‘If students at USJ want to pursue a creative career, they will be prepared’

USJ Art Teacher Libby Lynch gives guidance to senior Maddie Koester as she works on an art project.

Art Teacher and Upper School Visual Art Department Chair Libby Lynch has a straight-forward teaching philosophy. All students can learn to draw and develop their creative problem-solving skills, she said, and if a teacher sets clear expectations for student performance, students will strive to meet those expectations.

“My goal as the instructor is to concurrently interest and challenge my students,” said Lynch, who believes that the arts have intrinsic value. “I always work through any project that I present to the students in order to accomplish this goal. In working through projects, I figure out what difficulties the students will have, and I quickly figure out if the assignment is engaging.”

Sometimes, she said, students must learn basic techniques, but she looks for ways to present the techniques that challenge students while giving them a sense of accomplishment. It is essential, she said, to get their feedback about the work they do in class.

“This collaborative approach gives students the feeling that their opinions are valued and leads to them becoming more invested in the learning process.”

Lynch also networks with other art teachers and attends professional development workshops to keep her lessons fresh and exciting.

She joined USJ in 1997. Before she was an art teacher, she was a graphic designer. Since becoming an educator, she said she has discovered that there is always something new to learn, and every child is different.

She also has learned that USJ is different. The students, supportive parents, and the teaching environment set it apart from other schools, she said.

“Our school is so supportive of letting our teachers try new ideas and teach our students the way that we feel is best for our students. Teachers at USJ are able to meet the needs of the individual students and help them reach their potential.”

USJ students have the benefit of an exposure to the arts from pre-kindergarten through high school, she said. By the time they are in ninth grade, they’ve had experience with clay, shading, color scheme, and most of the basic concepts in art.

In Upper School, students who take four years of studio art develop strong portfolios that can be sent to colleges as supplementary material or as part of a requirement for a talent-based scholarship.

“If students at USJ want to pursue a creative career, they will be prepared,” Lynch said. “Students from here have gone on to receive talent-based scholarships to such prestigious schools as Parsons New School of Design, Savannah College of Art and Design, Memphis College of Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago.”