iLEAD Art Facilitator Yoonhee Aprahamian Empowers All Learners to Create
Arts education is integral to iLEAD’s philosophy. In fact, the “A” in iLEAD stands for arts. At SCVi Charter School, iLEAD’s founding school, facilitator Yoonhee Aprahamian is a model of arts instruction at iLEAD.
Aprahamian, who teaches the upper school courses of Art 1, Art 2 and IB Art, believes that the role of arts education is to help all learners discover their talent and how to express it.
“Art is about finding out who we are,” Aprahamian said. “It’s a matter of how each of us sees things in our own way and using that to discover ourselves and the world.”
Originally from Korea, Aprahamian came to the United States 20 years ago to study art at the graduate level. Since then, she has discovered the joy of teaching.
The Value of Arts Education
Aprahamian reminds us that art allows learners to use large parts of their brain while building confidence, metacognition and social-emotional skills.
“Students love art because they get to use their hands. They get to create,” Aprahamian said. “And because they get focused and function at high levels, they leave happier and less stressed.”
Art and project-based learning align well, according to Aprahamian, because learners become better presenters who are more reflective and confident.
“As artists, learners are often sensitive and have a soft side. These are helpful in creating and communicating,” Aprahamian said. “However, that vulnerability can make it challenging to share their work publicly. But it’s important for them to learn to do so.”
Leaning on her own past experience as a college art student, Aprahamian said she wants her learners to know the importance of sharing one’s art. “We discuss the idea of keeping art to oneself and how society deserves to experience any and all of our individual greatness,” Aprahamian said. “My role as an artist and arts educator is to let the learners know I understand them and have experienced the same thing.”
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This is why, in her classroom, Aprahamian is a “warm demander.” In the words of author Lisa Delpit, warm demanders “expect a great deal of their students, convince them of their own brilliance, and help them reach their potential in a disciplined and structured environment.”
In the spirit of a warm demander, Aprahamian said she knows that each of her learners has so many unseen, unrealized talents and that it’s her mission to help those get discovered and appreciated.
“I push them because I understand them,” Aprahamian said. “I am their art mom with lots of expectations and love along the way.”
Aprahamian’s learners study art history, engage in research and have increasingly more choices in the art they pursue.
An artist of expressionism herself, Aprahamian challenges her learners in a variety of ways. For example, each October she encourages her learners to participate in the worldwide art project Inktober. Participants produce a new piece each day based on a daily prompt.
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Aprahamian recently launched a two-week project designed for learners to reflect upon 2020 while envisioning 2021 through art. Learners will identify what they want to throw out from last year and what to bring in or continue for the new year.
“We have lots going on in the world right now,” Aprahamian said. “This is a great way to deal with that in some creative and positive ways.”
Colleagues are inspired by Aprahamian’s work with all her learners.
iLEAD’s Director of Humanities & Innovation Angie Nastovska said, “She has that unique ability to offer each learner the right thing. She empowers every learner to make and appreciate art.”
SCVi Upper School Director Nicole Padovich said that Aprahamian uses art as a pathway versus a product. “She encourages her learners to problem-solve and to try things in unique ways through the creative process,” Padovich said. “It is beautiful to watch her learners grow with confidence.”
iLEAD Arts and Community Outreach Coordinator Sara McDaniels respects how Aprahamian helps all learners gain confidence in their creative abilities, while also holding them to high standards. “I know how much she loves each of her learners, and that is why she is able to do this so skillfully,” McDaniels said.
Aprahamian’s learners echo these sentiments. Ashleigh Brown, an SCVi senior and IB Art learner, said, “She has an amazing ability to bring out the best work in her learners. I have picked up analytical and other skills that will be applicable no matter what I do. She’s taught all of us how to always look to better ourselves.
Ultimately, Nastovska thinks Aprahamian’s connection to her learners is what creates the environment for each of them to embrace both art and themselves.
“If you visit her class, you experience tremendous joy. Even the greatest skeptics begin coming to class with an open mind,” Nastovska said.
Aprahamian is excited about the future for all her learners. For the upper schoolers at SCVi, she is unveiling a new design technology course called Chasing Vincent. And for all levels, from Art 1 through IB Art, she encourages her learners on the journey of self-discovery. She realizes that she can’t embark on that journey for them but only guide them on the path.
“Art is the vehicle for something much larger than ourselves,” Aprahamian said. “The further they go, the more they find out about themselves and the world.”
Ultimately, she said she is excited to once again work with her learners face-to-face.
“I look forward to seeing them in the classroom and feeling that energy and vibe that we create together,” Aprahamian said.
“There is a synergy we have that is the best medicine ever.”
For those who may want to see more of Aprahamian’s own work in expressionism, she invites you to follow her Instagram account.