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Making a career in Art Education

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Janette Ballard

faith dyrsten

Students enrolled in the BFA in studio art program have the opportunity to create art and experiment with numerous art forms. That opportunity to explore and practice using many different materials has prepared alumna Faith Williams Dyrsten to learn new techniques and introduce them to the art classes she teaches.

Dyrsten earned a five-year dual degree in studio art (BFA), and curriculum and instruction (MA) in 2012, and finds that she uses the two parts of her education daily in her work. She currently teaches high school art at a high-needs alternative charter school focused on English-language learning and trauma-informed practices.

Being able to offer various art mediums, coupled with personal narrative, "helps me teach my students how to have a voice in their artwork," said Dyrsten, while the MA program has given her the tools to address topics relevant to today's schools, such as literacy, linguistically and culturally diverse communities, and classroom management.

"At my current school, I feel like I have pulled from this source of knowledge nearly every day to help me be a better teacher for all my students," she said.

One of the highlights of her career was being named Teacher of the Year at the private school where she previously taught.

"The honor was based on a faculty nomination and vote, so I was honored to be selected by my peers," said Dyrsten. "Even more amazing was the actual award I was given. It was a piece of artwork created by one of my own students. This was a surprise, so she had done it completely independently and used so many of the ideas and skills that I had been teaching her over a couple years."

"That artwork reminds me of how much hard work over many, many long weeks or stressful days can have unexpected rewards over time," she added.

Dyrsten also enjoys small accomplishments that result in big outcomes, like working with a class of students and watching as they become more independent and start challenging and supporting one another.

"I remember one time I was facilitating a critique with a group of students, and they started taking over in such a natural way," she said. "I was able to literally step back in the room and let them provide feedback to each other and ask questions of one another without my guidance. This was a fun moment, and something I strive for with all my work. Students should become independent thinkers and creators, who support one another in a community of creativity."

Dyrsten was first drawn to the University of Denver for its study abroad program, and was able to study for a semester in Florence, Italy.

"It was important to me that I expand my horizons in this way, and the support from the school was so helpful in making it possible," she said. "Since then, I have traveled internationally several times, even teaching my own students skills in fundraising and researching to lead teen trips abroad as well."

Over the past four years, Dyrsten has given back by serving on the board of DU ART, a volunteer organization that supports the School of Art & Art History at the University of Denver.

As a student, Dyrsten received funding support from DU ART. Through contributions and events, DU ART provides art scholarships, travel grants, special equipment, educational experiences and an endowment for the ongoing support of School of Art & Art History programs.

"I remember how much the support meant to me at the time, and I really wanted to help continue that for future students," she said. "One of the great things about the board is how connected it seems to be to all sorts of great things happening around the art community in Denver."

Since graduating, Dyrsten has worked in nonprofits, community events, museums, and private and charter schools. Her dual degree has given her the knowledge and skills to pursue the work that she loves in the world of art education.