If someone had told me at the age of 22 when I graduated college I would be a teacher in 15 years, I would have never have believed it. However, that is exactly what I have become. In order to understand how I ended up where I am today you have to know a little bit about my journey.
In college I majored in studio art, specifically drawing and painting. After all, it is what I am truly good at. It made sense, although as every creative individual knows, making a living at what we are so blessed to be good at is not always easy. So, when I graduated and my parents asked me “How are you going to support yourself now?” (Insert a laugh.) I toyed for a small time about going into interior design, but in the end I chose graphic design.
At that time I didn’t know any designers, but it seemed like a fun thing to do. After all, I liked computers and I dreamed of art. For many years I functioned quite successfully as a self-taught designer. In 2006 I decided to enter graduate school and chose Savannah College of Art and Design. In 2008, I received an MFA in Graphic Design and as part of my degree I had to teach.
This is when things changed for me. For the next 15 years I would continue to be a successful graphic designer and teach part time. In 2015, I decided to teach and pursue my art, transitioning my focus. At the time I had two options; teach at a college here in Charleston or teach at North Charleston High School. I had offers from both.
Not only did I choose the high school, I chose a Title 1 school. At this point, many of you are probably asking why? Some of you are not. When it came down to it, I had to ask myself where I was needed most, where I would make the biggest difference, and where my heart truly lay.
I did not grow up in the life that many of my students have. To try to relate or even say my life has been even close would be disrespectful to them and untrue. However, you don’t have to have to walk in someone else’s shoes to lead and support them. Each student is beautiful and special in my eyes and capable of much more than they realize. They inspire me every day not only to be a better teacher, but also to be a better person and artist. I find their courage and resilience impressive.
When I joined North Charleston High School, I brought Digital Art and Design to a student body that craved it. To be exposed to the type of technology and industry that digital art brings to the school has been an extraordinary opportunity and they have grown in ways that I could only have dreamed. I am so grateful for this opportunity as it has allowed me to become who I was meant to be.
As humans, I think it is in each of us to teach in some fashion. But, you do not have to teach in a classroom in order to change and impact the lives of others. Any time you share your experiences and knowledge with others you are teaching. The difference is that some of us choose a more formal path. For me it is only part of who I am, but an important part. After all, I am also a mother, wife, daughter, friend, sister, businesswoman, and artist.
Teaching is not only about the subject matter, but also teaching others to be the best versions of them. Learning how to head out into the world and make a change. You don’t have to cure cancer, but you should always know that you gave it your all.
Teaching allows me to give back and it allows me to spend the summers with my daughter. It gives me time to paint and explore all aspects of who I am as a designer and artist. I am inspired and challenged every day. Is teaching for everyone? No, absolutely not! Trust me. You would not want me as your auto mechanic or doctor. It is what is best for me and where I am right now. Will I teach for the rest of my career? Yes, probably in some form. To me, it is a calling and who I am. Then again, as life changes us, what we want can change. So, for those who believe that “those who can’t do, teach”, perhaps you never really understood why we do what we do.
TAKEAWAYS AND ADVICE…
Be yourself and never allow anyone to tell you that you can’t. We all have an inner calling and to often we ignore it for any number of reasons. To ignore it because we think we can’t find the time, we wonder how we will make money, or we’re scared others will judge us, shame on us.
Do what you love, even if you take a few years to figure out how. Don’t let anything stand in your way. Know that sometimes it is about timing. It took me 15 years to be able to return to painting and my art the way I wanted. I always thought I couldn’t find the time. I was focused for so long on making money and supporting myself. I always believed if I was not in a financially stable place and did not have the framework to allow me to give it my all that I would never be able to truly enjoy it.
You can do it all, really. A strong support team is important. However, support can come in many forms. Sometimes we are all we have and need and sometimes we need others.
Think about the future. Think about the teachers that changed you and shaped your life. We are all who and where we are because someone (parent, teacher, friend, mentor) taught us something life changing. We all have something unique to teach and share with others. So, do it.
My hope is that others can relate and that I gave you something to think about. I also hope that you see that art and education are valuable. They are important not only to students, but also to the community and to our future. Without art I would not be who I am today. I struggled in math and science. Art was where I excelled. It is always interesting how we end up where we do. I have no regrets, and now I not only do what I love, but love what I do.