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Art21 Educators 2011-2012: Christopher Tourre and Derek De Haan

This week is the final installment of Art21 Educators introductions, featuring the eighth pair of extraordinary educators chosen to participate in the third year of the program. It’s hard to believe we will be meeting all sixteen educators in person in just two weeks!  The program begins with the Summer Institute in New York City, July 6-13. We are thrilled to have assembled such a great team of passionate educators to embark on this yearlong collaboration.

Last week, we featured Karen Melvin and Sue Carris from Pittsburgh, PA. This week, allow us to introduce Christopher Tourre and Derek De Haan.

Christopher Tourre and Derek De Haan teach in Chicago, Illinois.  The two have been friends and colleagues for over three years and are also former roommates.  Christopher teaches 10th grade Digital Media and Design at Perspectives Charter School, as well as at an after school art club.  He has taught there for two years, and was previously an instructor in Time-Based Media at the University of Illinois. Derek has been at Amandla Charter School for two years. This year, he taught 7th grade writing and Chess Exploratory to 5th-7th graders. Prior to teaching writing, he was a student aide for 3 years in special education.

Christopher holds an MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a BFA from Pennsylvania State University. He is a practicing artist whose work includes socially engaged projects such as raising chickens and delivering eggs to households, creating an open furniture studio using materials from torn down houses, and opening a public brewery in the West Loop gallery district. Christopher often finds inspiration in the work of artist Rirkrit Tiravanija: “I was introduced to his work . . . and my practice changed dramatically as I became a true social practitioner.” He aims to link his artistic practice with the content in his classroom, and says, “Contemporary art makes students feel connected on a deeper level to the art making  . . . by helping students self-actualize process, they are able to connect to contemporary works and feel as if their own work has an equal and valid voice.”

As part of his application, we asked Christopher to share his goals for the coming year for his classroom.  He articulates his efforts to advocate for the arts program in his school while building the curriculum for his technology class. Christopher states, “We have little money and our priorities are essentially on staying open.” He elaborates:

When I began my current position, it was strictly a technology position.  I was able to transform the course into a digital design course the first year and in my second year of teaching began adding more and more curriculum centered on contemporary artists, practices, and authentic applications of technology through design.  My plans are to continue this trend and essentially create a contemporary art course with a technology focus. I want to learn about as many contemporary artists and techniques to help me create a thorough and engaging curriculum that utilizes minimal resources (other than computers with Adobe CS3) and student-centered learning.

In his video biography, Christopher discusses his experience teaching in a low-income school district and his ambition to engage students with contemporary art.

Christopher articulates his excitement to participate in Art21 Educators: “I feel that it will give me a great knowledge base to create fresh opportunities for my students as well as demonstrate to administration we cannot let the arts leave our school. . . . I want to keep my pedagogical skills sharp and offer my students exciting opportunities.”

Derek De Haan holds a BA in English with a minor in Secondary Education and History from Trinity Christian College. He actively engages in professional development conferences and currently belongs to two social networks for teachers. Derek looks forward to Art21 Educators, which he feels will serve “as a reawakening of the spirit of creativity and urgency that can lie dormant within teachers.”

For Derek, contemporary art relates to people, experiences, and stories.  He elaborates:

Art is one medium of expression.  The more time we take to hear about other experiences, other lives, the more we learn…  My hope is that by showing students that learning is not only an in-school activity but a lifestyle, I can encourage more people to seek out larger dialogues with strangers and their work.

One of Derek’s recent teaching units reflects his interest in connecting his students’ personal experiences to a larger world.  As he prepared his class for standardized testing, he wanted students to reflect on their hard work while reviewing their interpretive writing skills.  Derek articulates that he found inspiration for the unit in Walt Whitman’s poem “O Pioneers! O Pioneers!”:

Our school currently has only 5th, 6th and 7th grades but is building into a high school.  The class I am currently teaching is leading the way for future students . . .. By interpreting my 7th grade classes as the pioneers that Whitman speaks of, and the skills that we had gained in class as their weapons with which to courageously face the ISAT, we found inspiration in a poem that was well over a century old.

Derek’s video tells us about his life outside of school, and his interest in art’s ability to “communicate, with urgency, anything . . . making it something to be shared and wondered at.”  Derek also discusses his impact on his community as a teacher, and his goal to make his students learners for life.

In the upcoming year, Derek hopes to “continue to increase the rigor of what is happening in the classroom while simultaneously raising the level of enjoyment for the students.”  He is also interested in getting his students engaged with different methods of publishing their writing, such as poetry chap books, printmaking, podcasting, and spoken word performance.

Join us in welcoming Christopher and Derek to Art21 Educators!

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