As an instructor, it is such a treat to hear back from longtime students who have recently graduated from college and are pursuing a career in education. Such is the case with my longtime former art student, Erin Eckstein. What better way to honor her achievements than with an interview on the school’s blog! I hope you find it inspiring.
Q1. Do you happen to remember how old you were when you started art classes with me? I remember it was at our condo living room. Had you ever studied art before?
A1. I was six when I first started taking art lessons at Pastimes. I’d taken some classes before that I believe (I can hardly remember!), but the classes at Pastimes are what made me start really enjoying art.
Q2. You had completed courses in a variety of drawing and painting mediums and exhibited your work in a number of the school’s student art showcases. Which is your favorite medium to this day? Do you still draw or paint when time permits? What styles of art speak to you the most? Any favorite painters you’d like to share with our readers?
A2. Now I mostly work in pen and ink, as it’s the easiest on clean up. I also really love charcoals. My favorite medium is oil paint, but I currently don’t have the space in my small New York apartment for a full oil painting space (hopefully in the future!)
My favorite artist is probably Édouard Manet, particularly the painting At the Bar de Folies-Bergere.
I overall love nineteenth century realism and impressionism, and tend to be more interested in representative art than abstract. I just recently bought a few prints for my room by an artist named Isabelle Feliu that I really love!
Q3. I’m so glad to hear you are still creating art when time (and space) permit. Regarding your academic education, may I ask what degrees you have earned so far?
A3. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a minor in Art History from Barnard College, which is the women’s liberal arts college of Columbia University in New York City. I recently earned my Masters in Education specializing in the Teaching of English from Stanford University.
Q4. What work experiences would you like to share with my readers?
A4. I’ve worked at a wide array of jobs that led me to my current career as an English teacher. When I started college, I initially thought I wanted to work in something art focused, as I was already very passionate about visual art from my years of classes at Pastimes.
I interned at a few different art-focused startup companies, and made extra money babysitting. Each of my art internships required me to write blog and social media posts for the companies, which is what started my interest in working in something related to writing. At that point I started moving towards wanting to work in media; I’ve always been an avid reader and writer, and the idea of creating books and magazines really appealed to me. Over the summers, I leveraged my babysitting experience to work as a camp counselor at my old summer camp, which is where I really found my passion for working with children.
More and more, I found myself gravitating towards the type of work I did with my campers, but still wasn’t ready to pursue working with kids as a career. By my senior year of college, I worked as a marketing intern at Seventeen Magazine and later as an intern at LaunchSquad, a tech PR firm. I was hired to work at LaunchSquad full time after graduation, and stayed there for two years.
While I enjoyed my experiences working in PR and learned a lot from my colleagues, I realized that my long-term career goal was to combine my passion for mentorship and literature to become a teacher. I decided to apply to graduate school to study education, and chose to attend the Stanford Teacher Education Program to become an English teacher.
Q5. Being able to discover at what you are competent as well as passionate at such a young age is remarkable. Well done! What are you current and future career plans?
A5. I graduated from Stanford this summer, and will start my teaching career as a 6th grade English teacher at a school in Brooklyn, New York.
Q6. Very exciting. Best wishes. May I ask, what impact did your art classes at Pastimes for a Lifetime make?
A6. My classes at Pastimes are truly what gave me my love for art. While my career isn’t art-focused, I consider visual art and art appreciation to be a major part of my identity. Beyond that, my classes at Pastimes were a consistent outlet for me to express myself and explore my identity during an important period in my life.
Q7. I’m so delighted. May art continue to be such a fulfilling outlet for you throughout your life. As you know, art can touch people’s lives, bringing happiness and hope. For example, my art and piano school partners with CoachArt to provide free art classes for families impacted by childhood chronic illness. Is there a charity you are fond of or support, that you might like my readers to learn more about?
A7. While I don’t have any specific charities to name at the moment, I’m a big supporter of causes that focus on literacy for children in disenfranchised communities. It’s shocking how low the access to books can be for children in low income communities, and reading as a child is one of the biggest predictors of success and stability in adulthood. I work as an English teacher and reading specialist, and would love to see more people get involved with helping children develop a passion for reading.
Agreed! In closing, do you have a favorite quote, mantra or process that you find inspiring or helpful when faced with a frustration, that you would like to share with my readers?
“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” – Oscar Wilde
As someone who was a student for a very long time and now works as a teacher, this quote may seem a bit strange, but I tend to go back to this quote in particular because it reminds me that while schooling is important, true knowledge comes from pursuing what you’re passionate about and accepting failure as a natural part of that.
To use an art example, while Picasso was an extremely accomplished traditional painter, it wasn’t until he began experimenting with abstraction that he truly found his style, ultimately creating a type of art that hadn’t existed before. As a teacher, I focus on trying to build that same message into my curriculum so that children know that some of the greatest knowledge is in the things they’ve yet to create.
Indeed! Erin, it has been an honor to interview such a kind spirit and fine mind. Our culture is richer because of you and what you will accomplish. Those kids at the Brooklyn school are in for a treat!
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