Location: Little Rock, Arkansas
College: University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Currently Teaching: She’s a solo high school art teacher, so she gets it all: Foundations of Art, Drawing I & II, Painting I & II, Printmaking, Sculpture, Media Art, and AP Art Studio.
Her classroom in a sentence: “A place where you can become an artist.”
Joy is an incredible (and incredibly busy) high school art teacher in Arkansas. She does a great amount of community work by herself and with her student artists, including with the Homes for Haiti program and the Clinton Library and the Clinton Foundation. If you are interested in what she’s doing with these things, there’s a little bit of “extra interview” at the end. Until then, read about everything else she does on a day-to-day basis:
Can you give me a quick bio, and tell me what made you want to teach art?
This is my 24th year of teaching. I am originally from Milwaukee, WI and I am one of nine children. I am the second oldest child of a talented group of siblings. I grew up in a rural area and I attended Waukesha Public Schools. My love of creating and exploring art and it has been a part of my entire life. I gained the most appreciation and support during my middle school years from my middle school art teacher. His support, encouragement, humor, and dedication helped to shape the art teacher I am today.
John Schoeknecht- Butler Middle School, Waukesha, WI. My interest in becoming an artist and attending art school grew but because I came from a large family that was not within my reach.
I attended UW-Whitewater, where I met Dr. Ernella Hunziker, my art education professor. She changed my life. I carry a photo of her with me and I use her teachings as my measurement of quality as an educator. I feel blessed to have had such supportive educators at critical moments in my life. I strive to be that legacy for my students and hope to inspire my students to continue the link into the future.
I teach a variety of different classes. I also have a very active art club, sponsor Curbside Couture Fashion Runway Show, workshops at the Clinton Presidential Library, and Homes for Haiti. I do so many things beyond the list for my school and the greater community. I always find ways to demonstrate and participate in the community with art. I often bring my art students along to get involved. I love my school community and the students at my school.
What are your strengths as an artist? What role does your personal artmaking play in both your classroom teaching and in your own life?
My strengths as an artist are my curiosity and my way of fulfilling a need to create for me–not for any other reason. I believe it is important to model being an artist along with your students. This is a challenge when you are the only art teacher and have 5 preps, but I do find time to participate in local charity art shows and I also create summer challenges for myself. I will purchase materials ahead of time and set a goal with a challenge to keep it interesting. I will add in a color, surface, subject that I do not usually use in my work. I ask my students to do this, so why not do this too?
I am a painter, photographer, printmaker, sculptor, culinary artist, and gardener. They all fuel my artistic needs. I crave variety and I feel that is why I am good at balancing all the different courses I teach. I am not afraid to experiment. Recently, I am going back to animation, a favorite of mine from my middle school years, but with more modern tools and technology.
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 love my job! I love my students and my school. I made the switch from public education to independent schools. It was a difficult decision because I am a public school student, I believe in public schools. I was in a place where my budget was slashed and teaching art in my classroom was changing into more social worker type work and not teaching art. I was ready to leave the field of education and then I landed a great job in an independent school. I was able to teach art history, techniques, and work with quality materials with interested and engaged learners.
I relocated to the South for my family and I don’t regret it. I love the warmer climate and since I am a gardener I can take full advantage of the longer growing seasons. I walk my two doxies all over town and in our parks. I keep active doing work for the local animal shelter as a foster parent and collecting necessary items for the animals.
As far as burnout…I have devised ways to find what keeps it fresh for me and how to manage all the assessments and documentation of all the great work my students produce. I ask my students to help maintain the studios and assist with all the art shows. I do spend a lot of time with my students during the week, after school, and weekends. I am a part of their lives and my life is being an artist. I really do love it.
What things do you do to continue to grow as a teacher? How much do you change yourself, your teaching style, or your lessons each year?
I was trained to be an art teacher with the disciplined based art education before the internet, so all my work was handwritten or a typewriter. I did all my own research at the library and purchased slides and posters of art to show my classes. I loved the research and still do today. It is a lot easier to locate, gather, and store information today. I am driven to invent or create new projects and ideas every year. I do reuse successful lessons but I remix them often with new materials or emphasize different aspects with each go around. I take pride in my written lesson plans, rubrics, handouts, powerpoints, and collection of videos.
I search for new YouTube videos, TED Talks, and other blogs to share to enhance the lessons all the time. I want to be excited about the lesson too. Where do I see myself in five years? Not really sure. I know I want to keep teaching art. I want to support local artists and reach children that do not have access to a visual arts program. I want to continue to use my abilities to reach out globally and show how art can help make changes in the world.
What are the ideas, or who are the people, that influence you as a teacher? Where do you look for inspiration?
