Tracie Dunn, Rivers & Revolution


What is your favorite part of your job?

Relationships! My favorite part of teaching is connecting with students through art and creative hands-on making and learning. Everyday I laugh and hear laughter, and sometimes there are tears. I value education that encourages the whole person to show-up for the experience of learning. Relationships built in the classroom affirm that learning can be joyful and powerful when it is a shared and communal endeavor.

How would you summarize your teaching philosophy?

My instructional practices teaching art aim to encourage positive interpersonal experiences and substantial learning opportunities through the process of making art. I believe the art studio/classroom is a space in which students can begin to truly experience and appreciate freedom. Freedom of thought. Freedom to experiment with ways of seeing, doing, and being as learner and a person. Freedom to discover what works for them to be effective learners and people. And finally, freedom to envision the future they want to create for themselves. As always, “with freedom comes responsibility” – a balance that is hard to learn, maintain, and master.

Why did you become a teacher?

Becoming an art teacher evolved naturally out of my limitless exploration of visual arts and my desire to work with people. Before officially becoming a classroom teacher, I had already worked as an arts instructor in summer camps, after school programs, non-profit organizations, pre-college programs, special needs programs, and other arts experiences. Working with people of all ages and ability levels has deepened my connection to visual arts and my love for humanity.

Describe your teaching style.

Warm, honest and demanding. I respect students and other school faculty and personnel as complete and whole individuals. I seek to be open, honest and hardworking as a teacher…. And I hope that has a positive influence on the students and people I work alongside, that my investment in being my whole self and working hard becomes an invitation for others to reciprocate.

What is a piece of advice you have for students at CC?

Loosen your grip.

What do you think is the greatest challenge facing students today?

I believe students are learning in a strange vacuum of sorts. School buildings can feel and be very isolated from the rest of the world. And then hours of homework, mean even more time in the day is dominated by the place you already spent most of your day. And so much learning is happening on screens, which can trick people into thinking they know far more than they actually do. Consuming information about events, places and people on a screen, or an overly safe and scripted classroom environment – is a limited learning experience. The “real world” is far messier and more dynamic, yet should not be feared! It is exciting and unpredictable in a way that leads to perseverance, resilience and intuition. I would like to see more partnerships between schools and the “real world”.

What do you hope students master in your class?

To be effective and creative individual students and members of a larger learning community. A Learning Community includes a group of students and faculty working together to progress and support the advancement of learning for all. In order to create and maintain an academic environment that is conducive to the growth of all members, I consider and encourage individual and collective success as interdependent. Learners must be simultaneously self-aware and community-minded, as this helps to build a safe environment of reciprocity and trust that is constructed by all participants. As students become more and more connected to their whole learning community, they are more willing to make mistakes and take the risks necessary to advance their learning.