiful.