The College of Fine Arts Studies Student Advisory Council Alumni
The Fine Arts faculty and current members of the Fine Arts Studies Student Advisory Council would like to thank the past members of the Council for their service, share some of their current accomplishments and offer advice to future teachers.
Madalin Beavers – UTeach Art, B.F.A. Visual Art Studies with Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Non-Profits, 2018
Madi decided to pursue teaching after experiences in high school teaching art to middle school students in San Antonio. For her, being able to help others grow and learn more about themselves is the best part of teaching.
“To high school students who want to become art teachers: don’t forgo your passion for creating art when you decide to teach. Keep on making art for yourself, even if it’s small. It’s worth the effort to keep creating.”
Grace attended Pearland High School in Pearland, TX. She loves both theatre and teaching, so it seemed only logical that she combines the two and pursue Theatre Education. She has been acting since she was 6 months old and has loved exploring every aspect of the theatrical world ever since.
“It’s a rigorous process and you only get out of it what you put into it, but seeing a child’s face as they experience the magic of something you’ve had a part in creating is unlike anything else. I can’t get enough of it.”
To new students entering the program, Grace says “don’t give up. Some days will feel impossible to get through and sometimes it will seem as if it’s thankless work, but it matters infinitely”
Jacqueline Cardenas – UTeach Art, B.F.A. Visual Art Studies, 2016
Jacky, a native Houstonian believes that the visual arts allowed her to gain a better understanding of different cultures and lifestyles, and she wants to pass on the opportunity to future generations.
“For those interested in becoming an art teacher, having a big heart is key as you will interact with so many people from all walks of life.”
Geovanni Casillas – UTeach Art, B.F.A. Visual Art Studies, 2019
Geovanni attended Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, which was named as one of the five Distinguished Schools in the Arts by The National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. He credits is teachers for motivating him to pursue a career in art education.
“Being in this program at COFA, you meet people who are passionate about your major as much as you are. It has been challenging at times, but if you love this major as much as I do everything you do will always be worth it.”
“As an art educator, you bring a certain set of skills to benefit yourself, your students and the community. It is a very rewarding field, and however much you decide to dedicate to the field and your education that is what you get out of it.”
Matthew Chan – UTeach Music, B.A. Biology, B.M. Music Studies, 2016
Matthew is pursuing a Masters of Music in Violin Performance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is a String Pedagogy Teaching Assistant, teaching High String Fundamentals and Low String Fundamentals.
“I learned so much in my time in Music at UT. The system of support and dedication of both faculty and colleagues made me feel ready to confront all of the challenges of emergent teachers, whether it be getting in front of a class of kids, or reshaping my entire perspective on what teaching is and the underlying values that inspire us to teach.”
Taylor Jane Cooper – UTeach Theatre, B. F.A. Theatre Studies, 2019
Teachers have always inspired Taylor Jane throughout her time at Midland High School. She wanted to be a part of a field, as a theatre educator, that has so much to offer both teachers and students. She wanted to share the joy of the theatre with young people who love it as much as she does.
“I would tell students entering this field that I am so excited for their journey within this line of work. I think it is always best to keep in mind that we are all still learning and growing each day, to hold your love for this field very close, and to remember that you are brave and valid for being here.”
Laura Crabbe – UTeach Music, B.M. Music Studies, Choral Emphasis, 2016
Choir Director Harris Middle School, San Antonio, Texas
Laura has wanted to teach choir since elementary school because she found it as a creative outlet and hopes to help others express themselves through music.
“Expect high quality from your students. If they sing or play the right pitches and rhythms, don’t just say “good job,” and move on to the next piece. Challenge them to be musical and make the song come alive. The students will have fun and want to come to your class every day.
Deja Criston – UTeach Theatre, B.F.A. Theatre Education 2022 – Past Council Co-Chair
Deja attended Cornerstone Christian Schools in San Antonio, TX. Theatre Education specifically introduced her to the importance of self-confidence, collaboration, trust, and social awareness. Deja believes that teachers have this wonderful way of planting seeds of greatness within us, to bring out our total potential and that being a teacher is a huge responsibility; every day they are given the power to influence and inspire while being a vessel of compassion to help students achieve goals.
