Modeling Cultural Competency in the Art Studio

A compassionate colleague and mentor, innovative and brilliant teacher, lifelong learner, and dedicated community member who is passionate about using the arts to advocate for racial equity in the Pittsburgh region, Lower School Visual Arts Teacher Sarah Ceurvorst has a creative and fresh approach to art education within her classroom that is grounded in the belief that learning is enhanced by the remarkable diversity of our community.
Beloved for her creative approach to shepherding students across campusa method which involves asking students to consider how various animals would transport themselvesshe can often be seen leading a line of Lower School girls flapping their arms like the wings of some exotic bird or waving one arm wildly about like an elephant trunk as she leads her students to Ellis’ Fine Arts Building

Dedicated to using her sphere of influence for good, Ms. Ceurvorst fosters mutual understanding between students in her classes and cultivates within them an ability to connect with all sorts of different people in authentic and purposeful ways. In her studio, she nurtures this mindset by ensuring her curriculum includes artists from around the globe so all of her students can relate to and see themselves reflected in the subject matter they study.

An example of this approach, her students have been learning about El Anatsui, a Ghanaian sculptor, and have used his work as inspiration to create their own collaborative project at Ellis. Using recycled magazines and newspapers, students practiced the techniques of collage as they worked together on a muralwith each student in the Lower School contributing to the piece. In January, her students will see Anatsui’s work in person when they visit the 57th Carnegie International at Carnegie Museum of Art.

However, Ms. Ceurvorst’s dedication to making an impact extends well beyond the boundaries of Ellis’ campus. She is a Board Member of the newly formed Fulbright Association Pittsburgh Chapter and an active member of the P.R.I.D.E. (Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education) Teacher Cohort, a program within the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development. Alongside her peers in P.R.I.D.E., Ms. Ceurvorst learns strategies to encourage positive racial identity in students of color. At a recent professional development session, UnConference: Being Intentional about Race and Young Children, she learned about how children develop biases and discussed ways in which teachers can reverse this narrative.

This fall, Ms. Ceurvorst also participated in Carnegie Mellon University’s BXA alumni panel & workshop where she shared how her own interdisciplinary training prepared her for a career in education. She also will attend Chatham University's Women’s Institute 2018 Gender Equity Symposium where she will participate in breakout sessions such as “Women in public art: What are the politics of historical memory and how can we understand current efforts to honor local legacies?” and “Education and gender: What are the issues facing girls & young women in educational settings and how do we promote equity?” Ms. Ceurvorst utilizes all of these various experiences as professional development opportunities to further refine her teaching practice inside her art studio and often shares what she learns with her faculty peers at Ellis.

In addition to teaching Ellis’ youngest girls the power of art, creativity, and compassionand inviting them to bring all aspects of their identity into her studioMs. Ceurvorst creates a safe and supportive space that highlights the importance of empathy, innovation, and creativity. And by modeling community engagement to facilitate positive change, she is a constant source of inspiration to her students as they learn to work within a team, be adaptable with their ideas, and grapple with complex concepts.