Read how a Middle School art educator inspires students to be authentically themselves.
Creative expression is at the forefront of Middle School art educator Lissa Corona’s agenda. She uses art to encourage students to communicate ideas, teaches them how art can function as a historical document, and inspires everyone to see how art and life converge daily.
Themes of relationships, authenticity, sincerity, awkwardness and loneliness emerge in Middle School, a critical time when students are trying to figure out who they are. These themes inspire Ms. Corona to encourage her students to make emotional connections with the work they create—to put themselves into their artwork and celebrate their individuality.
Ms. Corona strives to boost confidence in her Middle School students, embrace the in-between stage and create works of art that can be felt and generate conversation. While drawing fruit and shading shapes provide foundational lessons, it does not offer the same sense of relevancy and excitement as painting one's favorite meme. The Middle School students create art representing who they are at this point in time. Ms. Corona’s hope is that when students look back on the work they have created, it will evoke nostalgia, and they will be transported to that point in time, remembering the memory of when they made it, how it made them feel, and the interests and friends they had.
“It is common in society to pin people down, box them up, categorize them, or define them based on other people’s standards,” shares Ms. Corona. Ms. Corona was originally on the path to becoming a doctor when she became entrenched in the world of art during freshman year of college. She realized the validity of the ideas she put forward and the space she occupied through viewing different types of artists, inspired to find the truth in the work she created. The space she provides in the classroom serves as a safe haven for students to come and be authentically themselves without judgment.
The honesty students bring with them when observing contemporary artists inspires Ms. Corona to further dig into the creative liberty Middle School students uniquely obtain. In this time of adolescence, Middle Schoolers often consider which rule to abide by and where they can deviate or push boundaries. Art is the perfect way for the initial spurt of rebellion, where students can flex the muscle of nonconformity and choose their path of creative expression.
Diversity is a very important aspect of Ms. Corona’s work as an educator. “I take my role as a woman of color on campus very seriously,” she says. “It is critical as an instructor to provide a variety of cultural experiences and backgrounds, including work from as many artists of color, as many women, as many marginalized voices in order for the students to understand the world is much more complex and rich when equipped with the knowledge to better understand the people around us.”
There is great meaning in accomplishing a piece of art. To visualize and create something from nothing is a huge boost of confidence. When students leave their fears at the door and express themselves with their truth, it is the biggest motivator for Ms. Corona and drives her to make continuous impacts that will last beyond Middle School.
“I want these kids to walk away feeling proud of who they are every day, and proud of the community they are creating together,” she shares. “I think that if they are supported, encouraged and motivated, then their confidence forms right along with it.”