Arts Faculty Profile: Jacqueline LaBelle-Young
This year, Visual Arts teacher Jacqueline LaBelle-Young is tackling how to teach Ceramics, Art History, and 2D Intermediate Studio Art in Hopkins’ hybrid model.
LaBelle-Young’s teaching philosophy is “try[ing] to help students embrace good habits as well as learn skills.” She also dislikes “the word ‘talent.’” For LaBelle-Young, “that’s an excuse to be lazy, or a way to shut out those who feel they aren’t ‘born with it.’ So many of the skills artists use just need practice, hard work, and good mentors.” LaBelle-Young hopes that her students “embrace the process and learn to be self-reflective.” She also strongly believes in collaborative work and feels that students should “bounce ideas off of each other. Learning from peers, as well as from trial and error, is a more realistic and rewarding way to learn.” Most importantly, Labelle-Young feels that a class structure should be fluid. “From a nuts-and-bolts perspective, I do lots of demos but try to keep them short; it’s important to read your audience, and if you’re losing them, the information won’t sink in anyway.”
LaBelle-Young’s proudest teaching moments are when she sees “a ‘light bulb’ go on for a student, especially when it’s something they’ve struggled with.” For instance, when meeting with students, one of her philosophies “is never to draw on/alter work that a student has done; it ceases to be entirely theirs, and I’ve seen other art teachers (not at Hopkins) do that, to the detriment of the self-esteem of that student.” Labelle-Young also adds that her “proudest moments as an artist are tied to teaching.” She continued, “When I’m able to draw on my own experience to help a student, it makes my artist side feel validated.”
LaBelle-Young has always had a strong connection with art; she says that she’s “always loved drawing.” At the University of Connecticut, LaBelle- Young “stumbled into the art program [and] into teaching later on when I gave throwing lessons at The Rusty Kiln (a ceramic store).” Most of LaBelle-Young’s art is now through “making things like cakes and cards for my kids.” Looking forward, she has “several projects in mind that involve combining clay and wood.”
In the hybrid model, Ceramics has been particularly challenging to teach. She is thankful that her “students have been really great with transporting supplies to and from campus, as everyone needs to have their own sets of tools.” Because of the added difficulty in coordinating the class, LaBelle-Young reported that she is “focused less on quality of outcome, because when students are making projects at home it’s really challenging to give them timely and meaningful feedback.” She noted, “teaching from home, especially when all my children are present, can [make it] quite difficult to stay on task and follow your own thought processes.” She recalls that “[in] the spring in particular it was bonkers, with children at home clamoring for attention.” Physically, she ran into challenges like “learning the technology necessary to record demonstrations, or film one in real time; assisting students with difficulties in a timely fashion, so they could ‘fix things’ and not just hear it at the end of a project; and yes, transporting ceramics to and from campus. There was lots of driving around for both me and my students, dropping off supplies and picking up finished projects for firing, so they could be given back to students for glazing.”
LaBelle-Young closed with these sentiments: “Being in quarantine for the past year has heightened the very human need we all have to create. If you’ve tried to buy paint or drawing supplies or baking materials since last March, you may have noticed that at times they were hard to find! Everyone has an inner artist of some sort, and when nurtured, that artist can help you survive things like a pandemic quarantine or any other rough spot in your life.”