Sometimes life has a wonderful way of circling back around. Back when I was first starting The Messy Artist 15 years ago, teaching classes in a rented classroom a few days a week, I would also help my sister by caring for my niece. I would take her to her nursery school, located just up the street from me in the South Mountain neighborhood of Millburn. (The nursery school was located in an elementary school that had been closed due to low enrollment and was being leased to the nursery school. It has since been re-opened into a neighborhood elementary school – my son went there and many of our current students now attend it!)
Between drop off, pickup, and school activities I got to know the teachers at the school well, and could see the wonderful instruction and care that the students received. One teacher in particular that stood out was Amy. I was able to observe her teaching style and interactions with the children and was always impressed by her calm, warm and knowledgeable style. Amy was not only a skilled teacher, but a wonderful manager: she came to become assistant director of the nursery school.
Eventually, my niece graduated from nursery school. The Messy Artist also grew, and moved from Millburn to two different locations in South Orange and then to our current space in East Hanover.
One day, right before our move to East Hanover, I got a call out of the blue from Amy. She was looking for work, and wanted to know if The Messy Artist was hiring. Of course, I wanted to leap at the chance to have Amy become part of The Messy Artist family, but did not have an Assistant Director level position open at the time. However, after discussing the situation further, it worked out perfectly – as a mother now, Amy was looking for a lifestyle change that would allow a lower responsibility position yet still provide the opportunity to continue her love of working with children. We are thrilled to have Amy at The Messy Artist in an ideal position for all of us.
-Donna Bernstein, owner/creator of The Messy Artist
Here is our interview with Amy, in her own words.
What are the first art experiences you remember as a child?
Some of the first art experiences that I remember as a child are easel painting while in nursery school and creating puppets and putting on puppet shows when I was in first grade.
What is your background in early childhood education?
I earned a A.S. degree in Early Childhood Education and my B.S.degree in Human Services. All of my internships were with young children and their families.
How long have you worked at the Messy Artist? What is your position?
I have worked at The Messy Artist since the spring of 2012. I was fortunate to be a part of the move to our wonderful studio in East Hanover. I am an assistant teacher.
Please say a little about your previous role as Assistant Director of the South Mountain Preschool. How does that affect how you teach here at The Messy Artist?
I was a teacher and the Assistant Director at South Mountain Nursery and Kindergarten for 18 years. South Mountain School rented space in Millburn and then in Maplewood until it closed in the Fall of 2004. Most of the children were in our care for a full day. Our time was filled with getting very messy indoors and out! I am proud of the title I held during my years there: I was known as” The Pied Piper” of the two year olds. My mantra was “It’s the Process NOT the project!”
Tell us about your own children. What kind of art projects and / or messy play activities do you like to do with your own kids?
My work at the Nursery School did help prepare me for the next stage of my life, becoming a parent. I have a nine year old son and a seven year old daughter both adopted from South Korea as infants. Together we have always incorporated art/messy play into our days. When my children were toddlers and preschoolers we would use play dough (some store bought, some homemade). We would go on walks and collect sticks, acorns and leaves and create collages. The children have always enjoyed cooking with me and we had a special stand called “A Learning Tower” in our kitchen that would allow them to be counter height.
What are some of your favorite projects or topics that we teach?
Some of my favorite materials at The Messy Artist include our new and wonderful Snow Dough and Slime because I like to watch the amazement on both the children’s and adults faces as it keeps “changing” from solid to liquid. Over the summer, during our mini-camp drop off weeks, it gives us a chance to do some elaborate art work that requires a few steps. Last summer our 3-5 year olds made 3-D sculptures with card board tubes and then painted them.
Amy and a student enjoy Snow Dough at our messy table
What advice do you have for parents to help them to encourage their children in art?
It is so important that adults provide children with hands on activities through out their day. Children are sponges and they will soak up everything that you do. Remember that being messy is OK! If you are hesitant the children will be too. Set the tone by being silly, laughing, listening to music. Try to be outdoors each day and show the children all of the beauty in nature as well.
Thank you for sharing, Amy – we always love to hear your perspectives on kids, learning and art.