Maggie Rivera

Class of 2013
Middle and high school art teacher, Griffith High School
Hobart, Ind.

Maggie Rivera wants her students to love making art. As a middle and high school art teacher, she knows that her courses will affect how her students see themselves as creators and artists. So, she follows the model she learned at Valpo.

“One of the things that I’ve definitely taken with me is the professors’ general positivity,” she says. “There’s a sense of support when they critique. They’ll say, ‘This isn’t quite right yet, but we can make it right.’ Or, ‘What you have is good, but you can do better.’”

Maggie now uses those phrases in her own classroom, some of the many expressions she has borrowed and adapted for her students. She says she routinely hears herself giving advice inspired by her own education.

Teaching art was not Maggie’s original plan. She came to Valpo intending to be a veterinarian but found that her biology classes didn’t excite her the way her art classes once had. So she made the leap, double-majoring in art and secondary education.

“I didn’t feel fearful for my future,” she recalls. “It felt natural, I enjoyed it, and I tried to soak up everything I could. That was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

The art department faculty knew about Maggie’s career goals, and they encouraged her to develop her teaching skills along with her artistic ability. Professors including Aimee Tomasek, Sarah Jantzi, Jane Lohmeyer, and Liz Wuerffel invited Maggie to help her fellow students during class, then hired her for positions as a teacher’s aide, a darkroom assistant, and a summer art instructor at Valpo’s All About Art camps.

In those roles, she learned a new skill set: how to manage a classroom, how to create exhibits of student work, how to show care for the students. In addition to her secondary education course work and student-teaching, these experiences made Maggie a very desirable candidate. Upon graduation, Maggie was hired after sending out just one job application. Moments after her first interview, she was offered a position at Griffith High School.

Now, Maggie teaches beginning drawing, art history, and seventh-grade art each fall. In the spring she teaches beginning painting, introduction to 2-D art, and a new round of seventh-graders. She plans to develop additional courses in digital design and visual communications. Though it takes a lot of time to prepare for that many classes, Maggie’s positivity still rules the day.

“I almost always have work that I take home, something to get ready or plan for, but it’s so worth it,” she says. “Teaching is simultaneously the most fun and the most work I’ve ever been part of.“

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Avery Davis