Creativity is accessible to all folks! Here are some teachers who are embracing their creative tendencies both in and out of the classroom:
Megan Chow has been teaching for over a decade at her local high-school and is the mother of two young, busy boys in a small West Coast town in British Columbia. When I asked her what feeds her soul, creatively, she said, “I love food- eating it, making it, talking about it. My ideal night is cooking a big meal, having friends and family around and then talking about what we are going to make the next time we gather.” When asked how she carves time out for her creative passion, she responded by saying, “ I’m lucky that your family kind of expects to be fed daily- sometimes even more than once? Most people will get the heck out of your way and give you some space and time if you promise them something delicious at the end.”
It turns out preparing food was something she learned from her own mother, who is an amazing cook. According to Megan, her mother “found her Zen in the kitchen” and has passed that passion on to her. So many of Megan’s best memories revolve around food and it has enriched her life, overall.
Megan’s creative prowess in the kitchen spilled over into her teaching career when she got her dream job teaching Foods. She gushes about her job, saying, it is “so satisfying to watch a kid walk in, unsure of themselves, questioning every step (How do I flip this? What does fold mean? Is this ready?) to completing their final lab, a Chopped-style challenge, where they choose and make-up their own recipes, telling me about their spice choices and why they chose the techniques they did…I literally get weepy.” In Megan’s case, her creativity created a job opportunity that brings her significant fulfillment and joy, professionally and personally. And…her students adore her for it!
Kristin Weins (@kweins62) is an educator and inclusion coach in a growing school district. Her passion about visuals and Universal Design Learning (UDL) has made her visual work ubiquitous in the education world. As a result of her outreach and beautiful graphics, she has collaborated extensively, with such people as the children’s singer-songwriter Raffi, with Dr. Stuart Shanker, and inclusion guru Shelley Moore. She’s written and illustrated a children’s book about gratitude called, The Gratitude Jar, creates videos that help student self-regulate, and designs courses for educators that helps them to effectively put inclusion into practice. Most of Kristin’s inspiration comes from resources or individuals related to inclusion, self-regulation, or wellness.
When I asked Kristin what drives her creative passion, she said, “I love starting with a blank canvas and using my heart and my mind to create something brand new. It is especially meaningful when something I’ve created connects with other people.”
These days, her creativity mostly takes the form of her daily doodles. She started the daily doodle challenge for herself more than a year ago. She remembers:
“I wanted to carve out more time for creativity. I have created far more than I ever would did in previous years. It feels good to be honoring the creative part of me and like I am reminding myself each day that creativity is an important part of me and worth prioritizing. I feel very satisfied after I’ve finished a creation. It takes care of my soul. The added bonus, because I share on social media, is how gratifying it is when something I’ve created connects deeply with other people around the world. I am so grateful for that experience.”
Kristin’s process seems manageable. She keeps a sketchbook of ideas that she accumulates until she’s ready to sit down, flip through the pages, and see what “jumps” out at her. When she has more time, in the summer, she loves to incorporate collage and cut paper illustrations into her ‘daily doodle.’
When I asked her what fuels her creativity, Kristin told me that it’s always been a big part of her life. “My dad was a professional graphic designer and had lots of other creative hobbies Now, in a lot of ways my dad and I are very different people with a different set of values. I am super grateful that we have creativity in common. It keeps us connected in a meaningful way. It transcends all of our differences.”
Creativity energizes Kristin personally, but it has also been tremendous for her, professionally. “Creativity is closely linked to my role as an educator,” she states. “Creativity supports my belief in providing others with multiple ways to understand, communicate and represent their learning. By engaging with my work creatively, it allows me to keep my enthusiasm and engagement level high. Much of the time that I am creating work- related material, I am having fun and experiencing flow.”
Tina McDougald is an educational assistant at a big urban school downtown in the city. Photography is her passion. “Getting away from the busyness of the world and photographing nature feeds my soul and helps take my mind off my troubles. It gives me quiet time to recharge and process what I need to, but in the moment I’m taking photos, everything else falls away. It’s like time stops, which is cool, since photos capture a single moment in time that’ll never happen again,” Tina recounted when I asked her to describe her passion. “Sometimes the simplest of moments can take my breath away, and the wonder with which children view the world is pretty lovely to witness,” she continued.
Generally, she carves out time for her photography on the weekends or after school. Summertime allows her to make the most of the day by getting up early and making new discoveries. The connection with nature, leaves her more balanced, giving her a sense of peace, but it also energizes her. “There’s also a bit of anticipation, as once I get home I’ll get see exactly what I’ve got waiting for me on my camera! I tend to zone out a bit while taking photos and often won’t realize I’ve taken hundreds,” she explained.
Part of the joy of taking photographs is in the sharing of them. “There’s a lot of beauty to be found in this place we live. Also, it has connected me with other photographers who share my passion and give me new ideas and inspiration,” she asserts.
When I asked Tina how she learned the art of photography, she said, “I’m self-taught, I do come by the interest naturally, as I have an aunt who is a talented photographer, a grandmother who loved to take photos, and I’m told my great-grandmother was skilled in photography as well. I think I’ve always had an eye, but it’s only within the last five years or so that I started to learn more.” Taking photos makes her feel more connected to her familial roots.
During the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Tina was one of the Educational Assistants providing childcare to our few students whose parents are essential workers. I began to photograph the strangeness of the playground all taped-off.” She remembers, “I think photography helped me to be more present in those moments, creating fun memories for those kids and separating myself a bit from the emotional turmoil I was in, due to the pandemic and also the loss of my stepdad to cancer. I get really emotional looking at those photos now, though, but I’m glad that I took them.” Taking photographs has helped Tina to connect more readily to the learners she supports. In fact, it’s even helped the students in unexpected ways. She explained, “our learning support teacher was recently working in our class, and her way of teaching the children what a noun was that if Tina can take a photo of it, it’s a noun!”
Trish Robinson is a Grade One French Immersion teacher at a busy dual-track school and an active mother of three girls. Preparing food for those she loves, feeds her soul. It relaxes her and gives her a sense of purpose. She makes time for it early in the morning every day, whether it is preparing something simple that she knows her daughters will be excited to wake up to, or baking a new treat to brighten coworker’s day. Giving to others fills her with happiness; the sharing of the food she makes truly fulfills her.
She first became inspired by healthy cooking as a new mother. She recounts, “it became my mission to make my own everything as labor of love. I wanted to make everything as healthy as possible for my children. From there I shared many recipes and ideas with other Mothers and it also became my way of mothering others whom I wanted to give a lift to. I show my love through food when words don’t seem to be enough.”
Her passion for healthy cooking and eating enters the classroom in a number of ways, whether through her healthy foods unit, where she and her students make a number of healthy recipes together and eat them in order to illustrate the idea that healthy food can taste good. She explains, “I love seeing kids who initially said “no thank you,” taste kale chips, energy bites, veggie soup or banana ice cream and beg for more! I have had wonderful feedback from parents over the years saying that their child would never try something they offered but because Madame Robinson said it was good for them, they now eat it, or insist on a healthier choice.” She continues, “I also know that because I fuel myself with healthy nourishing food, I have more energy and patience to offer my class. I have the stress release and enjoyment daily, which makes me a better person and teacher.”