“The legacy of my teachers will forever live in me through the life lessons I have learned, the memories we have made, and the love that has been shared. This type of legacy and inspiration is something I hope to ensue on my future students.”
“Opportunities, connections, and personal growth are all things that I have gained in my time in the Theatre Studies program. I was graciously welcomed into UT’s COFA community where I have been able to express and strengthen my craft with supportive and encouraging individuals.”
“To anyone considering entering the field of fine arts education I would say never stop learning, be confident in yourself, and take risks. With any fine arts path people are going to doubt you and tell you to have a backup plan but when you’re actively pursuing what you love all no one can stop you. Plenty of opportunities are coming your way so don’t be afraid to take on new challenges, you never know what you’re capable of until you try it. You are going to experience a lot of negative and positive influential voices but just remember that your happiness is a priority.”
Rebecca East – UTeach Theatre, B.F.A. Theatre Studies, 2020
Working closely with friends and directors in middle school and Cy-Fair High School in Cypress, Texas, helped Rebecca East realize her passion for helping and contributing to theatrical processes. For Rebecca, the professors and other students in the program are always there to make sure her experience in the Department of Theatre and Dance is the best it can be.
“Don’t be afraid to make opportunities happen for you. Roles, leadership positions and success will never be handed to you, but anyone is capable of being the best.”
Lindsay Edwards – UTeach Art, B.F.A. Art Education 2021, M.A. Art Education 2023
Lindsay attended Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas, where she was engaged in many disciplines of fine arts. She played the viola in Symphony Orchestra throughout high school participating in the Full Orchestra UIL competition her junior year and the String Orchestra UIL Competition her senior year.
Lindsay found her passion in the visual arts through taking drawing/painting courses throughout high school, including AP Art in her final two years. Her research interests involve the social and emotional learning capabilities in visual art education and hopes to create teaching curriculum and environment that benefits the social and emotional well-being of her students. Currently, she is pursuing a Ph.D. in Art Education at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign starting in Fall 2023.
“The fine arts are unique in their ability to teach students about self-expression, creativity, and empathy. As fine arts teachers, we have the responsibility and gift to be able to help facilitate a student’s growth in their technique and character.”
Grace Featherston – UTeach Theatre, B.F.A. Theatre Education 2023
Grace attended Winston Churchill HS in San Antonio. Her love for the theatre and sharing led to her wanting to seek teacher preparation!
Grace’s advice for entering the field is “lead with your heart and keep an open mind.” Her time so far in the UTeach Theatre program reminds her of the following quote:
“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” – Forrest Gump
Anyssa Flores – UTeach Art, B.F.A. Visual Art Studies, 2017
Art teacher at Thomas Jefferson T-STEM Early College High School Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District, Pharr, Texas
Anyssa Flores was raised in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. She pursued a B.F.A. in Visual Art Studies and is interested in Photography, Video and Contemporary Art. She planned to teach in a community or museum setting to promote art literacy, dialogue and collaboration among diverse populations.
“Get involved in your community! Take the opportunity to teach at museums, nonprofits, festivals, etc. You will make great connections and be exposed to the many facets of teaching Art.”
Shelby Flowers – UTeach Art, B.F.A. Visual Art Studies, 2019
Shelby attended Ross S. Sterling High School in Baytown, Texas and fell in love with art on a high school trip to Italy. The art and culture she encountered inspired her to take Art 1 and AP Art History in her junior year and to dedicate her life and future career to art. Shelby credits her art and art history teachers in high school for encouraging her. She decided to pursue the education route so she could give to others what her teachers gave to her.
“I have met some of the most amazing, creative, helpful and inspiring individuals in this program. Professors like Dr. Bain, Dr. Adejumo and Dr. Little have taught me so much about how art has the power to influence others around us, enact change and how it can be used as a bridge between cultures.”
“Use art to get involved in y
our community and to get to know the world around you. Be open to trying new things. Also, remember that you can learn just as much from your students as they learn from you.”
