Sarah Ceurvorst, Lower School Art Teacher

Lower School Art Teacher, Sarah Ceurvorst, teaches Ellis’ youngest students the power of art, creativity, and compassion in her studio. In her third year at Ellis, Ms. Ceurvorst’s presence has not gone unnoticed—she was recently recognized with the 2017 Pennsylvania Art Education Association Early Career Art Educator Award, an honor given annually to an exemplary art educator with up to five years experience. An alumna of Carnegie Mellon University, Ms. Ceurvorst is committed to exploring ways art can foster confidence, communication, conversation, and collaboration in her classroom. Her innovative and fresh approach enthuses and excites her students, who in turn are consistently encouraged to take risks, explore, and grow through their art experiences. A vibrant member of the Visual Arts Department, Ms. Ceurvorst shares her path to becoming an art teacher and how she believes the all-girls environment at Ellis benefits her students.
Years at Ellis:Three
Title:Lower School Art Teacher
Education:B.H.A. Psychology and Fine Art, Carnegie Mellon University

Did you know you always wanted to be an art teacher?
Art has always been a part of my life. When I was growing up, my mom and I would start the day with breakfast and an art activity. I was empowered by the arts because they taught me how to focus and magnify my voice. During college, I was always trying to find ways art could empower people. It wasn’t until someone said to me, “you do realize all those things happen in education” that it finally clicked. From there, I decided to more consciously pursue teaching because I firmly believe education is the way to empower people and give them a say.

What do you hope Lower School students learn in your studio?
I teach my students self-reflection and critical thinking through art and creativity. I want them to know their thoughts, creations, actions, and words are valid and that their art is important. By teaching students design skills, they learn to advocate for themselves in new ways. I believe it’s especially important for Lower School girls because I want them to know what they say and do are worthwhile.

What is something you are excited about in your classroom this year?
This year, I am introducing my students to a more diverse array of female artists. I want every girl to see themselves reflected in the people they’re learning about and the work they do. I am actively showing students that artists come from all different backgrounds and look all different ways, so they know they can be an artist if they want to. I am also looking forward to bringing my Classroom Without Borders experience into the studio this year. When I traveled to Israel this summer, I was blown away by the richness and density of visual culture in Israel, and I want to share that with my students. I have plans to partner with an all-female ceramic collective at the Umm El-Fahem Gallery and teach students the same slab building techniques the women use.

Do you have a mentor? How has that relationship benefited you professionally? Can you tell us about him or her?
Everyone in the arts department at Ellis inspires me with their talents, passions, kindness, and dedication to all-girls education. Each of my colleagues constantly surprises me and I know I am learning so much from them and their work. They are remarkably open about their experiences and identities, which inspires me to grow my own experiences and in doing so, grow my students’ life experiences.

How does the all-girls classroom at Ellis benefit your students?
In my studio at Ellis, I see Lower School girls that are incredibly confident. I remember being their age and reminding myself in class to not raise my hand again and to let someone else answer. That doesn’t happen at Ellis. The day-to-day culture we foster at Ellis is so supportive, and because of that, the girls have such confidence and bravery. I really believe that can be attributed to the all-girls environment.   

What do you love most about your job?
Hands-down, the girls. Just getting to be a part of their life every day and watching them grow over the years. Not only do I get to see them in the studio, but as they mature, I see them moving into leadership roles, coming into their own, and mentoring younger girls on campus. It’s a kind of joy I haven’t found anywhere else.

If you could interview anyone living or dead, who would it be and why?
Malala Yousafzai. She has really shown the world how much one girl or one woman can make an impact.

How would you describe yourself in three words?
Artistic. Empathetic. Growing.

Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
The times I’ve felt the proudest are when I hear other people say they themselves were inspired because of something I was doing as an artist. If I was doing something brave and inspiring that caused other people to feel worthwhile, I am proud of that.

What woman inspires you and why?
My mom. She has this convivial joy that she always maintains. She always lets people make their own decisions and choices, even if they make mistakes, and never judges them afterward for it. I look up to her as a woman and as an artist.

Who is your favorite artist?
I love Ai Weiwei for the work he’s done to create change through art. Also Janine Antoni for what she’s done for my practice. Her work has taught me that there is strength in being an artist and being a woman.