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Alexandra College

Staff Spotlight - Kate Lyons

Every Friday we feature a member of our staff in our Staff Spotlight! This week, we spoke to Art teacher Kate Lyons. 


What interested you in teaching?

 Well I went to school here in Alex, and after school I went on to art college and became an Industrial designer. I really liked design but didn’t find working as a designer all that fulfilling, and then one day I bumped into my former art teacher, Germaine Murphy, in Dundrum. I was talking to her, and she mentioned that she always thought I’d be a good teacher, and had I considered pursuing it, and that’s what got me interested in teaching. 

What makes teaching art exciting? 

 Teaching art is always different - the curriculum may stay the same, but there’s a myriad of ways a student can respond to a stimulus. Students can create art in so many ways, using a range of media, developing their own style,  and it’s always interesting to see their results. In the Art department, with Patricia Crowley, we cover block printing with linoleum as well as etching, 3D work with clay modelling, painting with acrylic paints, graphic design creating posters and book covers, still life and life drawing and drawing using a variety of mediums as the main part of the curriculum, and then in the past we’ve also done projects making puppets, millinery, set design, Computer-Aided 2D and 3D design, 3D work using plaster and wire and many more.  We have also brought professional artists into the classroom to do special projects with the students, which gives the students the opportunity to learn new skills and explore different styles and media from a contemporary artist working in the realm. It’s great having visiting artists as I learn new skills and develop ideas that I can apply in the classroom.  We regularly take students out of the classroom to visit exhibitions or draw in situ.  I really enjoy these trips, and it’s so important and enjoyable to experience art and design in real life.

We also study art history throughout all of our classes, but particularly for the Leaving Cert as it’s 30% of the Art exam. I enjoy teaching art at Senior Cycle level in particular because we get into art history and appreciation, and I find it really rewarding getting into complex theories and historical contexts with the students. 

Why did you choose to teach at Alex?

I studied in Alex for eight years, from the Junior School through to the Leaving Cert, and I had such a great experience in the Art department. The Art department has always had a fantastic reputation - it wasn’t just in the classroom, but they also had the Hermione Lecture as well, and it really fostered a passion for art.  Patricia Crowley was my teacher for my Leaving Cert, she is a superb teacher, the experience I had in her classroom led me on to study design in College. I went on to N.C.A.D.  to study Industrial design and worked in design for a few years; after meeting Germaine, I decided to return to The National College of Art and Design to study art and design education. After I qualified as a teacher, a position came up in Alex and I jumped at the chance to return to the College. 

How have you adapted your teaching for Covid-19?

 I use the visualiser a lot more now - a really important part of art education is demonstrating skills and techniques, and in the past, I would have just asked students to gather around a table and watch. Now, I use the visualiser to project the techniques so that everyone can see in the classroom. I’m using Google Classroom more as well to keep a record of all my resources for the students, and that way they can dip in and out of what we have covered as they need to.

We also were able to host an event virtually in the school yesterday on Creative Careers, which would have been much more difficult to attend in the past. The panel was previously held in person, and we wouldn’t have been able to bring such a wide range of students as we had yesterday. The event was so much more accessible to the students, and they were able to ask questions and learn more about careers in the arts, so it was absolutely fantastic.

What has been the highlight of your teaching career so far?

I think it’s definitely coming back here - I had such a positive experience here, and being able to come back as a professional and facilitate students having similar experiences to the one I had is really a highlight. Patricia Crowley was my art teacher and now she is my colleague!  Then to see some of the students that I taught choose to go on to art college or pursue a creative career is really rewarding, because then you know that they really enjoyed your classes. To be able to engender such a positive experience with art and design that students choose it as a career, it’s such a highlight.