Sarah McNeil’s Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy is derived from the principles of organic gardening where you “feed the soil” so that the plant can thrive for many seasons. This kind of fertilization can only be accomplished by enriching and nourishing what is beneath the surface. In the simplest of terms, my pedagogy practice is holistic and aims to engage and activate the students mind, body, and spirit so that they are invested in the assignment and in the learning process beyond the classroom. I have worked very hard to design a safe, respectful, and inclusive classroom environment, one that is ripe for risk taking. I do so by staying open to the student’s ideas, and support them by providing a range of knowledge concerning technical, conceptual, and multidisciplinary topics, relevant to today’s art world.

Most important to my teaching philosophy is my conviction that the art making process can stimulate creative problem solving on bigger issues, even outside of the discipline. I continually emphasize to my students that creativity is one of their biggest assets, no matter what career path they have chosen, and that it needs cultivation. Over the course of the semester, I try to expand their views of art making, by presenting them with a series of art problems, which they are challenged to solve on an individual level. The art problems are designed so that the students begin to create artwork that combines visual and critical thinking about the world they inhabit, while also exploring a range of artistic techniques. By creating diverse and numerous opportunities for multidisciplinary experiences, I have found that students are more engaged and invested in their artwork.

The last critical concept in sustainable gardening, and in my teaching philosophy, that I want to address is my belief in planting as many different kinds of seeds as possible, as a way to avoid sterile monocultures. As an instructor to a diverse student body, it is my mission to promote growth for a range of abilities and learning styles, so each student is able to make unique contributions to the class. It is my job as an instructor to pull the best work possible out of them, and it is only successful when the students are able to feel confident in their own ideas, beliefs and personal expressions. By doing so, it is my goal that students will leave my class as more informed, open-minded citizens, and as propagators of ideas who are armed with a diverse toolbox of skills. With this I hope to prepare them to be vibrant creative problem solvers in the world.