Saturday, May 15, 2010

Annie Murdock: Little, But Like Arnold

This Teacher Testimony features Los Osos photography teacher, Annie Murdock.  I have been able to get to know Annie a bit through her work with students on Advanced Placement  portfolios and many of my current students also take classes with Annie, so I see the incredible work they do.  At the end of the school year, Annie is moving out of state.  She will definitely be missed!


SE: When did you decide to become a teacher and
how did you choose what subject/grade you wanted to teach?

AM: I've known I wanted to be an art teacher since I was 16 years old. I've always loved my art classes and my art teachers. Appreciation for the fine arts have been instilled in me since I was very young. I started dancing at 4, playing the flute at 10 and began cartooning when I was just a little one.

SE: What have you learned about yourself and the world by being a teacher?
AM: Being a digital photo teacher forces me to stay current with all of the technology. I have learned that you can never know enough. I'm constantly educating myself. I visit museums as often as I can. I subscribe to art magazines and follow artistic blogs. Art aesthetics are my passion, so its definitely not a chore! About the world? I've learned that most people are inherently good. But, there are a lot more that are lazy than I realized...

SE: Which teachers were your inspiration when you were in high school?
AM: I have had a few teachers that have inspired me. The teacher that inspired me the most was my high school painting teacher, Mrs Astudillo. She helped me cultivate my love for paint.

 SE: What do hope students gain from the experience of being in your class?
AM: I hope my students look back fondly on my class and remember that although it was a lot of work sometimes, they learned a lot about fine art aesthetics. I want them to have an appreciation for all forms of the visual art medium.

SE: What one piece of advice would you pass along to a brand new teacher? 
AM: Something I've always felt strongly about, is to set the boundary between student friendships. You have to be strict in the classroom. It's challenging and uses a lot more effort and energy, but in the end you have a well behaved environment and the students tend to have more respect for you. My students overall product (their art) is much more successful when I'm this way. This all speaking as a very young, very little, female high school teacher :)
SE:What was your funniest or most surprising experience in the classroom?What has been the most touching?
AM: Because I teach an elective course, we have an environment that allows for more...FUN! I can't think of a specific [funny] event off the top of my head, but I can tell you, my students make me laugh daily.
As the school year rolls on, students become more comfortable in their environment and begin to express themselves in their artwork. Many students share heartfelt personal experiences. These moments are very raw and often emotional. One specific experience was when a student paid tribute to her father, who had recently passed away, in a photographic series. It was for our final project. One of the requirements is that they put their images together in a slide show set to music. The presentation was especially emotional for me because I had lost my father when I was 18 yers old. Photography is a perfect outlet for expression and students take full advantage of that.

SE: What goals or dreams do you have for yourself in terms of your craft?
AM: Seeing how I am giving up the teaching profession this year, I look forward to cultivating my own art. I've felt a pull for quite some time and I look forward to having time to paint and work on my own creative side. I will miss being in the classroom immensely. Someday I'm sure I'll be back.

Not only is Annie a talented teacher, she's also a fellow blogger.  Check her site out at  Brett and Annie.  She also maintains a blog for her students' benefit.  It lists and describes their assignments and gives examples of past student work.  She also posts excellent work by her current students.  I have loved seeing the look on their faces when I say, "Hey!  Saw your self-portrait -- awesome work! The combination of surprise and pride is about the sweetest thing.  I am going to miss that next year, but I applaud Annie for being willing to pursue her passion!

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