Olyvia Yates, 2016 graduate of the Art + Design Department, has taken her artistic talents to Prospect Ridge Academy, a charter school in Broomfield, Colorado.
She received her BFA in Photography here at Missouri State, as well as her BSED in Art + Design. The relationships she formed with professors in the Art + Design Department have proven to be one of her most significant takeaways from MSU. “Steve Willis had an incredible impact on my teaching practice,” reflects Olyvia, “He taught me the importance of sensitivity and community in the classroom.” Photo professors, Gwen Walstrand, Jimmie Allen, and Bruce West have also been continuous supporters of her photography practice. Plus, she had a wonderful experience studying abroad in Italy with Sarah Williams and Mitzi Kirkland-Ives. “My art education cohort are some of my best friends and biggest supporters,” says Olyvia.
“I’ve always dreamed of living near the mountains,” she shares, explaining the reasoning behind her move, “but my husband is the main reason for moving here. He is in the graduate program for painting at the University of Colorado in Boulder.” (They met in a painting class at MSU!) Her school, Prospect Ridge Academy “prides itself on a rigorous, college preparatory education with an intensified focus in math and science,” explains Olyvia. There, she teaches art and yearbook classes for sixth, seventh, and eighth grades–she sponsors the National Art Society Chapter for high school students as well. Next summer, she’ll even get to lead high-schoolers on an art trip to Italy. “It’s truly a ‘full circle’ moment for me as my time in Italy was a highlight at MSU!” Olyvia exclaims.
Currently, Olyvia teaches virtually. Every day she meets with her classes via Zoom; she’ll provide demonstrations on techniques, teach on varying artists, and allow students time to create individually as well. “I would say the biggest part of my day is just encouraging the students and assisting them in their creations,” says Olyvia, “Every day is different in the art room, a true ‘revolving door’ of projects!”
She strives to make the art room a welcoming, exciting, and safe place for all students. “My goal is to create a space for students to just be themselves and be part of a fun classroom community,” explains Olyvia, “Growing up, the art room was a magic place to me, [it] still is!”
From her own classroom experiences, to reflecting upon her time at MSU, Olyvia has valuable advice for all students of any age. “Every class is important. Listen, show up, and be present,” she advises, “[but] you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.” She also cites the importance of organization with class materials, syllabi, various assignments, and their due dates. Stemming from the continuous support she received from her Art + Design professors, Olyvia encourages, “Show gratitude for your professors; it’s been five years and they are still supporting me!”
As for post-graduate advice, Olyvia provides excellent recommendations on how to be proactive with projects and other academic experiences–and how to make them stand out to possible employers. “Create a website to showcase your work, keep your CV/resume updated online, [as well as] reference letters, [and] transcripts all in one place,” she shares, “You could even take [it] a step further and make a YouTube channel with demo videos. Your ability to use technology purposefully will set you apart.”
Olyvia has clearly set herself apart with her intentional teaching practices and desire to nurture creativity for all students.