Careers In Art: Maria Germano

Term: 3 Year: 2009

Visual Art Teacher

Maria Germano ia a Visual Art Teacher at Baringa School, Moe

When you were little what did you want to become?
I can’t recall really wanting to be anything except for a Primary School Teacher. It wasn’t a big focus for me. When I was little, I think I just loved playing really. I used my imagination a lot to build, make and create, and as I grew up on a farm there was plenty of things to do and lots of space to let my imagination run wild. I also spent a lot of time drawing with my siblings and sewing with my mum, making sure my Barbie had clothes on!
While I was in year 11, I went to Italy for the first time on a family holiday. It was the most invaluable trip and it changed my life forever. I fell totally in love with art, architecture, travel and everything Italian. This is when I knew I wanted to do something involving the arts. I really enjoyed the arts and anything that involved making things at school, it was ideal because it was very relaxing. My mother encouraged us to study. She had always wanted to be a teacher.

What did you study at school and university?
After going to Mirboo North High School for my secondary years, I went to Yallourn TAFE and studied Applied Art in Year 12. It was the best start for a career in the arts and it helped me to prepare my Art Folio for entrance into University. I went to Melbourne University and studied Bachelor of Education (Art/Craft) and majored in Textiles and Art History. This is when I fell in love with Textiles. In 2008 I completed my Masters of Education (Special Education and Early Intervention). I also have Certificate 4 in Therapeutic Massage (but that’s a secret!)

What attracted you to a career in teaching?
After finishing University I realised that I really didn’t want to teach in a mainstream school. When I took on emergency teaching it was only because it was an emergency to have some money. By the end of those days I was traumatised for life! Fifteen years went by then I began teaching in a school for intellectually disabled children. I eventually moved into the art room and I have been teaching art appreciation, textiles, glassworks, jewellery making, sculpture, mosaics and my classes have been involved in painting bollards and murals for the community. It has been stimulating, challenging and satisfying. I love the school I work in and my colleagues are very special people.
I always thought that I would like to work with adults or in an alternative setting. Teaching in a special school has given me this opportunity and has developed my understanding of teaching to a deeper level. I really had to teach myself to teach in this environment. I teach step-by-step and this has taken me the last couple of years to perfect. Teaching is like acting, you have to act in a role and be a role model all the time without the glamour!

Any career highlights?
I suppose finishing my Masters in Education while working full-time in 2008 was a great highlight. Generally on a day to day basis it’s when I see the children learn. When you witness “the penny dropping” especially for those that find it difficult to learn it’s a great joy and celebration of learning. This is when I know all of the hard work is worth it. It shows you that you are making a difference in their lives. The achievements of the students and the self esteem they build through the arts are astonishing. Also celebrating staff birthdays comes high on the list, as we all enjoy cake, platters and some laughter, it’s normally right when you need it that someone is getting older!

What’s your favourite piece of artwork?
Favourite!!! There are too many to choose from that are exciting and inspiring to have a favourite. I can give you my list. I really loved Dali’s works and I went to his gallery in Spain, In France, I went to Marc Chagall’s Gallery, his gallery was so tranquil. I love Gauguin’s French Polynesian works because I love tropical, the colours, shapes, and flatness in his works. The metallics and design in The Kiss, by Gustav Klimt is a reflection of my inspiration for textiles and painting. And Picasso’s work is also on the list. I will also remember the Mark Rothko that was in the house where I was an Au Pair in Italy. It was a big blue painting, and I would just sit in front of it and become submerged in colour, I just didn’t get why he painted like this at the time but that was actually it!

What book are you reading right now?
Right now on the bedside table are 2 books, The Power of Now and The New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, rather spiritual! On the coffee table is Italian Joy, By Carla Coulson, which is beautiful. I read snippets of them when I get a minute.

What do you do to unwind?
I use different ways to maintain my sanity and unwind. I have been practicing Yoga once a week for about fifteen years now and I use a lot of techniques to help me survive, This is my favourite way to relax. I generally have a massage and exercise to de-stress such as dog walking, swim or treadmill. On my holidays I love going to the beach to unwind and I try to go to Queensland on my breaks. To balance and recharge it’s generally time with my partner and family. I need to cook to feel balanced it’s just an Italian thing to cook, and after growing up around my Mum and Nonna and being involved in my brothers cafe on the Gold Coast, I just can’t help to serve up a fare or something special. Just ask about my sticky date puddings!

