Kindergartners School Cleveland Institute of Art Students in Teaching

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Maureen Thompson’s class of kindergartners at Richmond Heights Elementary may not realize it, but their student teacher, Miss Savannah, a visiting artist studying at Cleveland Institute of Art, is learning from them.

Savannah Soliby brought bags of shapes for the students on a recent visit to the classroom, and they were eager to create their own pictures using the shapes.

“At this age it’s really just about expression," Maureen Thompson said. "I think they are learning that they’re artists, and they didn't know that before. They thought Miss Savannah was an artist when she came in, but they didn’t know that they were, too,” Maureen Thompson said.

All students at CIA are required to take a course where they go into the community to share their craft. For some college students that means returning to elementary school to test out teaching.

“When I was a student here I knew I wanted to go into education, but there really was nowhere for me to go and kind of test that out to make sure,” said Kristin Thompson, instructor of CIA’s Putting Artists in the Classroom.

When she was at CIA about 10 years ago, she created her own internship experience by volunteering to teach art to kids. The experience led her to pursue a career in art education. She now teaches fulltime in Mentor and part-time at CIA, leading a course based on her own experimentation while a student.

For the course, the CIA students instruct area youth in art several times throughout the semester and discuss their experiences with fellow CIA classmates and the instructor. 

“The students that we are teaching in these elementary schools are gaining a ton from having this exposure to the arts,” Kristin Thompson said. “Then on the flip side, with the CIA students they are gaining so much as well.”

About half of the CIA students go into some form of teaching after taking the course, Kristin Thompson said.

Nicole Bozickovich is one of those former students. She now teaches art fulltime at STEAM Academy of Akron. 

“I really was interested in the fact that we were able to use art as a form of communication between the students,” Bozickovich said. “I currently teach inner-city students, and so I see that as a huge advantage of having arts in the community, because [it gives] a platform for the students to then reach out and speak using art.”

Current CIA student Ty Elliott is considering art education as a career path and sees broad value in the lessons he learned working with kindergartners.

“I’ve learned about psychology of teaching, the mindsets on how to calm people down, and how to talk to people and help them through things," Elliott said. "I believe that’s actually a really big part of being a successful teacher on any grade level."

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