jack toolin

Teaching Philosophy

I am an artist/educator with a strong record in teaching, exhibiting, and non-profit administration. My teaching spans a broad range of topics, including photography, digital design, media studies, and contemporary art history. As a teacher my goal is to inspire students towards achieving their highest potential as cultural communicators. I strive to challenge them in exploring their creativity while also drawing connections between the larger social-political environment and themselves, developing independent creators who are aware of the broader context in which they operate.

An effective classroom is an ecosystem that relies on many contributions from many participants: the teacher, the students, the resources of the university and its surrounding community. This effective classroom has an atmosphere that is interactive and it integrates multiple, complimentary forms of learning. For example, developing expressive skills with the given medium, acquiring knowledge about historical and contemporary cultural production, considering artworks that expand expressive possibilities for all, discussing relevant issues of the field, and participating in culture beyond the campus. The synergy of these approaches advances students’ understanding of the field as well as enhancing the depth of their own creativity.

The qualities of listening, patience, and flexibility to be of great importance in benefiting the wide variety of students that compose a typical college classroom. Students of art have unique ways of processing both their experiences of the world and the information presented in class. A teacher’s ability to recognize students’ learning needs and adapt their pedagogical approach is beneficial for all. This is what I strive to do in every class. Ultimately, my goal as a teacher is to facilitate a creative learning environment where I can guide students towards finessing their vision, in whatever form, helping them to make connections between their creativity and those of established artists, cultural thinkers, and social-political phenomena.

I am an active learner myself, and I continue to research new technical, philosophical and intuitive avenues that extend my creativity. Bringing this enthusiasm to the classroom enhances the learning experience for myself and for students. I am excited about new possibilities for my work, and I also confront the challenges that any learner faces; in other words, I fully empathize with the students’ process.

Educating students about practice and theory, both historical and contemporary, as well as the research process needed to maintain an active creative life, contributes to the students’ ongoing conceptual depth. This depth is important as our culture is increasingly immersed in technologies of visual and aural entertainment that lack just that. It is a teacher’s role to broaden the scope of students’ experience and understanding, guiding them to make connections between their creative career and the people, discourses, technologies and creations that are the basis of today’s fine art.