Everyartist Champions: Jeanna Pena, Cypress, Texas

I am Jeanna Pena, and I currently teach Visual Arts in Cypress, Texas, and use my diverse background to integrate curriculum in a S.T.E.A.M. environment infused with a multicultural perspective. I am passionate about travel and promoting global understanding through the arts. In 2015, I served as a delegate to Cuba with the NAEA and collaborated to present educational research at the National Art Education Association Conference in 2016.  Most recently, I was chosen as a 2016 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow with National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. I embarked on an expedition to Antarctica in December 2017 and brought back all that I learned to share with students, colleagues, and the community. I feel that there is no greater education nor a better way to lift the spirit than to travel.

Future career plans include more learning, networking, traveling, and collaborating with colleagues at National Geographic, NAEA, and the Global Arts Integration Network. I am in the process of creating an educational blog, writing curriculum and exploring the possibility of being an adjunct professor for pre-service teachers. But for now, my first priority is my group of 900 amazingly talented elementary art students.

Everyartist:  What is the single, easiest (best) way you spark creativity in your students?

Pena: I am curious and I ask questions…. Always “what if?”... and “let’s find out!”

I model that and provide an atmosphere in which they feel free to explore and answer their own questions.  I provide novel materials and experiences.

Everyartist:  What do you think most often blocks us or our students creatively? How do you counter that?

Pena: Fear of failure is something that I encounter regularly and I see it across all disciplines. Our children are afraid to mark any answer when given multiple choice tasks and the anxiety quickly escalates when tasks are more open-ended such as what they normally encounter in the art room. I see the debilitating impact this has and knowing full well that it is through making mistakes that we all learn, I have built many of my lessons around this premise. I take every opportunity to try new things in front of them and when it doesn’t go as planned, I smoothly transition into a different direction. By now, I hope they’ve come to realize that making mistakes is a normal part of the learning process and when it comes to art (and even science and writing) sometimes things turn out better than what you had planned! I love the looks on their faces when they say, “But I’ve never done this before…” and I respond with, “Me neither!” You never know what you can do until you try.

Everyartist:  Do you feel it is important to make art in every classroom?

Pena: I think that creating has its place across all disciplines. Our hands are the most important tools we have and they can do much more than rote pencil and paper work. And the brain boost we all get when we engage in experiential learning (creating art) enlivens, strengthens and deepens our understanding. It is “sticky” learning and basically good teaching!


Everyartist:  If you had a magic wand or special power to make your school into a more magical place...what would you do?

Pena: If I had a magic wand and I could use it to impact our school community, I would use it to bring back the innocence of childhood. I would use it to ease the burdens of our students who come from homes that are not so loving so that they would be able to openly embrace all of the wonders of education that await them.  

Everyartist:  If you and your students have participated in Everyartist Live!, tell us about the event, student participation, valuable outcomes for school and students, plans for future involvement, etc….suggestions for improvements...

Pena:  We participated in Everyartist 2 years ago. Every student (1,300!) had work displayed in the cafeteria and the exhibit aligned with a family reading night with a very successful community turnout. I believe that it was a very powerful statement, empowering all as ARTISTS. I do plan on participating again and am looking forward to a different time frame, hopefully in the spring, as starting the year out with this event was quite the hurdle!

Favorite Quote:

"In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught." (Baba Dioum, 1968.)