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Sarah McHugh Art Ed Ambassador

Sarah McHugh

Tell us a little bit about what you were doing before you came to Columbia.

I have a BFA in Art Studio Painting from the University of Illinois at Chicago. After I received my degree, I began working as an Art Instructor for the park district in my hometown. This opportunity gave me the experience of planning art lessons and delivering the lesson in a unique way that motivated and inspired the students to want to create.

After this experience I became aware that my passion is not only to make art, but to work with children, too. As a result, I was given the opportunity to work for a before and after school program that allowed me to work with students at the elementary school level in various activities including art.

From these two opportunities, I began to realize that I wanted to become a certified art teacher and began to research my options.

Why did you choose Columbia for your graduate study?

There are many reasons I chose Columbia College as the school for my graduate education. First and foremost, I live in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and the school was about the same distant as what I used to commute to UIC. Some might not agree with the commute, but I used this time to catch up on all my class reading and people watching.

In addition, I had spoken to a friend of mine that went there for undergrad and they had nothing but good things to share. One example is that the faculty is friendly and is always sharing with the students if they know of events or internships that they think would interest them or that they can get involved with. This I have found to be very true after a year in the program.

Another great reason, for me personally, is that even though I live in the suburbs I find that there is no better campus than one that exists within such a rich city like Chicago. I love that I have the ability to walk to the Art Institute of Chicago or the Museum of Contemporary Art to see exhibits or listen to artist lectures before I go to class.

Lastly, I felt that Columbia was the best fit for me because it just felt more personal and was within my budget. This frankly, is one of the big factors that came to my mind when it came to applying to school.

Tell us about a project you’re working on that you’re excited about.

In the graduate Art Education program, you are required to create two Teacher Art Work Samples or TAWS. The Teacher Art Work Sample is a process to document your teaching by self-evaluating your lesson plans and you’re methods of pre/post-assessment in an art project. In addition, TAWS can be used to document your teaching, while you are a teacher, to validate your teaching and help reflect on your teaching strategies.

The first TAWS that I worked on in the graduate program last spring was at the Elementary level and it was a single art lesson. In the class, Elementary and Middle School Methods, I signed up with two other cohort members to a specific Elementary school in Evanston, Illinois. There I worked closely with the Elementary school art teacher on creating a lesson that would easily fall into her curriculum for one of her third grade classes.

After the teacher assigned a theme of Spring and how she wanted me to teach painting, since it is what I received my BFA in, I then wrote a lesson plan. The lesson plan was based around Vincent van Gogh’s, Sunflowers, focusing on the technique of creating texture with a paint brush. I found that the crucial part of the creating the lesson for the TAWS is creating a pre- and post-assessments that align exactly with what you want the students to know and what you want the students to be able to do.

The day of implementing and delivering my lesson was a little nerve racking, even though I have taught art lessons before. However, everything ran as smoothly as it could with a few obstacles of children being children. Reflecting on the experience I find that it was amazing to have such supportive cohort members to assist, motivate, and support me during my lesson. When I reflect on the TAWS assignment I believe I know what my strengths are and I know what I need to improve on in the future to improve my teaching strategies.

Overall, the experience was a great learning process. I was able to learn a lot about my field of interest and the real world of teaching art from my cooperating teacher for this TAWS project. In addition, I have learned how to create and implement a Teacher Art Work Sample to expand my teaching portfolio and self-assess my teaching strategies.