What do you do?
Where do you work and what is your title?
The Bijou Alternative High School. I’m the art teacher.
What do you do there and/or what are you responsible for?
I teach art to a diverse group of learners and exhibit their work. We do a lot of integration with other subject areas; for example, we are currently completing a project about the Holocaust involving found poetry and image transfer. And the students have been working on imaginative stuffed creatures that we will donate to TESSA for children in safe houses. My responsibility is to address the Colorado State content standards for art education. They are now largely conceptual in nature. Current best practices are about TBAE (Thematic Based Art Education). This is the most effective way to engage students and I fully embrace it as a methodology.
How long have you been doing this kind of work (total)? How long on the Westside?
I taught drawing, life drawing and design at colleges and a university in Ohio for five years. I taught at The Cleveland Museum of Art for 10 years. I’ve been at Bijou for two years, and I also teach an art education methods class at CSU-Pueblo.
What do you like best about it (other than quitting time)?
I love teaching art to this group of kids because they have so much to draw from when interpreting and creating art. They have experienced much more in terms of life hurdles than mainstream students.
If you could change one thing (other than pay), what would it be?
That it was a full-time position and there was an opportunity to teach art to at-risk students in the summer as well.
What part of your work did your training/education never prepare you for?
The complexity of the student-teacher relationship. Although student teaching was helpful, it did not fully prepare me to teach in the alternative-school environment. Especially with the population I teach, I have learned that instruction has to be more of an invitation than a demand (this is just a description of my approach or pedagogy), so the responsibility for creating engaging opportunities for students is essential.
What makes working on the Westside special?
The Bijou School is in a neighborhood on the Westside, which takes away some of the institutional feeling some schools have. We have wonderful partners from the Westside who are committed to helping the school as well.
“What do you do?” is a regular feature in the Westside Pioneer. If you know someone who has an interesting job on the Westside (but doesn’t live here), he/she might be a candidate for this column! If you know someone who might qualify, give us a call at 471-6776.