Youth Media | Stories

The Transformative Power of Media Making

Lori Leberer (Educator), Seattle

Imagine you have in your classroom students of various ages recently arrived from far-flung parts of the world, fleeing conflict or resettling for other reasons. How do you engage and support them? Lori Leberer, Art and Multimedia Teacher at the Seattle World School in Seattle, Washington, has worked hard to incorporate media into her teaching as an essential tool of empowerment.

“I was lucky to find a school of newcomer immigrant students – I loved it immediately. I’ve worked at other schools and keep coming back here. The students love the creative process.”

Students at the Seattle World School, a resettlement school, are newcomers to the country, with a range of backgrounds and different levels of formal education. Meeting the needs of these learners is an incredibly tall order. Lori thoughtfully employs media making in her classroom as a way for students to learn English, cope with the transition to a new country, build confidence, and tell the story of their migration. When students embrace the creative tools and process of media making, they’re taking ownership of their learning – and it can be a transformative experience.

Lori is a visionary educator dedicated to helping young people cultivate their creativity and nurture their own independent voice. We are so proud to recognize her work with an AYV Creative Educator Award. This interview with Lori is part of our series of stories honoring the newly announced Adobe Youth Voices Creative Educator awardees.

What’s your vision for creativity in education?
I think that there should be creativity embedded in every subject area so that students can make each subject more their own. With the wealth of creative ideas available to us we need to make sure that there is an opportunity for students to use their creativity to bring meaning and personalization to their work. I remember when I was in college I thought that if in high school my math teachers had let me draw all of the math problems I would have understood them much better.

What have been some of your most thrilling moments of media making?
I love the moment when the students stop looking at me for the answers and start to take over the project and look to each other for inspiration and advice. On the two collaborations we participated in, the students would go to the staff room, where there was good natural light, and still be working when the teachers came in to eat. I liked when the teachers asked how to do the stop-motion animation and the students taught them. I also really enjoy how proud the students are when they see their names in the credits on the big screen. Taking the work from the page to moving with poetry was really powerful. Each artist inspired the next.

What story of change do you want to share?
I think for me the most powerful change comes from the students themselves as they grow into confident young adults and start to consider jobs that will use their creativity. One student in particular, Mariam Koke, had not been to school before she moved to the U.S. in ninth grade. I think the process of doing something very challenging, like making a short video in Premiere Pro, was very empowering. She will be the first person from her family that will graduate from high school. She plans to go to college next year.

What brought you to teaching?
I was an independent jewelry artist for a while. I had been brought up by two teachers. Although I enjoyed working in a studio, I missed interacting with other people. I went back to school in my late twenties and started teaching in my thirties. I was lucky to find a school of newcomer immigrant students – I loved it immediately. I’ve worked at other schools and keep coming back here. I love how much the students enjoy art. They love the creative process, and find it challenging and rewarding.

What’s your favorite tool?
Paper and pencil is always involved in every project at some level, so I guess I would say a pencil. I still like to use messy tools.

Who do you follow for inspiration?
I research artists regularly and am very influenced by arts and crafts around the world. I love glass, and how many artists have used newer materials with older traditions, like Preston Singletary. I’m inspired by the colors and different perspectives of the students. Marisa Vitiello is inspirational in her ability to create collaborative art.

What are you hopeful about for the next generation?
I think they have the curiosity and grit to keep finding new solutions to old problems. I think they have open minds and accept one another, and each other’s ideas.

“Media making is the way we communicate with each other now. We have so many opportunities to make bad media, and so few to be truly inspired to create quality media, or have the skills to do so. Creativity is much of what separates bad media from good media.”

POST DATE: November 18, 2015
AUTHOR: Wendy Rivenburgh

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