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Teaching Philosophy

As a teacher I create an atmosphere of openness, inquiry, and rigor. When engaged, students excel and grow creatively, intellectually, and personally. We transcend the syllabus, as I foster deep exploration, provide a fluency of technical skills, and nourish through the process of art making, critical thinking, collaborative learning, and community responsibility.

From Paleolithic figurines to biomedical implants, from the earth out of which we harvest our food to the ubiquitous cup on the kitchen table, clay as cultural material permeates our lives. Contemporary ceramics exists on a significant threshold, with one end based in the historic framework of an ancient substance and practice, and the other testing innovative technologies and new conceptual approaches. Ceramics in an academic setting allows for a unique opportunity to address a multitude of theoretical, social, and material issues through artistic means. As a mentor, I utilize my privilege to insure others have access to, and can harness knowledge and resources.

My pedagogy embodies the concept of the liminal servant, with fluid roles for teacher and student. Together we strive to build a responsive setting that encourages investigation, analysis and cultivates integrity. We question how individual and cultural narratives shape our perspectives. Each Introduction to Ceramics class begins with a student-led presentation and discussion on an artist, historic period, or cultural topic pertaining to clay. This generates a structure from which we unpack artifacts, consider the presence of ceramics in science and architecture, methods of sustainability and service, and evaluate an array of interdisciplinary global subjects. Students learn as well as teach, and build an interdependent class community. They gain the courage to inquire, to share insights, and allow curiosity to shepherd them. Students discover early and often mistakes unlock surprising possibility and the vital quality of imperfections.

Clay teaches with physical and metaphoric malleability. In one assignment we begin with the archival properties of clay as a means to link ages, revealing systems of a time and place. Students deconstruct an iconic vessel and relate the larger cultural circumstances by studying the signifiers and values associated with the piece. Next, follows its reconstruction, altering the meaning, and the object itself.

My diverse teaching background, in community colleges, public research universities, liberal arts programs, and local studios, propels my passion to bring together people from disparate environments, engender dialogue, and facilitate a democratization of knowledge. I employ myriad strategies to inspire varied learning styles. In my curriculum, each semester I design and implement projects with local organizations. Through this exchange we employ ceramics as an empowering medium affecting change. My students look within the fields of art and craft, expansively to other disciplines, and outside the province of academia, to assess their work in a broader world and partake in contemporary discourse. We investigate new modes and applications by thoughtful engagement and critical awareness. I endeavor to lengthen the space between intention and action while helping students test experimental ventures. Technology and art complement and enhance one another throughout historic record. My class practices that playful balance of provocative dare and methodical trial.

My comprehensive curriculum includes multi-cultural foundations of art history, elements and principles of design, material faculty, community connection, and professional development. I instill the importance of research and the essential impact of diligent scholarship, and supplement all studio work with reading and writing assignments. I laud the library, museum, and gallery, and bring my class to view current exhibitions and ancient collections. My students meet the artist, touch the art, and recognize the benefits of the primary source, and the chorus of aggregated responses. They develop an informed vocabulary and a comfort with risk. Students work individually, cooperatively, and responsibly to find their vision. A mentor from whom I learned the depth and breadth it takes to be a committed, successful, and fulfilled teacher once said to me, “Every student has a story, but are they going to tell it to you?” As a teacher I want to create a place for each student to tell their stories and to give them the tools for those stories to manifest.

Teaching Philosophy