Meet the Teacher Infusing New Purpose into Art Education

March 19, 2021

In the summer of 2017, Robin Schortgen began her career as an art teacher at Christian Alliance International School. The role was new to her, but she felt she was ready with “moments of growth” experienced from her previous work.

“It was overwhelming in the beginning,” says Robin when describing her first impression of the school. “But then it was the support I received, the caring environment the school provided, and the team culture I experienced here that made the difference.”

Fast forward to now, Robin is leading student empowerment through art and using her work to make an impact on students and the school.

Every move, big or small, helps the school build momentum, inspires others to try different things and do things differently.

A fresh perspective on art education

Born and raised in Chicago, the teacher who now calls Hong Kong home is a big advocate to let kids be exposed to arts in a traditional way, despite the rise of fusing technology into art.

“I encourage students to learn art in various formats, from traditional painting techniques like acrylic, watercolour, and especially tactile mediums like fabric and clay to the divergence in our art learning experience beyond the classroom.”

She also uses her art class as a respite for students to cut back pro-longed screen time and engage with the joy of creating by hand.

“While it’s exciting to introduce digital tools to kids, traditional format is still our primary platform for students to experience the joy of art creation.

“It’s really about getting students to acknowledge and absorb the stimulus brought by art – and through the process, students become independent and confident learners.

“Art is inevitably one of the most powerful ways to relieve stress and improve mental elasticity. It’s also about enabling students to make an impact through art.”

The safe space

The CAIS Art Team Lead is giving new purpose to the art learning process. Students are encouraged to be creative when assigned with various tasks, for which the same concept can be applied in their everyday life, thereby students become creative problem solvers.

Artwork itself is tangible and delivers extraordinary value though intangible to the practioner. Students are encouraged to embrace vulnerability and make mistakes – a similar approached adopted by the Alberta Curriculum at CAIS.

“Art provides a safe space for students to explore ideas, skills, and unfamiliar mediums”.

“It has no judgement and students feel valued for their thoughts, motivations, and desire to demonstrate their character through art.”

Projects that invite students to design for school events give students the opportunity and platform to generate new ideas and experience the power and beauty of expressing themselves freely in and around school. Students are involved with projects such as mural painting where they plan, draft and execute their ideas. They are also expected to improvise and seek solutions in order to deliver the mural successfully.

What’s next

Another focus for Robin is to scale the art program at CAIS and its reach to students. Besides traditional classroom, she is looking to experiment a ‘Primary Art Club’ idea where younger students can be engaged through art in a similar fashion like high school students’ Design Team.

A recent example was the involvement of students in designing an event poster for Earth Week – a celebration connecting students to green living through art.

Like the rest of CAIS learning community, Robin has carved out a way to unravel new possibilities and we’re excited for what’s to come.