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Mike Stumbras
Teaching Philosophy
2/12/2017

I am an Artist, and I am an Educator. As an Artist, I understand that the foundations of artistic practice are built on problem solving, creative curiosity, self-critique, and a hunger for personal knowledge.
As a teacher, I am passionate about equipping my students with a developed conceptual and technical framework for art making, as well as an expanded frame of reference that can extend beyond the classroom. I am continually looking for ways to improve the curriculum I have developed: through research, writing, and engaging in dialogues about art education with my peers and leaders in the field. I feel incredibly proud to see my students succeed in the classroom and after graduation, and I believe that it is my calling to be an educator that leads by example to inspire and prepare students for their own journey in art.
My teaching style is syncretic, combining elements of traditional art eduction practices with constructivist teaching theory and personal education experience across disciplines that considers and empowers the individual student. I believe strongly that the student’s path to success in the classroom and beyond lies not only in rigorous coursework centered around fundamental artistic principles, but also in allowing students to have control over the direction of their learning experience through material exploration and periodic self-assessment. In this way, My role as an art educator is to foster a classroom environment that considers the needs of a diverse population, and that the role of the teacher is to serve as a facilitator as much as an arbiter of curriculum goals.
For example, I recently had the opportunity to design and implement a curriculum that sought to enrich the technical and conceptual skills of intermediate undergraduate students and address their individual studio practices by teaching ART 4020 Experiments in Polymer Clay at Louisiana State University. The class centered around learning artistic concepts by using a novel material with no established literature: a quick cure polymer clay developed by a chemistry professor at LSU. The first project that I assigned was a unit called “Mimic/Morph”, that required students to select a personal object of a given size with surface variations and execute sculpts in two subunits. The first subunit involved the careful examination and construction of a scale replica of the selected object. I met with the students individually to encourage material exploration and to suggest construction techniques relevant to the considerations of their individual object. Students were asked to document and prepare a demonstration of the successful and unsuccessful techniques used to construct their replica during a group critique at the end of the first subunit, citing relevant research and showing appropriate artistic vocabulary. Students went into the second subunit with both self-discovered knowledge about material processes, and also secondary knowledge from their peers with my feedback in a group discussion.
The “Morph” subunit required students to take inspiration from their selected object, and transform it into a new object while retaining some formal evidence of the original. During work days, I showed and explained images from artists of diverse disciplines that utilize association and symbolic representation in their work with care not to give examples too directly related to the given project. I met with students individually during work periods to examine their progress and to facilitate their investigation of the conceptual and technical themes particular to their work by asking pointed questions and suggesting potential research avenues. Students presented their transformed objects to the class in a final group critique, citing the reasons for picking their objects and detailing their thought processes related to the associations and comparisons they formed. In this way, students were responsible for their own learning through firsthand discovery and communication while the constraints of the project and my input guided the learning experience to satisfy the goals of the curriculum. I believe that the unit was quite successful, as evidenced by the diversity of subject matter handled by the students as they expressed their individual ideas and construction methods, the productive and enthusiastic discussions that sprung from the students self-discovery, as well as the overall high quality of the finished works.
It is my vocation to teach, and I take great pride in the skills I have developed to Inspire students of all backgrounds to express themselves through art. I hope to one day have the opportunity to guide and grow my own program, making a measurable impact in the way that future generations think and talk about art and artistic practices.

Teaching Philosophy
2017