Art Education Faculty Spotlight: Anne Becker

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What is your position in Columbia’s Education Department?

I’m the Director of Art Education, and basically what that means is I teach all the methods classes to students who are Art Educators looking to receive their masters, students who want to become certified to be an Art Educator or career changers.  I also place student teachers and monitor their progress while they are student teaching.

How long have you been at Columbia?

I have been at Columbia College Chicago for 7 years.

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What did you do before working at Columbia? What did your Art Education career look like?

Before working at Columbia, my Art Education career started in West Aurora as an elementary art teacher for 3.5 years. Then, I finished my masters degree and moved up to the high school level where I stayed for 33 years.

At the high school, I was head of the Art Department for 16 years, and the last 8 years I was also the head of the Technology Department. The Technology Department dealt with all the multimedia, photography, graphic design, and industrial arts classes. Later, I was the Chair for the Technology Department where we discussed funding for specific educational resources such as the Rosetta stone.

What are your favorite classes that you teach at Columbia? Why?

Well, my favorite classes are probably the only classes I teach. I mean how much fun is it to be with art educators? That’s really fun and those are my favorite classes.  I do also teach a few classes to the elementary education program, and I enjoy those classes as well. However, my passion is with the art educators, because that is what I did my whole life and that is still my whole life.

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What did you find the most exciting about the Art Education Program?

Oh wow…I think it’s the people, I think it’s the young teachers. The last day I left West High I was really sad to leave. I loved teaching at the high school, and I loved my high school students. I really wanted my future teachers to be that way.

I mean, when you work someplace for 36 years and you never go any place else, that’s really hard. I grew up with these people. I started as a 21 year old person and I grew up with them. They become your life long friends. So you really  have to be in a job that you love.

And it is not perfect. I don’t think any job is perfect, but it is as close to being perfect as I think it could be. I mean, because every four years you see a whole new group of students. Your freshmen grow up to be seniors and you watch in a very short period of time wonderful things happen to teenagers. The students grow up and mature into these wonderful adults.

You also see some of them unfolding and really get into the field of art. I have many of them that teach art now. That’s a fabulous feeling. And then right now, my art educators, I hope they end up feeling the way I do after a long career. It’s a great job and I couldn’t imagine being anything else but a teacher. It’s not perfect, there are bad days, but the bad days are so few and far between that really the students help you be happy. They help you stay connected, and how can you not enjoy working with kids to help create art work. I just can’t imagine that not being a great position or a great job.

What is your opinion on the importance of Art Education in public schools?

That’s a big one. And actually for what I have seen so far, I was only 40 miles away from Chicago Public Schools(CPS) and we had a whole view of CPS. A very different view than what really exists there. CPS teachers are the hardest working teachers that are committed to helping urban children.

Having been friends with teachers in the magnet art schools and watching them to see how they teach art, I am convinced that art is really a vehicle for teaching everything for the urban child. It is a hands on experience, its something that all children gravitate too; I don’t care what their age is. Most students, I would say 98% of students, you can find something artistic that they would love to do. And because they want to do it and they are interested in learning, you now have the hook, the vehicle, to teach them anything.

That’s why I think it is really nice, here at Columbia–we talk about integrating the other content area’s into the arts in the Arts Integration class. Where we discuss integrating the arts into science, math, language arts, and every content area. So it makes students interested in learning. I am very much in the philosophy, I feel strongly that the arts are an important vehicle in any kind of environment.

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What advice would you give to prospective students?

The best advice I would give them is don’t let the physical take-over of what happens as you go through the program, it is a very short program. Two years is a blink of an eye. In that period of time I see people get worn out and frustrated, and their days are full of work. Many work full-time and go to school full-time. It appears to be overwhelming at times, but in the very big picture of potentially changing your career and moving on to something that you would love to do, I see that as a hard road to start with, but it is really worth it in the end.

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