Alayah Frazier – UTeach Art, B.F.A. Visual Art Studies, 2017
Elementary Fine Arts Teacher: Virgil I. Grissom Elementary, Houston, Texas
Alayah attended Bellaire High School in Houston. She enjoys helping others and that is what pushed her to pursue a teaching career. She credits the teachers she encountered while in K-12 for her success.
“Being an artist will help you see things other teachers may miss. Being a teacher will give you valuable skills that other artists may lack. Choosing to study art education instead of just studio art or education provides a well-rounded experience that balances the two.”
Oscar Franco – UTeach Theatre, B.F.A. Theatre Studies, 2014
Elementary Fine Arts Teacher: Art, Music, and Theatre at KIPP Austin Comunidad, dual-language elementary school, Austin, Texas
“While the work in the Theatre Studies program was incredibly rigorous, there was support every step of the way to make sure we were as successful as we could be. To new students entering the program, I would encourage you to take the opportunity to get to know your professors beyond just what they teach you. Ask them about their journey as teachers, what they wish they could tell their younger self, what their mistakes were and what they learned from them.”
Tanya Gantiva – UTeach Art, B.F.A. Visual Art Studies, 2018
Tanya was inspired by a teacher who supported her decision to pursue a career in art in her Senior year at Westside High School in Houston. After her first day of studio classes at UT, she could not stop thinking of the many students who realize their passion at a young age and are discouraged from seeking the career of their choice and passion.
“Pursue your dreams, your passion, even if society tells you that you will never succeed. Art education is a beautiful, rewarding field where you can give your students the confidence they need and an outlet to express their true selves.”
Tawny Garcia – UTeach Dance, B.F.A. Dance Studies, 2015
Murchison Middle School, Austin, Texas
Tawny’s experience involved a lot of sleepless nights, tears, crumbled up lesson plans, multiple cups of coffee & countless epiphanies which prepared her for her time as a teacher. She says the greatest lessons were not always the ones in the classroom but rather the examples of dedication and care shown by her peers, professors and the entire administration team at COFA.
“I felt supported, challenged and constantly given the opportunity to find my way and my personal teaching voice. Be willing to ask for help and speak up if you don’t know the expectations set upon you. Also have a strong support system you can depend on.”
Natalie Gomez – UTeach Art, B.F.A. Visual Art Studies, 2016
Natalie Gomez grew up amidst the mountains in sunny El Paso. She wants to pursue her passions of education, art and social reform, whether it be through teaching in a high school classroom, or traveling and studying educational policy abroad. For Natalie, being a teacher is at once one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs you can find.
“Without challenge there isn’t growth, and without growth there isn’t change. As a teacher, you become one of the greatest facilitators of change in the lives of your students, your community, and your world.”
Savannah González – UTeach Theatre, B.F.A. Theatre Education 2023
Savannah attended Stevens High School in San Antonio, Texas where she was lucky to have some great teachers that made a difference in her life. She wants to be that teacher for someone. She wants to share her passion and inspire students to be who they are and find their passions.
“This program is preparing me to become the best, most thoughtful educator that I can be. I’ve learned so much about the types of educators that the world needs and as time goes on I feel more and more ready to be that educator.”
To new students entering the field… “We’re responsible for shaping the future. Empathy and accountability are something that’s needed no matter how you choose to tackle your goals.”
Trevor Heim – UTeach Music, B.M. Music Studies, Choral Emphasis, 2014, M.A. Vocal Performance 2016
Trevor was inspired to become a teacher because of the fun he had engaging in music particularly with others. His goal is teaching voice at the collegiate level.
“Spend short periods of time, yet often, with music theory, piano, and reading resources on how we learn best as humans and voice pedagogy.”
Isaac Iskra – UTeach Dance, B.F.A. Dance Studies, 2019
Dance instructors that Isaac had outside of the University as well as within have had an enormous influence on shaping the person that he is today. At UT, the professors have provided insights to the minority students that are underrepresented in grade school education programs who feel like their voice is not being heard. Their comments resonated with Isaac and that is why he decided to join the UTeach Dance program. He wants to be someone who will have just as much an impact on a child’s life as his teachers have had on his.
