Kristine Sarro

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Location: Rhode Island

College: Rhode Island College for Painting and Art Education

Currently Teaching: High School Art

Fun Fact: Kristine runs the #artedri chat on Twitter–you should probably go spy on it when you have the chance.

Twitter: @KristineSarro

Her classroom in a sentence: Experiment, create, evaluate, and learn here.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, we’ve come to our final interview in our 14 for 2014, and we have a great one with which to close the series. Enjoy reading about Kristine Sarro, art teacher extraordinaire from Rhode Island:

Can you give me a quick bio? Also, what made you want to teach art?

I have lived in RI my entire life. I love to travel, but RI is the place that I am always happy to return to. I grew up in Scituate, a tiny country town. I went to Rhode Island College for painting and art education. I knew I wanted to be an art teacher in high school because I had the most amazing team of art teachers….Tom King, and Elinor Thompson. They were opposite in their styles and approach, and I appreciated being student to both of them.

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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 lie in using paint and line. I have always loved to draw and paint. I was traditionally trained in college to oil paint the figure. It wasn’t until years later that I realized it was OK for me to stop oil painting, and create images where line and color intersect. It felt great! For a bit, I felt like I was painting the “wrong way”….but then I found that my style is my own…and it was all ok. I keep a palette on my desk at school and work every free moment that I have. I sell work at a local shop in RI, as well as the occasional craft/art fair.

What do you do outside of school to keep yourself happy and healthy?

Outside of school, I spend much of my time painting, visiting with family and friends and playing with my awesome dogs…Maggie and Manny. Oops….and hanging out with my hubby as well :)  I must say that my husband is the most supportive guy I know…as an art teacher, I love to be surrounded by my stuff. My motto could be “but I might want that someday”….he is very tolerant of my collections.

What things do you do to continue to grow as a teacher? Where do you think your teaching will be going in the future?

I often sign on to pilot groups at my school. This helps me to learn new things and stay fresh in my teaching. I also read tons of books as well as group tweets/chats on Twitter. There is always so much to learn….I often feel like everyone is a teacher and has something to share. My favorite thing to do is take art courses at our local college. I like to learn new things and meet new people.

My teaching changes each year. I work from a curriculum that has been tried and tested by my colleagues and myself for years, but I find that I change my introductions to each lesson each year. I feel that if I am not excited and enthusiastic about a project when I present it, my students won’t be either. Presenting lessons in new ways each year, keeps me on my toes.

In 5 years, I will likely be at this job, but I am hoping that one day my husband and I will open a shop/gallery space that sells local art and offers art lessons.

What are the ideas, or who are the people, or maybe even what are the websites, that influence you as a teacher? Where do you look for inspiration?

As a teacher, I love Twitter for learning about new ideas and initiatives. I feel that every time I tune in to another chat I learn about a new idea, and am connected to the resourses connected to it.

As an artist, I follow every blog that I can. I try to carve out time in each week to sit and blog surf…. otherwise I will get sidetracked from lesson planning/e-mailing, etc. all the time.

Tell me about your classroom. Organized, messy, or in-between? What are you trying to accomplish with the way you set up your room?

My classroom is shared between 2 art teachers. I would say that we are middle of the road in regards to neat/messy. I do not get bogged down in having sculpture projects resting on the window sill, or a few brushes by the sink. I do love to have a place for everything….whether or not things get back to those places is to be decided. My walls are a very light shade of blue because I do love simple light and airy….space by my large bulletin boards are always covered with student work and exemplar work.

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What are your strengths as a teacher? What do you do best? On the flip side, what are you trying to do better?

As a teacher, I excel as planning curriculum that is coherent, scaffolded, and organized. I love creating the small parts to the whole…..the planning guides, the presentations, and the exemplar connections. I could be better at moving the students along at a quicker pace. I tend to give too much time on projects, and not sticking to my planned time frame.

Where do you stand on the neverending art teacher debate: Process, Product, or both? Why?

In regards to process/product/both…..I am definitely on the side of both. I love letting the students explore materials on their own before I demonstrate traditional uses of it. I learn from them, they learn from me…..I am very open to allowing students to change my initial plan for a lesson based on something they have discovered on their own. I am open to student proposals within projects….I love that!! It makes me feel like I have taught them to be thinkers, and problem solvers. This is what I want students to leave my classroom with….the confidence to be independent thinkers.

What traits/habits/skills do you value most in your students? Why?

I most value a students’ willingness to jump right into a new idea or challenge. I love when they are willing to try a variety of solutions to a problem, and evaluate which is the best fit for them. I try to do the same in my own life.

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For you, what determines your success as a teacher? How do you determine success for your students?

This is how I determine a successful classroom…did I create a space where my students feel comfortable to make mistakes? To try and maybe fail? To discuss ideas openly without judgement?

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