Jonathan Juravich is a visual arts instructor at Liberty Tree Elementary School in the Olentangy Local School District, and is an Adjunct Instructor for Art Education at Otterbein University. He is the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year.
Q: How did you participate in the arts as a child?
A: My parents are both artists and it is they that first ignited my love for art. I grew up in this amazingly creative family where we visited museums, discussed architecture, and spent time creating art together around the kitchen table or moving all the furniture out of the living room to paint on large canvases. I attended Saturday morning classes as the Carnegie Museum of Art (I’m from Pittsburgh) where I had the opportunity to sit and draw in the great halls of the natural history museum or spend time with Monet’s waterlilies. I also attended classes at Carnegie Mellon University throughout High School. Through out it all my parents encouraged and supported me in my artistic endeavors but also in my education as a well-rounded person. They continue to provide support and encouragement for me but also the students in my school. They have not missed a single art show of my students’ work in the past 10 years. And now that I am a parent (of a 4 year old and 7 month old) I have the same opportunities to engage my kids in creative explorations and time spent together.
Q: Describe your favorite “a-ha moment” in arts education.
A: That moment where a student brings you their recent work and the creativity just blows you away. Watching students take a concept that I have laid in front of them and make it their own. I am so fortunate to be a part of so many magical moments of discovery.
Q: How do you practice creativity in your own life and / or what inspires you?
A: My work with my students inspires me each and every day. That moment where a student brings you their recent work and the creativity just blows you away. In the past I have used quotes from my students to inspire my illustrative works. But most recently seeing the world through my four year-old daughter’s eyes has been incredible. We collaborated on a project last summer where we painted images of lumberjack folklore together. The completed collection was on view at a gallery at Otterbein University. We have plans for a new series together and I can’t wait to get started. AND… in so many ways my classroom is my studio. I delight in dreaming up and developing new ideas, concepts, artists to explore, and the instructional means in which to present it all to my students. I believe in having an enthusiastic, creative approach to all that I do.
Q: Name one puzzle, or problem, you are working on in the field right now.
A: I believe whole-heartedly in collaboration. For as many years as I have been teaching I have worked to engage my students in creative pursuits where they have to work together. This may be an all school installation, a class mural, or a grade level sculpture. When we work together, truly work together, we are able to navigate different perspectives, learn to communicate, observe our strengths, and accomplish so much more than if we strived to complete the work on our own. At the root of a solid collaborative experience is the concepts of respect and empathy. In our society competition and achievement are celebrated, often at the cost of compassionate, supportive relationships. The antidote is a focus on respect and empathy. Students exhibit behaviors that are a reflection of actions modeled for them by adults. As an educators, I can demonstrate the importance of addressing everything we do with respect and empathy…especially our collaborative experience together.
Q: Name an arts educator who impacted you and how they influenced your younger days.
A: My high school art educators Carol Dewitt and Linda Hilbish encouraged me and gave me the opportunity to be a leader in the arts for my peers at a young age. My professors at Otterbein University Nicholas Hill, Joanne Stichweh, and Gretchen Cochran continue to lend a listening ear and supportive words- long after I left their studios.
Q: What can the average person do to advocate for more and / or stronger arts education in local schools?
A: Communication. Sharing what awesome things are happening in the world of art education with others. We have this amazing opportunity to share finished works with stake holders and the greater community. The key is also the communication about the process and the context- what was learned and explored. By sharing images and the context that goes with them we are able to advocate for the importance of a high quality arts education for all students. One way I have been able to engage with the community is our annual Festival of Fine Arts at Liberty Tree Elementary School. It is an opportunity to celebrate our students work with the community and for students to take pride in their accomplishments. On this night the school resembles a museum: There is the Hall of Portraits, a Hall of Architecture, and so on. Posted on the wall are explanations of the concepts explored. And there are directions to lead families through creative explorations themselves. It is a night when families are able to come together to celebrate visual art and their student’s role in our visual culture. As the parent, grandparent, community member, or proud teacher- it is then our role to share the incredible work and thought process of our students with others.
Portrait of an Arts Advocate is a monthly feature profiling an OAAE member active in advocating for arts education in Ohio. If you’d like to submit your information, or to learn more about this feature email firstname.lastname@example.org.