“Being a teacher, you are causing a shift in the understanding of the students you are instructing. What that shift may be is directly related to how you feel and what you have to say about the teaching experience of dancers. Before you become a teacher, find out what your voice is for teaching.”
Garrett Nichols Jackson – UTeach Theatre, B.F.A. Theatre Studies, 2016
Theatre Director at Marble Falls Middle School, Marble Falls, Texas
Garrett received the award for October Teacher of the Month in 2016.
“The program helped me develop my passion for the arts and also taught me the importance of the arts and how to convey that to my students. Advice that I would give new educators entering the field is get as much experience as you can in the studies program and ask as many questions as possibly from your professors who are master teachers and know that the program truly prepares you for your teaching career.”
Vida Jarrell – UTeach Theatre, B.F.A Theatre Education 2023, Past Council Co-Chair
Shaun Lane – UTeach Art, B.F.A. Visual Art Studies, 2014
Instructor at East View High School (GISD), Georgetown, Texas
Ceramics, Sculpture, and Art 1
“The program at COFA was very rigorous, and I am a better educator for it. Teaching is very stressful, and often requires you to step outside of your comfort zone. I had a substantial amount of practice dealing with such conditions during my time at UT. I was beyond prepared when I graduated.
“Stay hungry, and true to yourself. Always look for opportunities to learn and grow, but also don’t forsake your vision of what educating future artists looks like. Listen to the advice of the veterans, but don’t be afraid to contribute your new ideas and perspective.”
Juan Angel Leyva – UTeach Theatre, B.F.A. Theatre Studies, 2020 – Past Council Co-Chair
Juan became interested in teaching in the seventh grade when his oldest sister who directed a summer theatre program had him lead warm-ups and run scenes. His passion really grew in his freshman year of high school as he helped middle school students with diction and acting techniques. By his senior year, he knew this is what he wanted to do. He graduated from Pharr San-Juan Alamo Early College High School, located in the Rio Grande Valley.
“The UTeach Theatre program here at COFA has really pushed me to view things differently. It has pushed me to think at a higher level and has inspired me to want to make a difference in the world.”
A.J. Marks – UTeach Music, B.M. Music Studies, Instrumental Emphasis, 2022 – Past Council Co-Chair
A.J. attended LASA High School in Austin, Texas, where he had many teaching and leadership opportunities within his middle and high school band, as well as the encouragement of educators and musicians around him, which led him to pursue arts education further.
“The Music Studies program provides students with opportunities to develop not only as impactful educators but also as artists. Between the teaching preparation/practice and the musicianship crafted alongside driven and talented students and professors, I could not feel more certain of my path in arts education.”
To new students entering the field, “be open to new opportunities that may intimidate you at first. The UTeach program will stretch your comfort zone and it is in this uncertainty that you will learn the most.”
Laura Martin – UTeach Music, B.M. Music Studies, Choral Emphasis, 2014
Assistant Choir Director, Arnold Middle School Cypress Fairbanks ISD, Harris County, Texas
“My time the UT Music program was rich in experiences in every aspect of my chosen career. Surrounded by skilled music educators, I was encouraged to step up to challenges that tested me and prepared me to begin my career as an educator. The COFA Studies community is full of enthusiastic people who are passionate about bringing the arts into schools in a meaningful and life-changing way. Their support, encouragement, and passion are contagious, and I am grateful that my peers and professors have become my friends and mentors.
Every day when you leave your classroom, remind yourself that you will never be perfect, but you can do better. Your students will never be perfect and never be who you expect them to be walking in the door, but they too can do better. On the good days, that thought will be exhilarating. On mediocre days, it will be challenging. On bad days, that is what will bring you back to your classroom, excited to share your art with your students.”
