Early Childhood Art Teacher
Capital City Public Charter School
Role as a D.C. Art Educator
Daizy Cushner is the Early Childhood Art Teacher at Capital City Public Charter School and works with Pre-K-3 and Pre-K-4 students in a small but artfully organized room, full of art supplies and tables arranged for discovery and creation.
She describes her role as being unconventional compared to most art teachers in that she teaches groups of four to five children at a time and meets with sixteen groups per week. She guides students in interest-based projects, exposing them to various materials and techniques, allowing their interests to morph as they invest time into projects.
Each year, Daizy shares with her students her passion for color by designing an eight-week project about color mixing. Students mix colors in experimental ways, choose colors they love, name them, describe feelings they evoked, and tell stories about them. Last year, the three- to five- year olds debated whether a certain shade of green was better labeled grasshopper or broccoli green. Daizy documented and recorded this project, which extended to twelve weeks due to student interest, in a beautiful self-published book. Her advice to teachers who want to try this: Be flexible and responsive to student interest.
Daizy hopes that in the future, her students will remember how proud and empowered they were while creating meaningful work, and will continue to use art as an outlet for self-expression. She hopes that even if drawing or painting isn’t their focus, they will remember that art-making is something they can come back to through the years.
A Transformative Philosophy
Being an advocate for early childhood is what Daizy is most passionate about and proud of. She says, “I
think there’s this idea that young children aren’t as capable of diving deeply into a project. Early childhood art education in the past has been very closely tied to craft, holiday art, and very basic, limiting materials. My kids here are printmaking. They’re using Gelli plates to draw and print figures. They’re making sculpture. They’re using these more advanced skills with advanced materials. They’re little, but they’re able to handle it. They are capable. They’re able to attend to long-term projects and actually work for weeks and months on an idea. This establishes something in them that will become part of them, something that they can take seriously.”
Choosing Her Path
While growing up, Daizy spent a lot of time in her father’s studio, at exhibition openings, and visiting her mother’s school. Her father was a painting professor at the Corcoran and a current professor at George Mason University, as well as an active artist. Her mother is the Early Childhood Director at Gallaudet University, working with birth-age to Kindergarteners. While not as invested in art as a young person, Daizy always gravitated toward her mother’s students and loved visiting her school. During her senior year of high school, something new clicked. Daizy was exposed to the art of photography in a pre-college class and told her parents, “This is what I want to do—I want to be an art teacher.” With cautionary parental advice that most people spend a lot of time developing portfolios, Daizy worked energetically developing her portfolio over a few months in AP art classes and was soon admitted into Massachusetts College of Art and Design as a photography and art education double major. Daizy is currently getting her Master’s Degree in Art Education at George Mason University.
Teaching In D.C.
Daizy finds teaching in her hometown of Washington, D.C. is full of benefits with its many resources, free museums, thriving arts community, and access to various cultures. Teaching students from all over the world inspires her. At times, she feels the challenges of a small early childhood arts educator community. She would love to build a community where others like her could get together and share ideas.
What art supply would Daizy be if she could choose? A Gelli plate! Daizy says, “Gelli plates for print-making are reusable and forgiving. You can make multiple prints and use all kinds of materials with them.” Similarly, Daizy describes herself as flexible and imaginative. With Gelli plates, there is no wrong way to create—anything you make becomes beautiful and one of kind—just like the impression Daizy makes on her students!
If you are an early childhood educator interested in building professional learning opportunities with Daizy, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit her classroom blog at https://pkartstudio.wordpress.com/ to see what’s happening in her Studio!
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