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Setting the Focus on Learning

By Jennifer Fogarty, communications content manager
Visual arts educator Jessie McIntyre is devoted to learning and growing in her field. 
Upper School visual arts educator Jessie McIntyre built a loom out of a picture frame because she was interested in learning how to weave but wasn’t sure if she would like it enough to buy all of the equipment. Then she was hooked. The wall hangings she created on a DIY loom led her to enroll in a floor loom class. 

Ms. McIntyre is devoted to learning, staying curious and always growing as a creative. Her love of learning has shown up in the classes she’s taken over the last few years, including watercolor, drawing, screenprinting and ceramics on the pottery wheel. “I’ve always been hungry for the kind of learning that’s not always in a formal setting or to earn a degree,” shares Ms. McIntyre. “I like the process of learning something new, and I have taken a lot of classes, sought out internships, studied under really great mentors and watched YouTube videos to learn a new skill or subject.”

In college, she studied abroad for a semester in Granada, Spain. All of her classes were in Spanish, and she lived with a host family to integrate into the culture. The experience of being a student in a foreign country sticks with her now as a teacher. “I’m really amazed by our international students and give them a lot of credit,” she says. “My personal experience of struggling to make friends with people who speak a different language and have a different culture with a different approach to life makes me more aware that it’s not easy for them, especially if they’re away from family. When I have a Spanish-speaking international student, I can refer back and forth between the English and Spanish words. If I don’t know the language, I try to find other ways to support them and their understanding of what’s going on with visuals.”

Effective communication is an important skill Ms. McIntyre incorporates in her curriculum. In an experiential lesson on posing, she challenges students to practice their communication skills. Two students pair up facing each other and take turns with one student as the photographer and their partner as the model. Then a picture is projected on the board that only the photographer can see. They recreate the photo by matching the composition and the subject’s pose. Both students practice verbal and nonverbal communication as the photographer directs the model to pose. In one version, they can only use words, no gestures, and in another version, they can only use gestures, no words. The model also experiences what it feels like to be the subject. 

“My goal is to guide students on their own path and help them learn something about themselves. Whether they take my class because they’re really excited about photography and want to continue with it when they graduate or if it is just a fun elective, they have the opportunity to practice creativity, develop and share their opinions, broaden their perspectives and learn new skills. Everyone’s journey is unique and nonlinear. I want to encourage them to be independent thinkers and lifelong learners.”


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