I am the only Upper School art teacher; in fact, most of my career I have been alone. So I have had to reach out to share ideas and glean new ideas. I have always been a member of NAEA but couldn’t always attend the National Convention. I do when I can get some support to do so, it is a very important event and you learn so much. Now, I connect on websites, blogs, host my own blog, I have a Pinterest board, and Blendspace. I write about my experiences and share my students works on Twitter and on Art Teacher Facebook pages. I also attend local artist shows, street festivals, and charity events.
Tell me about your classroom–what does it look like, and what are you trying to accomplish with the way it is set up?
My studio space is a smaller area, but large compared to some art teachers. I have all my cabinets on wheels to keep my space flexible. I teach all my courses in one studio so I need to move my printing press around, clay buckets, paint carts, drying racks, etc. I need to make my studio fit the requirements for my curriculum and my students. I keep a clean space with labels on all my storage areas so my students are independent and can help maintain the space too.
I have works in progress posted always. Easels line the side walls with advanced students’ works in progress, and I post artist reproductions up for lesson references on my board. I always have my Elements and Principles posted, plus the color wheel.
On my taller cabinets I keep treasured examples from past art students and a flat file filled with examples that I created or have kept from past students. I pull them out when needed or when I want to add inspiration to the space.
I have decorative lamps in my studio. I turn them on so when I turn the lights down for a presentation I still have some low ambient light. I have a Mona Lisa, Monet bridge lamp, and a round globe light. It is playful but functional. My students are comfortable in my studio but also maintain the space for all students at any given time. I also love to have authentic art pieces from different cultures around to engage my students. Plus, a fresh bouquet of flowers is always appreciated.
What are your strengths as a teacher? What do you do best? On the flip side, what are you trying to do better?
I feel my strengths? knowing my students. I take the time to appreciate them.
What I do best? I am a good listener and communicator. I care about the whole child.
What am I trying to do better? Have balance….but what is balance when you are so deeply immersed in what you do? Still working on that.
What might be a weakness you see? Or what would be something that you’d like to teach, or can’t/don’t do it? What is holding you back?
I would like to be able to spend more time on digital art. I only teach the class once a semester and I do not use it as frequently so I get rusty. Plus, keeping up with all the changes with all the platforms.
I would like to able to teach a Ceramics course- just for creating clay pieces and experimenting with glazes. Only one of me and I do not have a dedicated ceramic studio.
Where do you stand on the neverending art teacher debate: Process, Product, or both? Why?
Process VS Product. My feelings are: most important is the process. I love it when I am in the middle of the work and I am sad when it is completed. My students are the same. The hard work and journey is where you learn the most about yourself and the materials. If the structure and management of the studio time is done well, then you will have a successful product. Now, what is success varies for each student and can only be measured by the observer of the process. Growth and breakthroughs is what being an artist is all about.
What do you want students to take away from your class? What do they learn, and how do they develop after spending a year in your classroom?
My students have a greater appreciation of art, art history, themselves and others. My students miss having my class and miss the support and feelings of self-discovery. They gain confidence, learn more effective ways to express themselves, and have a greater understanding that everyone learns differently, but all can find success.
What traits/habits/skills do you value most in your students? Why?
I appreciate an open mind, good work habits, and willingness to experiment to learn. Without all of the above the student would not be able to try something they do not fully know or understand. The ability to try and keep trying is worth the struggle. The act of the struggle is where the most learning occurs. Not all art pieces are successful, but you need to do it to learn.
For you, what determines your success as a teacher? How do you determine success for your students?
I determine my success on a daily basis when I can see a student grasp a concept or successfully make it through a task independently. Success as a teacher…you won’t know that until years later and you get that email, letter, or phone call from a former student and they tell you. I have written mine and told them. Have you? Greatest reward is knowing one of my students is a working artists or an art educator.
How do I determine success for my students? I hear it in their voice, face, or from others. Success comes in so many ways for different students. I will take them all big and small.
Bonus Interview Time: Homes for Haiti and the Clinton Foundation
Homes for Haiti
The project started as a response to the earthquake in Haiti. Two art teachers in Florida (Ann Ayers and Ellen McMillian) began a project to help raise money to help with Haiti relief. Meanwhile in Little Rock, Arkansas, I received word that one of my alums, who was volunteering in Haiti, was in Hotel Montana and she was missing. Three days passed before we got word that she was alive. The fear and destruction of Haiti hit home for me and I wanted to help. On art teacher’s blog, I came across a simple project and I decided this was a great idea for the upper school art club to try to recreate in our school community.
