Meet Sandra Bird: Associate Professor of Art Education
Sharing her passion for art and teaching
By Kathleen Walker
(Above) Photo by Tim Goldman
Elementary school students, with whom Bird and her student teachers have worked, demonstrate part of a new culture they've learned about for College of the Arts Dean Joseph Meeks
The tesselation designs used in Bird's recreated Turkish prayer room installation were coordinated by Bird and Mauge-Lewis, and designed by art students.
Kennesaw State Associate Professor of Art Education Sandra Bird enjoys working with her students and seeing them blossom, especially those in the intermediate teaching courses. “It’s rewarding to see the students move from being not quite sure of themselves into confident people who are able to manage their classrooms very effectively,” she said.
To help all of her students become leaders in the classroom, Bird assigns several hands-on assignments throughout the semester and her students enjoy the work. “She makes classes fun, entertaining and educational,” said student Melina Burke, who is taking an art history course with Bird. Another student from the class, history major Jessie Holt added, “The classroom is never boring and I think it’s wonderful that she incorporates creative assignments in the classroom.”
Bird’s inspiration for this method of teaching comes from her own life. In fifth grade, her teacher took the class on a field trip to an archaeological site where the students were allowed to participate in the dig. “That was such a unique opportunity,” Bird said. “It burned in me a certain passion to want to know more about ancient people and how our age is affected by what happened in the past.”
The passion to learn more about ancient art led her to Islamic art, which is a special interest for Bird. One of her recent installations includes the recreation of a Turkish prayer room at the KSU Institute for Global Initiatives gallery. To create the appropriate styles of decorated tiles for the room, she worked with students in KSU Professor of Art Carole Maugé-Lewis’ Computer Application in Art class and chose two student designs for the installation. All of the developed student designs were also on a display wall within the same gallery.
The Kennesaw State Muslim Students Association—Bird is faculty advisor—used the room during Ramadan for prayers and the breaking of the fast in the early evening. “They were pleased to have a space designated for Ramadan,” Bird said. “Having a prayer room in the proper aesthetic was very meaningful for them and the greatest effect for me as the artist came from seeing them use the room and receiving their positive feedback.”
As much as she enjoys interacting with KSU art education students, Bird also looks forward to the day they become teachers with their own students. She hopes that they pick up on her passion and, in turn, pass that love of art and learning onto their classes. “I really ask my students to go the extra mile and excite students about learning,” she said. “Not just in art, but using art as a bridge to other subjects and allowing them to make connections that are meaningful in their lives.”
Molly Mayes, an art education major, takes this message to heart. “Even though I have a teaching background, I’ve learned a lot more from Bird,” Mayes said. “She’s always looking outside the box and pushing you to think further and be better.”
Up next for Bird is a combination of her love of ancient art and of teaching by leading a Turkish study abroad course in May 2009 called The Traditional Arts of Turkey. She will also have a chapter on Islamic art published in an upcoming book entitled “Incorporating the Middle East into the Classroom” sponsored by the University System of Georgia Council for the Middle East.
Read more about Sandra Bird here.
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