I woke up feeling a tremor run throughout my body.  Confused and scared; I looked around.  I knew I was in a hospital.  But, I had no idea why.  “Why am I here?”  I heard myself say out loud.  A woman with frantic, searching eyes and nervous hands stood before me.  I did not even recognize my own mother.   I was 16, and it had been 24 hours since I was in a near-fatal car accident leaving me with severe frontal lobe brain damage, temporary amnesia, and partial loss of gross motor skills. Even while experiencing personality changes, forgetting who my own mother was, and having to re-learn the most rudimentary tasks I remember my most painful memory surrounding my accident was the moment I realized I no longer had the ability to draw.  I had the ideas and knowledge still compact, even fresh in my young mind, but I was unable to transfer those images onto paper. Ever since I was a small child I have relished in the creative release that happens when a simple tool held in my hand first hits a blank sheet of paper. To have this taken from me was paralyzing. The frustration and fear that followed this moment turned into months of physical and mental therapy.  I knew I would never be the same 16-year-old I was before the accident.   I also knew I was hungry, starved even, for the ability to create. Thus marks the beginning of my arduous journey of self-discovery and recovery through art.

I graduated high school, surviving only thanks to my frenzied obsession with photography.  It took much practice to regain my ability to draw, and in the interim I had found salvation in rewarding my fumbling fingers with a one-click crafted creation.  Although my photography mentor often frowned upon my sometimes-bizarre subject matter, his excitement over my skill kept me driven and focused.

Upon acceptance at Ringling College of Art and Design, my confidence continued to flourish.  There, through courses in painting, printmaking, three-dimensional sculpture and illustration, my gross and fine-motor skills returned and I felt alive again.  What’s more, I had decided to major in Photography and was one of few students selected for “Best Of Ringling.” In a way, photography was responsible for my physical, mental and artistic rehabilitation.  I was in the first graduating class of photo majors and our department head, Thomas Carabasi, was an important influence during my collegiate journey.  His style of teaching was inspiring and encouraged creativity and quality in my work.  He guided my passion for modernism and has consistently supported my career goals of becoming an art educator myself.

At graduation, I decided to broaden my artistic sensibility and maturity.  I traveled through Europe.  In the Netherlands, I visited the Van Gogh and Rembrandt museums.  I got lost in the masters of measurements and grace in England at the Tate Gallery. The city of Paris itself became a living work of art as I explored the Louvre and conversed with street vendors canal-side.  My thirst for art history was sparked and I could not wait to share my love for art with the world; which has become my life-long goal.

Since then I have worked managing sound stages for television and film production, and ran medical-effects props for daytime soap operas in New York.  I traveled and photographed churches, the Eurols and street folk in Russia, and most recently self-published a photography book entitled “My Guate,” which highlights the Mayan culture and spirit of this Central American country.

I have also realized my goal of teaching Art.  I have had the opportunity to be a guest-artist at an American school in Guatemala, and teach visual arts in soft pastels, pen and ink, watercolor and prisma at a bilingual school of the arts in Orlando, Florida.   In 2010, I was honored to accept a faculty position at my alma mater teaching different digital, film and creative photography courses; realizing yet another personal goal.  It is now 2013 and I have been fortunate to gain a wealth of experience in teaching students ranging in ages from 4-90.  Each teaching moment remains in my mind as a unique and valuable experience and every student teaches me something new.

As I complete my application process for the Masters of Art Education program for the University of Florida, I find myself repeating the same question that I asked at 16:

“Why am here?”

I am here because I feel truly alive when I teach.  I am here because I feel truly alive when I am able to share my love of art with the world.  I am here because I am confident this program will enhance the quality of my teaching style and streamline my methods of instructional delivery.  I am here because I would like to share my experiences with knowledgeable peers, gain new insights and receive advice through forums and gallery viewings.  I am here because this program presents the opportunity for me to pursue my personal goal of teaching and living with art overseas.  I would like to share my story with others and perhaps influence young adults who are starved for a passion as I found myself at 16. I am here because I want to teach others how art can inspire and shape their lives, as it has mine.

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