I really felt like I grew as an artist. My classroom teaching became that much more powerful because of my experience at Bridgewater.
One reason Kristyn Shea, G’11, was chosen as teacher of the year is because she challenges students to think deeply about their art and explain their creative decisions. Shea discovered firsthand how effective that approach is as a Bridgewater State University student.
“I really felt like I grew as an artist,” Shea said. “My classroom teaching became that much more powerful because of my experience at Bridgewater.”
Shea, who has taught at Oliver Ames High School in Easton for 16 years, received the 2021 Secondary Art Educator of the Year award from the Massachusetts Art Education Association. She says she is humbled by the recognition, and the fact that her colleagues nominated her.
At BSU, Shea earned a Master of Art in Teaching in creative arts, which expanded her knowledge of teaching while increasing her passion for art.
“I didn’t want to just get a master’s in education,” Shea recalled. “I wanted to be able to go back to art school and continue to grow as a student.”
Mercedes Nuñez, who is now an emerita art professor, recognized Shea’s talent in her classroom more than a decade ago.
“She is very methodical, profound and very serious. I think she embodies everything that makes a great teacher,” Nuñez said. “It is her incredible gift as an artist and her incredible ability to conceptualize that she’s been able to translate into her love of teaching that has made her shine.”
Nuñez deserves credit for challenging her pupils, including exploring how art is a mechanism for storytelling, Shea said.
“Mercedes unlocked that thought process for me,” she said. “I realized how to go back to my classroom and start pulling out those narratives with my students.”
The results speak for themselves: Shea’s students regularly appear in national and regional art events, including the Congressional Art Competition.
Perhaps more importantly, they learn to innovate, rise to challenges, and find multiple solutions to problems.
“They feel more accomplished when they finish a project and realize they can do anything they put their mind to,” said Shea, who is also her school district’s visual art department chair. “They will take these skills wherever they go.”
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