I had the pleasure of interviewing and meeting with several art educators in the Sioux Falls area about their experience and passion for teaching children. Art educators carry an important role with developing a child’s creativity, imagination and problem solving abilities. Although the art educators of Sioux Falls may varying in experience and teaching style, they all strive to provide the best art education possible. One of the first educators I interviewed was Kathy Dang from Cleveland Elementary School. Originally from Hutchinson, MN, Kathy has been teaching in Sioux Falls for 5 years. She received her bachelors in K-12 Education and Art from Augustana College and in addition received a Masters in Education from Augustana as well. Kathy’s hobbies include; cooking, yoga, gardening and enjoying time outdoors. ~Nakia Fritz
Kathy Dang- Cleveland Elementary
“I hope my students understand that art is not about creating pretty objects, it is about developing problem solving skills and visual thinking strategies that will help them throughout their lives. Art, especially in elementary school, helps students to realize that there is more than one way to solve a problem, we can learn from our mistakes, and that art is a venue to share our ideas.”
On your first day of class what are your expectations of your students?
There is always a lot to go over on those first days of school. Students are excited and nervous to be back at school, and as much as I’d love to tell them every procedure they need to know in the art room, I know they want to just get to making some art. So we go over a few things but then usually start the year with an entire school collaborative project. It usually works out for the better because I usually teach more than 25 different classes and repeating myself that many times makes me feel crazy .
What do you hope to teach to your students?
I hope my students understand that art is not about creating pretty objects, it is about developing problem solving skills and visual thinking strategies that will help them throughout their lives. Art, especially in elementary school, helps students to realize that there is more than one way to solve a problem, we can learn from our mistakes, and that art is a venue to share our ideas. Art also is just a fun experience for students to learn about their communities and themselves. I hope my students take the skills learned in the art room and apply them to many other aspects of their lives. I also believe that art is a meaningful way to teach cooperation and communication skills between students and I hope this is something fostered in my art room.
Tell me about your teaching style.
I hope that my teaching style is a balance between artistic freedom, choice and creativity and artistic structure, skills, and procedures. Within that range, I hope students can find where art fits in their lives.
What keeps you teaching?
My students keep me going every day. There are few things in life more exciting than watching young people make art. Their ideas are fresh and inspiring and I am honored to guide them through the art making process.
What type of art do you personally enjoying making? Crafts?
I’m a potter at heart, but dabble in almost everything. My variety of interests is a good quality for an elementary art teacher because I have to teach painting, stitching, drawing, 3D arts, and many other mediums. I also value the quest for artful living and I hope this is another aspect of “art making” that I can portray to my students.
If you weren’t an art teacher, what would you do? What is your dream job?
I want to be a chef, and I will be some day. Food and food-ways are a passion of mine and I hope that my love for growing and cooking food will lead to a different career in the future-but I will always be a teacher at heart.
If you could change anything about teaching art, what would you change?
I wish everyone could realize the importance of the arts and the authentic learning that happens through visual arts, music, theater, and dance. Everyday, I see the important, process-based learning that happens in the arts and how the students’ confidence level skyrockets when they are allowed to make creative choices. The arts teach things that other disciplines cannot, and I believe that integrating art into the school curriculum is a powerful way to obtain life-long and cross-curricular learning skills.