So with the left over railroad board and the paint left over on palettes I requested the students to apply the paint on the scrap boards, after the paint dried I began to cut the boards up into small pieces that were needed to construct the simple house forms. I always have scrap colored paper, magazines, maps, and left over fabric. So I cut out hearts and door shapes needed to assemble the houses. I pieced the houses together to create a sample set to entice the students to participate in the project. The final and finishing details include an epoxy type coating and either a pin back or a magnet. One day after school while I was putting everything together and finishing up the top coat a few students marveled at the little colorful houses and asked “Can we do this?”
I wanted this project to become something the students would adopt and create during club time or after school. I wanted the students to dedicate themselves to the cause. I strongly believe in the “grass roots” initiative and giving the driving force of a project over to the students. I explained the process and they became excited and organized time to come and build houses dozens at a time and then to come in after school to top coat the pieces- this is time consuming and needs many hours to completely dry so timing is an important part of the project. After all the pieces are dry the student’s added magnets and pins.
We did this for several weeks and accumulated quite a bit of inventory. So students began selling them by word of mouth on campus and our donations grew. I organized a booth at a local art walk to sell even more pins and several students volunteered to sell them. So we set up our booth with a table, a tent awning, signs, and our product, and within two hours my students earned $1,000, we were excited. We presented our project to the school during chapel and passed our earnings on a “big” check to the Red Cross Haiti Relief Fund. The students wanted to reach a higher goal so they produced more, this went on for the rest of the school year and our donation to the Haiti Relief Fund grew.
An art student who helped create the pins approached the Clinton Presidential Library and asked if they would like to place orders for our pins for them to sell in the Clinton Museum Store with the idea that all proceeds would go to the Haiti Relief Fund. They loved the idea and ordered 100 at a time and then 200 at a time. The project had a steady amount of money coming in for our recycled art pins to benefit Haiti, we were so eager, and we were making a difference. The end of the school year was fast approaching and students wanted to continue the project but the upper school studio was relocating and we would no longer have the studio space to work.
This is where the magic happened, after communicating our desire to continue to make pins, but no longer having studio space to make the pins, The Clinton Museum Store stepped up to create a studio space for our students to continue the project over the summer. Two of my art students worked hard to organize materials and create a safe place for the project. With the help of Connie Fails-the store manager and my student Jodi Schmidt, and me, a community service project was born. Students from our school and all schools could now sign up as a volunteer to the Clinton Presidential Library and log hours in the basement studio creating the “Homes for Haiti” pins and magnets. President Clinton formed a relief fund where all of the donations go directly to Haiti to “build it back better” and we have raised over $55,000 dollars for the needs in Haiti.
We have expanded our project to include special Christmas trees with ornament versions of the “Homes for Haiti”, a tree topper, and tree skirt. The trees where set up in the Presidential Library and we decorated the trees for the launch of the sale of the ornaments after Thanksgiving. At this point in time the volunteers included parents, grandparents, aunts, and students as young as kindergarten helping to create our little recycled pins. The Clinton Museum Store had hats and t-shirts made featuring our pins for sale to continue to help raise money for Haiti.
We have been doing this project for two years and we have dedicated students who put in time outside of the documented hours for community service to work on parts of the project because they do believe in the project. I am always impressed and amazed at how you can direct students on how to create a small part of a bigger project and before your very eyes the students take the idea into their hearts and make it grow.
At the Clinton Library Volunteer Gala in 2010 we received special recognition for our efforts to bring this project to the community to help Haiti. The core group of students had the opportunity to shake President Clinton’s hand and pose for a photo. As all this was unfolding in front of my very eyes I was touched by the mention of my schools name by President Clinton. I looked over to my beaming student’s faces and I could see they were proud of their work – a great gift for me to witness. My students knew in their hearts that they made a difference. The evening continued as Jodi Schmidt was honored with the “Bridge Builder” Award for her efforts to reach out to the Arkansas teachers at a conference to educate them about the project and for her work in creating a video to capture the process to create the pins at their schools. A well deserved award and a magical evening. I repeat I believe in the “grass roots” plant a seed, nurture it and let it take root; the journey has evolved because the students wanted it to work and it did and still does to this day.
I cannot take credit for the original idea for the “Houses for Haiti” but I can take pride in bringing this idea to my students and letting is thrive and to fan the flame to let it grow. I am pleased to see my students set goals for raising funds for Haiti and exceeding their expectations- this is priceless.
In 2013 we also recieved special recogintion from the Clinton Foundation for all of our continues efforts to raise money for Haiti. We currently work at school in my studio during club time, after school, and weekends. We have a facebook page and a twitter page that students update and manage under my direction to get the word out on what we are doing and current news about Haiti and specifically the BeLikeBrit orphanage that we send painted portraits of the orphans plus money and needed items.
The Clinton Foundation and Clinton Library