Faculty Profile: Andrea Yost, Early Childhood and Lower School Visual Art Teacher
February 26, 2021
Tell us about your path to Léman.
I grew up in New York and got my bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts and Art History at William Smith College and my master’s degree at Bank Street College of Education in Museum Education. After I graduated from Bank Street, I was the Education Coordinator at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I interned there while I was in school and they created the position for me. In my role, I developed workshops and hands-on programs for families and school groups. I met my husband there and then had my first child but working full-time and being a mom full-time was difficult, so we decided to move to Sicily, where my husband is from, to get a change of scenery.
We did a lot of traveling within Europe to places like Prague and Berlin and stayed in each place for a while. After I had my second son, I was ready to come back to New York. A friend of mine was part of the founding team at the school and they asked me to come in and work with the art teacher who was on staff. He left at the end of the year and I was hired to fill his position.
Why did you choose museum education as a career initially?
I was interested in teaching in alternative spaces where I could teach to different ages and different kinds of groups. Day to day, I didn’t know what was going to happen or what kinds of students I would be teaching, which was exciting. However, it’s very taxing on your time. There are weekend and evening events and that was difficult with kids, which is part of the reason I left.
What do you bring from that experience into your classroom?
I'm still dedicated to that idea of keeping things unexpected and vibrant. I work hard not to get stale and, in my curriculum, even though I come back to the same projects and lessons each year, I'm coming at it from a different perspective. I might do self-portraits again, but I might look at it from a different perspective or I might reference different artists. Museum educators are good at is thinking quickly and adjusting to different circumstances, which is especially helpful right now because we’re not teaching under the same circumstances or in the same space as in past years.
My standards in the classroom are different because I am interested in kids understanding concepts and ideas rather than the ability to do certain things. I think that comes from an understanding of contemporary art at this moment, but also a museum setting. I try to ask questions like, “How can you learn from an object, what can you see from other people's practices, what inspires you that has nothing to do with art? And how can that motivate you and your own art practice?”
Why do you think arts education is important?
We talk about critical thinking all the time, and I think that is so important in visual arts because you have to analyze what you’re doing all the time in order to decide what direction you’re going with a piece of art. I might tell a student to revise something but it’s more about how they can push their artwork to a different level and decide what they want to say or create. Are they just satisfied with the piece as it is, or do they want to change it up and create more depth? They are constantly evaluating their own work but without feeling like they might fail at what they’re doing. Most kids don’t define themselves as artists right now so that gives them incredible optimism and a feeling of success when they accomplish something. If they can do that in art, they can bring that same spirit into their writing or math.
You teach students from early childhood through 5th grade. How does the visual arts curriculum change as students move between grades?
One of the reasons that I wasn't teaching threes before is the idea that you don't really want to separate the arts from everything. The arts should be part of whatever they are studying. If they are studying cooking, math is incorporated into measuring and art is drawing a menu. Then, as you get older, art becomes more segmented into a subject. What I love about our teachers is a lot of them incorporate art into their classrooms as well. But, within the art room, we get to really focus on technique. Then, when students get to fourth grade and fifth grade, they have that foundation and they can choose their materials and what kind of work they want to do and have more ownership of their process.
What do you hope students take from your class when they move on to Middle School?
I hope that that they bring fresh ideas and keep that ownership that they have in my classroom. I really want them to be able to feel like they are creators and not simply receptacles of information. I want them to bring that energy to whatever it is they're doing, both in and outside of the arts.
How is how do you incorporate IB into what you're doing in the classroom?
Bringing forth your own ideas and not just being a receptacle for information is really the goal of IB. One of the ways I bring it into my classroom is I ask students to choose a piece that they’ve created and tell me why it’s a WOW piece, which means a Wonderful Original Work. They have to analyze it and present their reasoning and critical thought behind their own work, which is a big part of the IB.
What do you like about teaching at Léman?
I love how diverse our community is. I have students who are from such different backgrounds and countries that I can’t just reference something and assume that they all understand me. It keeps me on my toes. As a New Yorker, you think you live in the center of the universe but really meeting these kids teaches me that the world is so much bigger than that.
There’s also huge support for the arts here and the teachers are all very talented. I love that the school has invested in materials and equipment that give students the opportunity to do so many different things. The arts are not just thought of as an extracurricular activity. They are considered an important part of the curriculum, which makes me feel really supported as a teacher.