The Signal

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Friday December 8th

The struggle of teaching art in a pandemic: Art education alumni share their experiences

<p>Art teacher and College alumna Megan Scarborough poses inside her classroom at the Indian Island School in Maine (Photo courtesy of Megan Scarborough).</p>

Art teacher and College alumna Megan Scarborough poses inside her classroom at the Indian Island School in Maine (Photo courtesy of Megan Scarborough).

By Peter Carr 

Emily Putsay, a 2013 Art Education graduate of the College, navigated teaching art, a hands-on subject, amidst a global pandemic.

“It was definitely a challenge,” Putsay said, describing some of the difficulties of switching to online teaching. “I know at least for my colleagues and I, and all my other colleagues who teach project-based courses and hands-on work, we made do.”   

Putsay has been teaching for nearly 10 years, and her classes were impacted heavily because of the pandemic. After graduating from the College with a triple certification in elementary education, special education and art education, she completed her student teaching at Nottingham High School in Hamilton, New Jersey, where she still works today.

Putsay and her colleagues had to work through the pandemic, and they put a lot of effort into making sure their students had work they could do from the comfort of their own home. 

“We had kits of art supplies to send home and we had to modify the curriculum as much as possible," she said. "We made it work. It was still a relatively successful year and a half. We're able to do more things now, which is nice, that we weren't able to do when everyone was at home.”

Some teachers, like art education alumnus Megan Scarborough, graduated when the pandemic started and had their first teaching experience be virtual.

After graduating from the College in 2021, Scarborough took some time off to teach abroad for a month in Zimbabwe. She was originally going to do it through the College but was unable to because of the pandemic.

“I feel like Covid took away a lot of my student teaching experience,” Scarborough said. “So, last year almost served as a second student teaching year for me. I got the abroad student teaching that I really wanted, and even though it was on my own and not through TCNJ, I feel like it still gave me what I wanted.”

When she returned from Zimbabwe, she took a teaching position at a local high school in Maine. She loved it so she applied for more jobs in the area. 

"I also got my feet wet by working in a school full time but not being a classroom teacher,” she said. “Now I have my own classroom, and I feel a lot more prepared.”

Scarborough faced many challenges while teaching through Zoom, but she said she wouldn't have done anything different.

"Being the art teacher and trying to teach kids art where the kids have lined paper at home and that’s it is pretty challenging, but looking back, I think I was as creative and flexible and I could've been,” Scarborough said.

Scarborough currently teaches at the Indian Island School in Maine. 

Even after the students returned to in-person learning, Scarborough kept using some teaching techniques she gained from remote learning. She cares deeply about all her students and would make sure they were doing alright mentally —  and she still does that. 

“I feel like one of the main things I would do in my class [online], we would have a few minutes at the beginning to catch up, and I would check in with the kids, make sure everything was good, ask them about what's going on, and I still do that a lot with my kids,” Scarborough said.

Like Scarborough, Putsay also carried over the teaching habits she used while teaching virtually to the in-person classroom setting.

“I’ve definitely incorporated some of the skills that I was forced to learn during the whole Covid period, and my normal day to day teaching style,” Putsay said. “I break things down into much smaller steps then I used to before.”


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