Early in my career, I cultivated a robust resilience and an ability to see challenges as puzzles while working as an editorial illustrator. When I married and started a family, I discovered the joys and difficulties of parenthood. I sought to find creative ways to support my children through their early childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. I was invited to be an artist-in-residence on mural installations and organize after-school art programs during that time. These opportunities initiated an exciting shift and a new realization within me. Initially, I envisioned the after-school program as a place where students could connect in an environment where they shared similar interests and could explore new materials.
My coursework at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and my Early Field experiences have since broadened and evolved these goals. Building my lessons based on enduring ideas gives students opportunities to discuss, create, and respond to each other's artwork and a foundation to lifelong learning experiences that promote divergent thinking. The studio habits practiced in my art room are the seeds of deeper level thinking and problem solving that are essential tools for every life-long learner across every discipline. I encourage my students to embrace the process of creating and welcome unexpected outcomes in their artwork—which often lead to more fulfilling resolutions in the end. Building a classroom climate that creates an equitable learning environment for all learners is so close to my heart. As I continue to study various theories and philosophies regarding classroom management, I find myself blending Jim and Charles Fay's— Teaching with Love and Logic with implementing restorative practices. My classroom climate approach fosters students' intrinsic motivation to make positive choices. Working with students to unpack challenging behaviors is vital to building strong bridges for meaningful student-to-student and student-to-teacher relationships.
One of my greatest strengths as an educator is my desire to be a lifelong learner. I strive every day to cultivate a classroom community where each of my students has a voice and representation in the visual resources I provide, the books I read, the artists I share, and the lessons I teach. Each of my students will know I have high expectations for their learning success.
Renée Williams-Erwin, Artist-in-Residency, Pop-Art Collaborative Mural Panels, Painted by the Students at Knapp Elementary, 2020