Vickie A. McCrary - Mentor Teacher
By: Vickie A. McCrary (2001)
We all get sent in odd directions at some point in our lives - directions that seem to make no sense. As a single mother of two, I was forced to sell my screen printing business and seek a new direction for my life. With two years of college under my belt, I decided to return to school and earn my teaching degree in art. It had taken me a long time to finish that first two-year degree. I would start and finish a class and then embark on some exciting adventure in the work world. If I couldn't sell my own art abilities now, maybe I could teach it. Off to school I went.
Was I ever in for a shock! Due to finances and family concerns, the University of Central Florida was the only college I could attend, and their Art Education program was closed! I couldn't imagine what else I would be any good at teaching. Then a crafty professor came along and convinced me that special education was the place for me. She felt that I could encourage art and music - areas in which special education students excel. I took her advice, received my training, and was off to change the world. Only, the world (at least the students I was teaching) didn't want to be changed. My first two years left me feeling as if I had made the mistake of my life.
Then, something wonderful happened. By the end of my fourth year, I discovered that I could connect with the students if I funneled their lessons through art. For example, math was fun when pictures were used to illustrate concepts. Spelling words were easier to remember when they were turned into pictures. Reading took on new meaning if the students had to read directions before they could mix a new color of paint. The lifelong love I had for art was beginning to evolve into a love for my students. As my enthusiasm for this "new adventure in learning" grew, my students responded. I found the key to truly making a difference. The direction my life had taken began to make sense.
My program has now evolved into a course that addresses the social skills and self-esteem issues of my students through the delivery of art. Different types of mediums are experienced over the course of the year, including drawing, painting, commercial art, screenprinting, fabrics/textures, and sculpture. The curriculum is truly hands-on, and students are involved in activities that impact the lives of others as well as their own through the work they create. It has taken me a while, but I have determined that without "caring" learning is less likely to occur. Caring for and about others begins when you share a part of what you love with others. I have discovered the ability to motivate the mind and energy of others by sharing my "caring" through art!