Art Teacher With A Heart For Texas

Meet Jackie Ridgway. She is an artist and student teacher in Texas this semester! Visit her website at http://jacklynridgway.weebly.com/ to see some of her awesome artwork. (Pictured above is a silkscreen print by Jackie, titled ‘American Frontier’)

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Hello all, my name is Jackie Ridgway. I am currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in K-12 Art Education. I started my student teaching journey one week ago in Houston, Texas! I am a small town girl from Nebraska and attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney. UNK sends several student teachers to Houston each semester to teach at Alief ISD, which is a school district that is in such a high need for teachers, that they have been granted permission to pay their student teachers (one of the major reasons I chose Alief!).

I am currently student teaching at Killough Middle School. So far, it has been an incredible experience. All of the staff has been so welcoming and friendly. There are even several teachers from Nebraska that have been very helpful. Coming from a small rural school in Nebraska, I knew that the environment would be very different than what I am used to. All of the student teachers had been told about the diversity that we would see, but it doesn’t really sink in until you are thrown into it. The number of languages I hear students talking in one classroom is fascinating. I haven’t had any trouble communicating with students like I thought I might. Most of the students speak English very well.

Here are a few things I learned during my first week:

It’s not as easy as it looks! I felt very confident about my teaching skills during my field experience in the schools in Nebraska. This is a completely different environment. Most of the Alief schools are very low socioeconomic and a lot of the students don’t have an easy home life. Before winter break, there was a middle school girl that was killed in a drive by shooting, just to give you a little perspective. Some of these students have been through more than I ever have been in my life. I work with some tough kids. I know, though, that when I am finished with my experience teaching here, it will make me a better teacher and I will be prepared for almost anything that will be thrown at me.

Classroom management is key. I already knew this, but implementing it is a whole different story. This is also not as easy as it looks! I have been told that if I can manage my classroom here, then I will be able to handle any classroom environment. I have a group of 8th grade boys that are a real terror. They say, “Yes ma’am” and are not disrespectful toward me or my cooperating teacher, for the most part. They just don’t want to be in art class and refuse to participate. After my first day, I doubted myself. I didn’t know if I would be able to handle what I have gotten into. However, each day has gotten a little better, so I know that there is hope.

I won’t save them all. I have already started to build relationships with some of my students. It has been hard to get all their names down, since I see close to 200 students a day. I give feedback to the students on their artwork, and most of them seem to appreciate it. Some just don’t care. I have received many eye-rolls and even some comments like, “Get away from me,” “Don’t’ talk to me,” and of course, “I hate art.” My dream as an art teacher is to help my students love art like I do. I want to help them develop their creative mind and use it in not only art, but also all of their other classes and in their future endeavors. I have to remember that I won’t accomplish this will all of my students. As long as I can make a difference in at least one student’s life, I will consider myself successful.

Getting involved helps. I went to the boys’ basketball game so that I could watch a few of my students and have a way to connect with them. They noticed. I had a student come to school the next day and said, “I saw you at the basketball game, Miss.” That was all he said, but I could see that he appreciated the support. I want my students to know that I support them in not only art, but also their other classes and extra curricular activities. The teachers also noticed my support. A few came up to me and said they saw me at the game and how glad they were that I came out to support the students. It’s little things like going to a game that will help you in the long run.

Start each day fresh. If you have a student that gave you a hard time in class the day before, greet him or her as if nothing had ever happened. A new day presents different circumstances and new opportunities. Every child deserves to be given a second chance. Always greet them with a smile to let them know that you care and that you are there for them. As teachers, we don’t know what our students are going through outside of school. We can’t take their misbehaviors and outbursts personally, because they really probably don’t mean anything they say. They just need someone to take their frustrations out on, so if that person has to be me, I am perfectly fine with that. I will still love them just the same.

I am so excited to get to know my students this semester and learn from them. They all have a special place in my heart already and I can’t wait to build relationships with them. I know that this semester will be challenging, but I am ready to take on those challenges head on. I know that they will only make me a better teacher and more prepared for my own classroom in the fall.

Jackie Ridgway

Dear Lord, 

I pray Your love will shine through me onto Your children. Help them to know that I care for them and want only the best for them. Please guide me this semester in the relationships I build with the students and teachers, and to be the best that I can be for my students. Amen.

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