Stepping Out of the Classroom and into the Museum

Alie Ehrensaft Museum Education Assistant

For the past seven years, I have been a high school English teacher in Colorado Springs, a career that I had been preparing for my whole life. Stepping away from the classroom was initially incredibly difficult for me, but I knew that in my new role at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Museum at Colorado College (FAC Museum) as the Museum Education Assistant, I could impact learners of all ages with a wide range of perspectives through the arts. Colorado College as an entity was not as unchartered as my career shift, however. I graduated from CC in 2012 with a BA in English Literature and a Minor in Education. After teaching for a few years, I strove to enhance my own abilities as an educator; I obtained my Master’s degree in teaching in 2017 through completion the Experience Teacher Masters of the Arts in Teaching program at Colorado College. With the skills I developed through these various modes of engagement in education, I hope to offer my team assistance at the FAC Museum in continued connection to education with Colorado College and the community.  

In preparation for my new role at the FAC Museum, I joined my team at the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries conference (AAMG) in Minneapolis, MN. Coming from a traditional classroom setting in public secondary education, I was unsure of much of the culture and climate surrounding educational entities within museums. Immediately, I was immersed into an eager group of academics and collaborators willing to share and assist processes that could work for others. I participated in many sessions focused on the inclusion of education through different avenues in museums and I imagined ways in which we could integrate these methods into the FAC Museum. Many of the discussions I participated in revolved around ideas of utilizing the resources we have among our students such as using student guides within museums, integrating activities with clubs both on and off campus, hands-on learning opportunities for students of all ages, and educating the public on social issues represented within our exhibits. Discussing controversial topics in accessible ways was perhaps one of the most enlightening sessions I attended. I listened to panel discussions driven by installations reflecting social issues within both local and global communities including, but not limited to gun violence, social and political crisis in Puerto Rico, and modern reflections of the repercussions of the Holocaust. Panelists divulged the potential dangers of presenting and discussing topics of such weight in a vulnerable setting, but also offered strategies for how to best manage these necessary conversations. Promoting civic dialogue with students and community members alike will help inform both audiences and could perhaps break the colloquialized “bubble” often dividing Colorado College and the community. This conference included extensive opportunities for me to conceptualize programs and workshops both on campus and within the FAC Museum, many of which I hope someday to be a part of implementing.

Colorado College has been a home to me ever since I stepped on campus in 2008 as an eager new student. I feel incredibly grateful that one of my first responsibilities as the Museum Education Assistant is to help create that same sentiment for our new students during New Student Orientation, and I hope to continue to help create that home for CC students and community visitors through other projects at the museum. I am encouraged by opportunities to establish more consistent relationships across Colorado Springs collectively, and in my new role, I plan to pursue the model that teaching can extend beyond the limitations of a classroom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *