Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.
As I consider the passing of Maya Angelou, one of our country’s Poet Laureates, I hear her voice -- one of the most important voices of our time, for me. The mellifluous quality of her voice, as she told us about the importance of honoring diversity or being courageous, always sounded as beautiful and rang as true as the caged bird’s song in her memoir. With her writing, she taught us so much about the importance of giving voice to what we believe; what we value, and what we feel. She inspired many people, who previously had been silenced, to speak their truths, and, in the process, she asked us all to listen more carefully to the experience and wisdom of others as a way of informing our vision of how to treat all people.
While listening to Angelou’s voice, as it was replayed in reminiscences about her on NPR, I thought about your daughters’ voices -- how they are being developed and what they are saying. In all aspects of their education at AIS, we devote much time to shaping their sense of the world and their places in it -- all the while teaching them that their voices matter. We care that they have strong voices and are ready to speak clearly and passionately about their beliefs. We want them to know that being silenced is not acceptable and that positive change comes only through people giving voice to their concerns and values.
Nikki Giovanni noted in a CNN interview that Angelou’s special ability to speak to everyone in the same voice was what made her the force that she was… Similarly, we want your daughters to feel their strength as they find their voices and use them in positive and productive ways for the common good. True learning happens through being receptive to a wide variety of perspectives and being willing to respond generously, as Angelou did, to the wisdom of others.
In this last newsletter, I would like to thank you for your warm welcome and support over the past year. You and your daughters have introduced me to AIS ideals in so many ways, and I am most grateful. So, here we are, ready to experience those summertime rhythms. I hope that they are filled for you and your daughters with invigorating and renewing adventures.
I hope that you enjoy the last in the series of first-year faculty interviews -- Photography teacher Sarah Bourne (SB) is interviewed by Lauren Hoopes (LH), PE and Wellness teacher.
LH: What brought you to AIS?
SB: Last school year, I arrived in mid-January to fill a long-term substitute position for Ms. Halton in the Art Department and fell in love with AIS! I was excited when a photography position opened up here and even more excited when I got the job since this has been my DREAM JOB!
LH: Where were you before this year?
SB: I received my undergraduate degree from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. Following graduation, I taught at Westtown School, doing a mixed bag of teaching: Lower School, coaching field hockey and lacrosse at the Upper School level, and being on dorm duty for the Upper School students. It was at Westtown that I fell in love with the Upper School age group, which then inspired me to go back to graduate school. I attended the University of the Arts and earned my MFA in Book Arts and Printmaking, in which I did a significant body of work with alternative process photography and have been putting it to use ever since!
LH: What are you most excited about this school year/time of year/in your classroom/etc.?
SB: (Her excitement was contagious when she was talking about this topic!) At this time of the year, we have been working on an alternative process unit in which the students take their background understanding of regular photography and expand their knowledge and skills. The students have produced cyanotype projects (blue prints), and scanning projects; for example, they take live flowers and scan them to create beautiful pictures. I LOVE the scanning project! I like seeing the students’ minds open up to expand their horizons! It definitely added some spice during the winter season.
LH: What highlights would you like to share about this school year?
SB: I loved going on the New York field trip with the students! It was so great to take the girls out of the classroom, putting what they have learned to the “test” and actually doing it. Watching this process as a teacher -- the students making a decision about what to take, how to take it, how to develop it -- is really exciting. Getting the students in a new environment, broadening their horizons and opening their eyes to new ideas make photography even more exciting. If I could take a field trip with these girls every week I would!
LH: Why should the girls at AIS love your subject area?
SB: What’s not to love?! Photography provides a creative outlet and allows the girls to be self-motivated. They get to decide what to take pictures of, how to develop them and express themselves in a different way. It is a different motivation from any other subject area; it is a safe space to experiment, be creative and have fun!
LH: What is your style in the classroom? How has it developed? Why?
SB: I have a free-flowing style in my classroom. Clear expectations for behavior are set on day one as well as ground rules for keeping the space clean and acceptable for others to use, since it is a shared space. Within the boundaries, I want the students to feel free to express themselves. My teaching methods have created a highly motivating and exciting atmosphere for photography in the classroom, and I am having such fun teaching at AIS!
LH: Who was your favorite teacher growing up? Why?
SB: This question is so hard! I have had so many great art teachers who have influenced and inspired me in my artistic career and my teaching career; each plays a huge role in how I teach. In particular, one teacher I had in college very naturally connected with his students and that made me realize that this was the kind of teacher I wanted to be.
LH: If you could eat dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be? Why?
SB: So many people! But if I would have to choose one, it would be Georgia O’Keeffe. She was a painter who was married to photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Their life together has fascinated me since I was 10 years old. I would love to get to know Georgia and see life through her eyes: how it was being married to a photographer, how they made it work, etc. I would also love to learn more about Alfred, but from Georgia’s perspective. Her insights on a variety of topics would be very interesting to know.
LH: If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Why?
SB: Invisibility, for photography reasons. I feel that I would get better shots of people if they didn’t know I was there taking the picture.