For the last 13 years, Ms. Jodi Brzezinski has been bringing color and joy to the halls of STM. She began her tenure at STM in 2006 as a long-term substitute and started as a full-time visual arts teacher the following year. During her time at STM, Brzezinski has taught a wide variety of visual arts classes, influencing hundreds of students to expand their creativity and acquire skills useful in all walks of life.
Guided by her experience as an educator and an artist, Brzezinski designs lessons that help students develop their problem solving, critical thinking, and project management skills. Brzezinski’s favorite lesson to teach involves students working together to sculpt a unique piece of art from recycled materials.
“The recycled materials project represents the highest form of creativity at the art fundamentals level,” Brzezinski said. “Students have to use all of the skills they have acquired over the course of the semester and apply them for this assignment. Assignments that enable students to work together to come up with the objectives are the best for student learning because they take ultimate ownership of the project.”
“Ms. B’s interactive teaching style is an asset to all of us and taps into our creative side,” said senior Advance Placement Studio student Abbey Hoffmann. “She never fails to make us laugh and teach us something new inside and outside of the classroom. Her classroom is undoubtedly an artist’s playground.”
As an accomplished artist, Brzezinski makes sure to set time aside to create her own pieces and practice her craft. “It helps me show the kids that I go through the same processes and struggles as they do: fear of the blank page, difficulty getting started, fear of messing up, the excitement of making, the brain-aching moments of problem solving, the heartache when it fails, and, ultimately, the bliss of completion,” she explained. “And then you start all over again. It seems like a brutal cycle, but the challenge makes it fun.”
While the balance between teaching art and making art can be exhausting to manage, Brzezinski has been wildly successful both as an educator and as an artist. In 2018, the National Art Education Association named Brzezinski as the Art Educator of the Year, and just one year prior, the group’s local chapter honored Brzezinski as the Wisconsin Art Educator of the Year.
Brzezinski has also won the Kohl Teacher Fellowship and served as president of Milwaukee Area Teachers of Art. She often displays her works at art shows and gallery nights in Milwaukee.
With an increasing need for artists and designers to fill jobs at a large variety of businesses, Brzezinski encourages students to consider pursuing art as their career. “Art is not just painting. We need more creative people doing creative jobs. Milwaukee Tool has a huge wing of designers creating new tools and equipment, and those people went to an art school to get their degree. My advice is be informed, research the schools, ask lots of questions, and just keep ‘art-ing’!”