Lizzie McElroy – UTeach Theatre, B.F.A. Theatre Education 2023
Indya McKnight – UTeach Theatre, B.F.A. Theatre Education, 2022
While attending Byron P. Steele II High School in Cibolo, TX, Indya felt as though she was extremely blessed to have the experiences that she did within her high school theatre department. She was challenged, supported, accepted, and loved. She believes that all-in-all it was her peers and director that led her to seek teacher preparation. For Indya, it was as simple as hearing them say that they thought she would be a great theatre teacher that pushed her to choose this field of focus. Theatre is what makes her happiest and it only makes sense to continue pursuing it for the rest of her life.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time in the Studies program at COFA thus far! We have some amazing classes, programs and events offered to us, as well as really wonderful staff and faculty members! I’m so grateful to have been a part of some really amazing projects and events, I look forward to what the future has in store!”
I would advise new students to take advantage of every opportunity they are offered, try new things, and take risks! Don’t
be afraid to put yourself out there and always ask questions!”
Arsenio-Trey Medrano – UTeach Music, B.M. Music Studies, Instrumental Emphasis, 2014
Director of Bands, Washington Junior High School, Conroe, Texas
“My time in the Studies program at COFA prepared me for the challenges you would experience in the classroom as I had multiple opportunities to dive in headfirst into real teaching situations.
Being an educator in the fine arts requires patience! Most of the time, your future students will take a while to fully learn and understand something you are trying to teach them. Be patient with them, praise them when they experience success, and expect the highest standards when they feel like giving up!”
Kade Miller – UTeach Art, B.F.A Art Education 2025
Kade attended Waller High School in Waller, TX where she was influenced by her art teacher to express herself through art. Since then she has wanted to be that same influence for future generations.
“You will be challenged to create in ways that you have never thought of before. When you think you’re done, you’re not. Continue to push yourself further, and challenge yourself in new ways you have never thought of.”
Chanse Morris – UTeach Music, B.M. Music Studies, Instrumental Emphasis, 2018
Chanse graduated from J. Frank Dobie High School in Houston. The band directors in middle and high school were very influential on his decision to pursue music education. He also credits the support from his family on his journey to become a music educator. While at the College of Fine Art, he has been able to teach clarinet lessons in middle schools and continues to draw inspiration from his students.
“Take in all the information you can. Keep all the resources you can and take all the opportunities thrown your way.
Emily Jane Ochoa – UTeach Theatre, B.F.A. Theatre Studies, 2017
Theatre and ELA 3 instructor Port Isabel High School, Port Isabel, Texas
Her parents enrolled her in a summer workshop with a community theater that fostered her love of theatre. In high school, she was finally able to enroll in a theatre class. “ I wanted to be an artist, and knew I loved sharing my work with others. At UT, I learned that I was destined to share my love for academia and theatre with other students. I am interested in incorporating theatre pedagogical practices with other subjects, and hope to make theatre education accessible to students at a younger age.”
“Remember that you are always learning! Sometimes we move so quickly that we forget that we are evolving alongside our students, so I encourage you to appreciate those moments of simultaneous growth. Our students need as much love and honesty as we can give, so it’s important to create such an environment for them.”
Cassidy Oldham – UTeach Dance, B.F.A. Dance, Youth and Community Studies, 2018
Cassidy was given the opportunity to be a teaching assistant in dance classes for young children. Seeing the improvement and happiness from helping a child master a difficult dance step, she fell in love with teaching.
“Whether assisting a class, teaching a friend to dance or teaching a class as a student, all the experience you have will help once you are in the teaching field or preparing to be in the field. You will learn something each time you teach, so the more experience you have, the better you will be.”
Daniel Oshiro – UTeach Music, B.A. Music Studies, Instrumental Emphasis, 2018
Daniel attended Roosevelt High School in Honolulu, Hawaii before coming to Texas. He was inspired to become an educator through those that came before him. He saw the impact that enthusiastic and passionate teachers had on students and the communities.
“I learned that teaching can be a fulfilling career and that educators are necessary for the future of the world. I learned that I could make a difference in someone’s life and if I’m lucky I will be able to make others aspire to be the best they can be.”
