“Trying to be something that wasn’t me”
Growing up, Crista didn’t know that she was artistic until a middle school art teacher noticed her talent and encouraged her to pursue art. It was through art — and expressing herself creatively — that she found her calling.
“I was trying to be something that wasn’t me,” Crista says. “I never had anyone say I didn’t have to not be me until I had art teachers.”
In college, Crista studied fine arts, but had no interest in pursuing a teaching career. That was until she took a required course in education equity and traveled to Haiti to volunteer in a school in Port-Au-Prince, the country’s capital. After her trip, Crista became passionate about education and decided to become a teacher.
Caring for the whole child
Like many Promise Academy teachers, Crista centers takes a “whole child” approach to teaching. In her first year as a Promise Academy art teacher, Crista had a scholar who often got into trouble. So, she encouraged the student to share his feelings and express himself through art projects. The scholar’s behavior improved dramatically.
“Sometimes, kids need that outlet for self expression,” the art teacher says.
Her classroom is designed to foster that. It includes workstations named after Jean-Michel Basquiat, Frida Kahlo, and Pablo Picasso; spaces for self-reflection; and an art-themed library.
At the end of her classes, wet paintings are neatly layered in the drying rack, the rainbow of acrylic paint in squeeze tubes is refreshed, and often a student leaves with one last, burning question for the art teacher: “Can we have art class one more time this week?”