The CSCU Board of Regents presented the 2017 Faculty Awards to CSCU faculty members for excellence in teaching, research, and creative and scholarly work on April 7. Among the award winners for teaching was Dr. Barbara Clark, CCSU professor of elementary education in the Department of Literacy, Elementary Education and Early Childhood.
Teaching award winners are those “who have distinguished themselves as outstanding teachers for at least five years and have a minimum of two years’ track record of promoting instructional improvements for their programs/departments,” according to BOR nomination guidelines. The award also includes a $1,000 prize.
“I am deeply humbled to be recognized and share this award with Dr. James Joss French, our teacher candidates, our graduates working with us, our partners in the schools, children, parents, and community leaders,” says Clark, who co-wrote with French the book Hearts & Minds Without Fear: Unmasking the Sacred in Teacher Preparation.
Clark’s co-teacher, Dr. Jacob Werblow, nominated her for the award, citing Clark’s “truly empowering” aesthetic-based instructional program for teacher education students in which Clark brings her students into local schools to co-teach with children and lead programs that employ the arts to examine social and ecological issues the children might encounter.
An expert in aesthetic education, Clark’s program applies an “arts and aesthetics paradigm for children and teachers.”
Clark explains, "Aesthetic education promotes the teacher as artist and the understanding that the arts trigger our voice, curiosity, intelligences, and potential to create and actualize what it means to be fully human. The arts and aesthetics, such as great works of art, music, dance, literature, plays and poetry, allow us to see, feel, and make new ideas drawn from our imaginative core.”
That paradigm encourages the establishment of a compassionate learning community that, ideally, “dispels negativity, fear, and doubt within children and our teacher candidates,” according to Clark. In a compassionate environment, “We dignify the imaginative voice, that when released, reveals the beautiful potential in our children in the New Britain schools,” Clark notes. Meanwhile, student teachers gain a wider sense of their mission.
“Teacher candidates need a sense of community throughout their development to feel like they belong to a greater good as they pursue understanding the art of teaching innocent hearts and minds,” Clark says. “If we are brave enough to unmask our fears as teacher educators in preparing the next generation of teachers, we will do everything in our power to help teacher candidates to love children, love to teach, and know how to teach peace, compassion, and hope.”
The New Britain Board of Education has presented Clark with three awards over the years for her efforts.