Christina – Marie Pozzi – UTeach Theatre, B.F.A. Theatre Studies, 2020
Christina attended Kingwood High in the Kingwood community of Houston, Texas. She always wanted to make a difference in the world. Growing up she watched her mother teach and make an impact on so many people’s lives, and it inspired her to do the same. “I think that teachers have one of the most important jobs in the world.”
“In just a little over a year, I have learned more about theatre and more about myself than I have in all the rest of my life. Being at UT has just reassured me that I am in the right profession.”
“Take every opportunity you can, and take those seriously as well. That is how you will make connections that will later benefit you in ways you cannot even imagine.”
Francis Rodriguez – UTeach Dance, B.F.A. Dance Studies, 2018 – Past Council Chair
Francis attended Saint Joseph Academy in Brownsville, Texas and was inspired to become a teacher. She believes that the formal process of preparing for quality education is very worthwhile. She wants to earn an M.F.A., and live in a city with an “awesome” arts scene.
“Simply, do it. The world needs more creativity, versatility and beauty in it, and that’s what you bring. Sharing it with others makes it all the more special.”
Jacob Schnitzer – UTeach Music, B.M. Music Studies, 2016
Jacob is from Plano, Texas. He credits the fantastic teachers who inspired him to be a musician and he wants to do the same for his students. Anywhere in the world. He hopes to have a portfolio career as a conductor, composer, and educator.
“Listen and study as much music as you can get your hands on.”
Claire Stephen – UTeach Theatre, B.F.A. Theatre Studies, 2017 – Past Council Chair
Theatre Arts Teacher, Labay Middle School, Harris County, Texas
Growing up, Claire wanted to be a teacher like her mother who was an educator. She stumbled into theatre and fell in love. At Kingwood High School, she worked with the dedicated teacher who created so many opportunities to explore all aspects of theatre. By her junior year, she had the joy of working with young artists and learned that teaching theatre was the only path for her.
Describing her experiences at COFA, she says, “You get to explore everything. One of my goals in the program was to know enough to teach enough!”
“In my first few weeks as a teacher, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that every day is a ‘first’ day. You are going to try new ideas, teach new lessons, and encounter new problems each day. Explore your imagination, discover your limits, and work hard for your students and your art!”
Sam Taylor – UTeach Music, B.M. Music Studies, Instrumental Emphasis 2023, Past Council Co-Chair
While in high school, Sam got his first small taste of teaching at a summer camp teaching a short trumpet lesson to a few middle school students. After that experience, he knew that teacher preparation was the right path for him to take in college.
“It’s worth it to even have a chance to be like the teachers that I’ve been so lucky to have. I feel so lucky to be in the Music Studies program at COFA. The amazing students and faculty that I get to interact with on a regular basis as a part of the program continually inspire me to be the best version of myself. The focus put on learning in this program makes me feel more comfortable not only in teaching environments, but in any learning situation that I’m put in.”
“Don’t be afraid to follow your interests, even if you’re not quite sure where they’ll take you at first.”
Nathan Tran – UTeach Theatre, BFA Theatre Education, 2022
Nathan attended Plano East Senior High School in Plano, TX. Having the opportunity to direct his own show as a senior in high school made him fall in love with teaching theatre. Also just having such inspiring theatre teachers that really impacted his life made him want to do the same for future generations. Nathan wants to impact people’s lives with the theatre.
“This has probably been the best experience I’ve ever had in my life. The people I have met in this major have become my best friends and my family, to me that’s what makes theatre so special, the bonds you make with the people you meet. Being in this program has just made me excited for the future and to become a teacher.”
“I would advise new students to take care of yourself, it’s very easy to be swept up in the college life and having busy schedules, but be sure to allow time to practice self-care, hang out with your friends, and please sleep. That being said, I would also advise new students to take the opportunity to experience everything from being in shows to just hanging out with your friends on a weeknight. Really just live in the moment and be present because soon the college years will be over and you’ll look back at your time here at UT and as a Studies major and think of it as the best years of your life.”
Stone Wang – UTeach Music, BM Music Studies, Instrumental Emphasis, 2020
“The path to your goals won’t always be straightforward and clear. But, if you work mindfully and stay proactive on your path, you will find success.”