A Fresh Approach: Exploring Art In Teacher Preparation

DR. Clark and Dr. French’s diversity leadership course with CCSU leader candidates on the university campus.

by Courtney Leblanc

In a bright room, abstract art is plastered on the walls and scrapbooks and gifts from past students lay scattered along the window sill. Photos fixed to the walls showcase teacher candidates and their participation in the arts, while student-made masks captivate all who enter the unconventional workplace.

The atmosphere of Dr. Barbara Clark’s office reveals her dedication and love of teaching. On March 22, her lifelong hard work had paid off. Clark was notified that she had been chosen as the recipient of The Board of Regents Teaching Award. As an alumnus and professor of 12 years at Central Connecticut State University, Clark was humbled to receive the honor.

“I was really surprised because the chances of getting something like this are, you know, I would say pretty slim because there are so many great professors at CCSU,” said Clark.

The award is given to outstanding faculty who distinguish themselves and have promoted improvements to their educational programs. With that said, Clark has proven that her appreciation of the arts and its integration in education has had an everlasting impact on many.

In Clark’s early years, she had a dream to become an artist and live a romantic life in the city. However, when Clark’s parents suggested that she get into the education field, she respected their opinion. She found that she can take her love for the arts and transform the classroom environment.

“I consider what I create in schools a form of conceptual art,” said Clark. “I created programs for schools to teach the adults how you can change a school environment to improve community, behaviors and friendships.”

As a young teacher, Clark worked in a variety of school districts. She noticed the vast differences between urban and suburban communities.

As a result, she wanted to show that unique and cutting-edge programs can potentially inspire students who are below grade level.

In using her skills and strategies, she is determined to show teacher candidates what they can achieve as an innovative teacher.

“Dr. Clark has had a tremendous impact on the way I practice teaching,” said Allison Tuohy, one of Clark’s past students. “I am currently teaching kindergarten and I often incorporate things I’ve learned from my prior professor. I use music and art to teach my English language learners. I try to unmask the possibilities for each and every student.”

Clark’s pursuit to educate future teachers does not end here. She hopes to further her career by training in-service educators as well.

“I have this dream of having a program for teachers where they would find their imaginative voice and their creative spirit,” said Clark. “Then they would be more likely to know how to use those methods with children.”

As a piece of advice for future teachers, Clark tells her students not to settle for the status quo. She urges them not to simply work out of the curriculum book, but to use ideas that truly inspire them.

With the help of her co-worker, Dr. James French, Clark wrote a book titled, “Hearts and Mind Without Fear: Unmasking the Sacred in Teacher Preparation,” in hopes of extending the teachings of her research to future educators.

As Clark says in her book, “teachers must know how to be social- and eco-justice advocates that teach children love and respect so that they are truly peacemakers as they move throughout their lives.”