We are delighted to introduce you to AnnaLouise Myers, recipient of our Pay it Forward program.  AnnaLouise continues to inspire her students in the daily practice of creativity.

Where do you Teach?

Normal Park Museum Magnet, a public school in Chattanooga, TN

Subject?

Visual Art

How long have you been teaching?

20 Years

Why is creativity important to you?

The ability to create is what makes us human.  To be able to imagine, dream, plan, and think, then take those ideas and bring them into fruition is an amazing experience.  The result may not always be beautiful or easy, but it’s about the experience, that path that makes the journey so important.

On a less serious note, for me, creativity is what keeps life interesting.  I thrive on seeing new ideas, new ways of putting old things together, new twists on old ideas and so forth. I’m in the habit of  looking for signs of creative thinking in just about everything.

How do you foster your own creativity?

Being able to dedicate oneself fully to family and also work can make it challenging to find the time to foster one’s creativity. Right now, I focus on the little things.  Taking photographs, making tiny sketches, working in an altered book.  These are all little things I can pick up and put down without any stress or pressures to get something huge finished.

In what ways do you encourage creativity in your students?

I try to always search for the next great lesson that will connect my students to their learning.  If it’s not something I think is interesting or fascinating, they won’t either.  An engaging topic will grab a student and take them farther. 

Students in my class have the ability to make a lot of decisions about their projects.  These decision-making opportunities allow them to feel more confident in their decisions and in their learning, very important.  There are also some days that the students have the chance to just “Create”.  They are given very vague criteria (i.e. your creation must be less than 10 inches square and you cannot use tape and a box of recycled material to make it happen.  Those days are always very messy, but I feel it is critical to give kids the opportunity to just make something.

I also hope my students know they are able to make mistakes and use those mistakes to take them in different directions than what they might have originally planned.  When I am demonstrating a lesson or technique, I will talk out loud and model my thought process, including pointing out the things I am proud of and those things I want to improve upon. 

How have your students demonstrated their creativity?

I am lucky to be in a position where students are required to demonstrate their learning through hands-on, creative ways.  In the art studio, students are able to show the science, social studies, language arts and math standards in a wide variety of methods, all while further enhancing their visual art skills.  My students will go into the world with an understanding of how to show their ideas in a visual and creative way, and that is invaluable.

In what ways did the Creative Awareness Challenge affect your thinking?

Working in education is all consuming.  It was great to remind myself of the little things that make life and teaching awesome.  To take time to notice the creative process unfolding around me all day long was a great experience.

What advice might you give to a new teacher who is just starting out — and wants to be creative?

First, listen to your instincts.  Is this lesson/topic interesting?  Is this something I would want to do?  Is there a more “hands-on way” I could teach this topic?  Do the really students have to sit down, in straight rows to learn?  You will have to work very hard.  Start with the standards.  Decide how to make that topic amazing!  How can the students learn that topic by building and making something?  Once you combine the facts (standards) with a creative learning process and then doing everything you can to help, guide and assist the children, they will reach to amazing heights.

Secondly, find wonderful mentors.  They are out there!  Find other creative and inspiring teachers who are doing great things.  They may be in your own building or you may have to travel farther, but find that person who can support and empower you to continue following your instincts.

Can you give us one of your favorite teaching stories (something that inspired you — or made you laugh or cry??

There’s not just one favorite teaching story.  I love it when the disgruntled and angry teen actually smiles.  I love seeing the student who “can’t draw” tell me they signed up for extra art classes.  I love giving the student who always finishes early a challenging, “hard” project that pushes his/her abilities.  I love seeing students talking to their parents with deep academic vocabulary about what they have made.  I love hearing that little voice in the grocery store yell, “Hey!  Art teacher!”.  I love when students come to my room before the day begins or volunteer to stay late because they have developed that passion and work ethic.  I love hearing how students embrace creativity, in any genre, as they leave my school and venture on towards their future.  I love the light behind the eyes of a student who just figured out “I can!”.

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Photo Courtesy of AnnaLouise Myers