What is your favourite medium to work with?
When I get a chance to paint I love to work with impasto and metallic acrylics, I use sponges to apply the impasto and apply layers of paint and muslin to rub back areas of the paint. Spectacles of colour appear on the canvas. I generally apply at least ten coats of paint and work backwards. I love how the paint gets caught in the impasto’s texture and creates dark and light. At work, I really enjoy everything about textiles, this is where I get a chance to be me!

What period in art history inspires you the most?
Since I’ve been teaching I can look at art and really appreciate what I see, I also look at art and decipher it. When I am inspired, I try and look for how I can use it in a class and help my students become aware of art and artist. It is difficult to teach students whole periods of art in Special Education. So I teach with a theme, e.g. landscapes, portraits, water, leaves, sunflowers etc and then explore artists, such as Picasso, Van Gogh, Klimt, Drysdale, etc. and their art works, such as Weeping Woman, Sunflowers, then the periods, such as Cubism, Impressionism, Abstract art etc. and use art language so they extend their whole understanding of art. Then we explore mediums and techniques such as pencil, graphic pens, oil pastel, charcoal, Indian inks to produce works. I also spend time at the end of every class for students to observe and evaluate their own and others’ work. This is how I create my programs.

What is something you would love to do that you haven’t already done?
There are a couple of things that I would love to do sometime. Well, even though I’ve been to Italy three times, it’s to go to the Cappella Sistina. (The Sistine Chapel) And I also have a burning desire to go to Peru. That’s the only country I really have left of my list to do. Oh and go back to Egypt just to see the New Cairo Museum.

What are some of the negative aspects of your job?
The biggest problem in schools today is discipline. I can’t stand wasting good time on discipline. Teenagers just love to test the boundaries. It is very different in Special Education though, as unaddressed behaviours can make or break your day. I put in a lot of effort building understanding relationships with students. Unfortunately sometimes you can’t fix something that is totally broken. At school we all endeavour with this frustration but try to provide a sound, stable, fair environment for students to grow in.

Where do you get most of your inspiration?
On a personal basis, I get inspiration from magazines. I just love magazines. This is something that I collect and I have Vogues from 20 years ago. I also use photography as inspiration. I like it because it’s faster than painting. It’s instant and I get immediate satisfaction from photography. I also tend to be easily inspired by nature; the colours in the sunsets are something I look forward to every day!
On a day to day, my inspiration comes from the students and their work, it’s so exciting! To develop their skills, understanding of art, and build their self esteem. I like to give positive encouragement to bring out their best. After every class I will ask them to hang their work up on the board and we discuss their work. This inspires me to provide the students with information and scope to learn and develop as individuals.

What is your favourite piece of clothing in your wardrobe?
It must be my gorgeous pink and charcoal Thai silk scarf. It’s so soft and warm and light and no matter what I’m wearing I can’t help choosing it every morning, above lots of others, even if it doesn’t match!

Who would you most like to sit next to on a flight to Europe?
In this instant I would take a middle seat so I have a choice of two people, I just can’t settle at one! It would be Eva Longoria and Elvis (if he was here). No really now, because I love to travel. I would have to share my next experience to Europe with my partner, even though this would probably be an ordeal as he doesn’t like flying!

If you were speaking to a secondary student who was showing interest in following in your footsteps, what advice would you give them?
Firstly I would tell them to work hard and prepare themselves to be accepted into university. If they need to present an art folio do this professionally and show versatility within their skills. Show outstanding pieces of work. Develop skills to help them present themselves such as showing confidence, being prepared, having good communication and speaking professionally in interviews. Once they have been accepted into university, to follow the system and be organised, and they will survive the pressure of being young and wanting to enjoy life, and working hard to study to achieve great results. Also when doing school rounds apply for schools they really want to work in, in order to get to know the school and have a good chance of employment. Don’t ever let go of their dreams even if some things in life get in their way. Always practise their art. Be involved in the community and get to know people in their field.

Supporting teachers in creative education