The following is the first of a series of original blog posts focusing on the question of what teaching artists do, how the definition of teaching artist differs from that of the certified teacher, and more. Our intern Dina Doyle interviewed the following Arts to Grow teaching artists to learn more.
Miguel Cossio: Mr. Cossio is a TA in Visual Arts who has worked at Riverdale Neighborhood House in the Bronx.
Patricia Runcie: Ms. Runcie is a TA in Theater Arts whose workplaces include I.S. 171 in Brooklyn and Elysian Charter School in Hoboken.
Gardiner Comfort: Mr. Comfort is a TA in Theater Arts who has worked at P.S. 7 in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn.
How would you describe teaching artists, and what does it feel like to be one? What do you think is the biggest difference between a teaching artist and a regular teacher?
Cossio: For me, the most important part is that being a teaching artist allows me to work in different settings, with different populations, grade levels, and neighborhoods. It also allows me flexible time for my personal work.
Runcie: A lot of times I feel like I’m a “traveling classroom” because each program is so unique and tailored to the specific needs of the school. I’m an actor, and speaking as an actor and director, you’re always working on different projects and meeting different people and moving from one project to another, so it really goes hand-in-hand that way. I think it also keeps my own artistry in practice – I do warm-ups that I do myself, with the kids, and teaching them the way a professional would be doing. We have experience in the field, we ourselves are working artists, so we have that practical knowledge and skill set that we can bring to the kids that another teacher might not have, and that I think is the biggest difference between teaching artists and certified teachers.
Comfort: I would say a teaching artist is someone who lends their own professional experience to younger people for the purpose of either pursuing work in that field or just simply all-around education that comes from that field, as opposed to a certified teacher who doesn’t lend their own professional experience.