Meredith Giltner grew up in Milford and now lives in Dexter with her husband of 24 years, her 8-year-old son, three cats, 13 fish and a snail.
This is her seventh year teaching art, and her third year as the Graphic Design and Digital Photography teacher at Skyline High School.
Giltner’s college education was a bit unconventional. She first attended Wayne State University for honors pre-med, but did not finish the program. Instead she taught herself to paint and then attended The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, finishing her undergrad work at the University of Michigan with bachelor’s degrees in photography and cultural anthropology.
Giltner is now in the process of getting her Career and Technology Endorsement (CTE) from Eastern Michigan University for Photography and Graphic Design, an endorsement that will allow her students to earn college credit. As part of this endorsement, Giltner was required to be a working professional, so she recently opened her own business, Ikat Studio. She is also in the process of setting up a darkroom at Skyline and appreciates any donations of film cameras and other equipment.
Giltner is also working on her master’s degree in educational technology from the University of Michigan at Flint.
Profile and photo by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News
What inspired you to become a teacher? I honestly never thought of becoming a teacher before I was in my mid 30’s. I did retail management after graduating from the University of Michigan, and although I enjoyed my experiences of working with traders from around the world and purchasing ethnic arts. I decided I wanted to be more involved in the community. I thought being an art teacher would be a rewarding job—and it is, every day. Teaching provides me with an opportunity to share my passion of the arts as well as inspire students to be a part of a creative process.
Describe an average workday. An average day begins around 5:30 a.m. with exercising, packing lunches, and getting my family ready for the day. I leave home at 7 a.m. and do not return home until 3:15 p.m. While at school, I teach and enjoy talking with my colleagues. I am generally creating and planning new projects and making community connections for my classes and individual students. When I’m at home, I’m responding to emails, researching, and making sure my family gets dinner, my son studies, and we have some quality family time.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning? That my students are amazing and incredibly talented. There are some days that I am beyond impressed by their artwork. I look at what they do and I am speechless. They are incredibly innovative and polite.
And I am always learning. It is necessary as we looked to the future. I learn from my students as well. They help me decide what technologies to keep or include in my curriculum and others to explore.
I recently had my students and myself take a Mind Set Evaluation. The intent of this was to challenge the way we all perceive learning. By having a “growth mindset,” every student can be open to learning and make their education more meaningful and rewarding. I want my student to be better as much as I want to be a better teacher. It is humbling to reflect on the learning process.
Which apps and websites would you recommend to other teachers?
There are so many amazing websites, but here is a short list of sites:
- donorschoose.com (I have had success with running a campaign for darkroom equipment which in turn generated personal donations of equipment and cameras.)
For Graphic Design and Photography:
Modern Art Trends:
Michigan Art Education Association: miarted.com
National Art Education Association: http://www.arteducators.org/
My class sites:
How do you stay organized? I have a blog for each of my classes and they contain the lessons, presentations and worksheets for each class which are viewable via scribd.com and downloadable via a google site. This information is available to my students and parents 24/7. I often add posts that include current trends or new technology. I also post links to news articles that relate to our current work. All my students have online portfolios and are a member of the Google classrrom sites for their journal entries. I would love to be paperless soon. But I cannot be without my research which is often piles of books and papers at home and at school along with notebooks filled with lecture ideas.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching? The fact that when I reflect on my day, I feel that I have contributed to the education of students and that I am not exhausted. I feel energized after leaving school. I am often trying to find the next best lesson or the newest way to apply an application in Photoshop or Illustrator. I am a little obsessed with trying new applications with my students.
You used to teach art at Carpenter Elementary. Do you prefer teaching younger children, or teens? This is an interesting question. As a mom to an 8-year-old son, it is hard to say because I love things about both age groups. I like the newness and exploration of art with the younger students and I love the experimentation, innovation and individuality of the older students.
What was your own experience like in high school art class? I loved art in high school. I had two amazing art teachers: Mrs. Grogan and Mr. Parish. They were both encouraging and guiding. I am still friends with a lot of students I met in my high school art classes and many of us have art-centered jobs. I just didn’t know at the time that art would be my path.
Were you born an artist? I am not sure how to answer that. I know that I have drawn almost everyday since I could. I enjoy painting, but find that my photographs appeal to a broader audience.
Can you teach someone to be creative? I think that everyone is creative. I think that creativity takes practice and patience. I believe it is an innate ability that most just have to unlock.
What has surprised you most about the profession? That I would love my job as much as I do. I appreciate having an opportunity to teach and learn. Both happen on a daily basis. I love creating. Discovering new ways of doing things.
What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher? That we really do invest in our students. They are our future. Teachers are truly there to help construct a base of knowledge for students. We put a lot of effort in creating lessons that engage our students and are purposeful. And we really do care.
If you could change one thing about public education, what would it be? To look at what is working and consider long-term solutions instead of pointing out what is wrong. As a relatively new teacher, I find it easy to switch gears as to how I am asked to teach. But what strikes me as odd is we are often told to ignore how students learn instead we focus on how we want them to learn.
What would you tell a college student considering becoming a teacher? I would encourage it. Teaching is rewarding but it is not for everyone. I think that you have to be a little selfless in teaching because your goal is for your students to be successful. Also, make sure to be passionate about teaching. Attend conferences, present and go outside your comfort zone to try new techniques in the classroom. And remember that you might have to reflect and tweak your plans often but that is a great opportunity to personally stay engaged.
What do you like to do when you’re not working? I love creating with my son, spending time with my family and friends, bike riding, painting and taking portraits.