The following is the second of a series of posts discussing the life and work of a teaching artist.
Miguel Cossio: Mr. Cossio is a TA in Visual Arts who has worked with our partner Riverdale Neighborhood House in the Bronx.
Patricia Runcie: Ms. Runcie is a TA in Theater Arts has worked with our partners Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation/I.S. 171 in Brooklyn and Elysian Charter School in Hoboken.
Why did you decide to become a teaching artist?
Cossio: It was really by chance. I came to New York from Mexico and I never had any training as a teacher. Someone talked to me about Henry Street Settlement; it was very interesting because it was a combination of teaching and collaborating with the artists, so that was my main introduction to teaching.
Do you find yourself learning through teaching?
Cossio: Yes, I keep learning a lot through teaching art. In a way, you are demonstrating how things work, but in a way, you are also doing things for the first time. Even if you’ve done a method of painting or drawing, every time you do it, you learn something new because there are different things being brought to the table.
Runcie: As a teacher, learning through the arts is very important to me. I think a lot of times, businesses or people that are budget-minded might say, “Oh, well who needs the arts? We need to focus on math and science.” With the arts, what we’re forgetting when we cut that away, is that in many cultures it’s very prized and it goes hand-in-hand with math and science with attributes like discipline, focus, and working as a team. I think learning through the arts is essential, and I think it helped me in my own career, it taught me discipline and focus. By learning through the arts, students learn to self-discipline and to work towards a goal, together and individually. I treat my students the same way I treat professional actors, and it’s very empowering. That’s also something another teacher couldn’t bring to the table. I think they feel that it’s special, that they’re being treated as adults, it gives them a sense of maturity.