“As a teacher I employ art, not as a mere subject but rather a holistic experience to cultivate knowledge. Entering into a sensory experience that is informative, thought provoking, and idea inducing provides one an opportunity to be inquisitive, contemplative, and theoretical. This is the territory into true learning that I wish to navigate my students through.”
These are words that Nina Caruso, a mother of three children, wrote in her thesis paper. She is finishing her bachelor’s for Studio Arts Education at Oakland University, which would qualify her to teach K-12 for art. Next year she and her daughter will be graduating college.
I met Nina years ago at a poetry group and as mothers trying to pursue our passions, we immediately connected. I remember at the time Nina was working full-time as a pre-K teacher with the Waldorf Education.
“The economy went bad, and it was not picking up again,” she said. “The school lost many families and they let some of the teachers go.”
Nina was one of the teachers they let go and that was a blessing in disguise. Otherwise, she would not have pursued her dreams.
“As mothers, we don’t get rewarded for our hard work,” she said. “By going back to school, I was rewarding myself. It was very cathartic. You have to feed yourself or you’ll burn out.”
Last week Nina’s work was part of an exhibition at Oakland University, where seniors show their work. I was sent an invite, and reading her name on the exhibitor list, I was impressed and inspired by her accomplishments. I called her and asked, “How did you do it?”
“I feel it’s important for people not to brood about the bad and to do what’s good,” she said. “It’s all work anyways. Whether you go against the current or fight for the good – it’s all work.”
While Nina is a little sad to be finishing the coursework she really enjoyed, she’s ready to enter her major as a teacher.
“I look at an artist and an educator as the same,” she said. “Educators are very creative in how they teach students to learn and artists find ways to enter into people’s sensory experience for them to learn. It can meet us where we need to be met. There are no rules. The artist might have had an intent but the receiver or viewer will get what they needed out of it.”