Teacher Feature-Catherine Rivera
I am the oldest of three, first generation American from parents born in Ukraine. Both my parents were factory workers. All three of us grew up surrounded by art, music, and theater. We all played music, sang, danced, and performed in children’s theater and school productions. Each summer, my mother took all three of us to Atlantic City to perform on
the Steel Pier. Despite our lack of money, my mother always found inexpensive or free activities to develop our skills. My father survived the concentration camps before coming to the U.S. because he could create parts for broken machines and military vehicles. As a child I remember watching him make his own parts out of scrap metal to repair his car. I was fascinated by idea that he could make something out of nothing that actually worked. I got my love of working with metal from him. I attended a parochial school that did not have any of the arts. I liked to draw from life and the nuns gave me the job of decorating and designing all the bulletin boards. They gave me drawing paper and real art materials like paint, charcoal, and pastels, which my parents could not afford. I frantically used everything even though I did not have a clue what the proper way to do things was. That was my first art exhibition! I loved to draw and display new art and my teachers enjoyed my work.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME AN ART EDUCATOR?
I became interested in teaching art in 9th grade. I was in a public school and my art teacher encouraged me to practice and improve my drawing skills. I particularly loved drawing faces and he asked me to help other students. When I went to high school, which was in the next building, he asked me to come back to his class during my study hall to teach his students how to draw faces. I loved it and felt very special.
When I applied to college in N.Y., I double majored in Art and Theater, eventually dropping Theater and moving into getting a B.A. in Art Education. While I was in college, I took a job with the University to pay for my tuition and room and board and eventually my master’s degree majoring in painting and printmaking. I needed a 3-credit class to finish and decided to take a jewelry class. I was hooked. I loved taking an inflexible hard surface and making it look and feel fluid and soft. While continuing to work at the University, I began traveling the Northeastern U.S. doing art shows and selling my work for the next 14 years.
Along the way, I took more jewelry classes, taught art in a senior living facility and then at a private prep school for boys in New York. I eventually moved to Florida where my brother and sister attended UM. I loved to scuba dive and the underwater reefs were beautiful. I subbed and eventually got a 3100 job teaching Art at Homestead Junior High with M-DCPS. I have been teaching Art for 41 years, 33 of them at Glades Middle. When I began, there were no state art standards for Middle School, so I volunteered to help write them. I enjoyed working with all the art teachers and DAEA members. Our original ideas have gone through many changes and updates, but I am glad that I was part of that process. The continuous creativity and inspiration that I get from my students and art colleagues has made teaching a joy for so many years. As a long time member of DAEA, FAEA, and NAEA, I have enjoyed attending, teaching at and travelling to art conferences and teaching abroad with lots of talented art teachers. I loved being President of DAEA. I was thrilled to be honored by FAEA and NAEA for my accomplishments.
It is my dream to continue making jewelry after I retire this year. You can follow me on my Facebook page: “Flowing with Pearls”.
HAVING LUNCH WITH AN ARTIST
I would love to have had lunch with Zaha Hadid. Her sculptural forms are so flowing and graceful. I would ask her about her inspiration. I would also like to travel back to ancient Egypt and study the gold and silversmithing techniques that were used to create the burial masks. I am fascinated by all jewelry and body ornament from the past.
PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL GOALS
I have had so many proud art moments during my career: seeing my students find success, win awards, exhibit their work, continue their artistic lives, leading the Glades Fine Arts Department for 30 years, being elected President of DAEA, helping and mentoring other art teachers, teaching students and teachers and seeing them create their own work, making jewelry and having people love it enough to buy and wear it, and having students keep in touch with me long after I was their teacher, telling me that I have made a difference in their lives.