Gustavo Molina is another teacher featured in our 2015 Progress Report, just recently released! Read on to find out about Gustavo’s experience with arts integration in and the creative learning he sees growing in dynamic ways.
Gustavo Molina was raised and educated in Mexico City, he carries a distinct perspective about the role of creativity in education: “If you know about the culture of Mexico and the history of the Mayans and the Aztecs, they were artistic galore. Building and creating is stuck into our society. In Mexico, there is dancing, poetry, art, all the time in every school.”
Gustavo was trained to teach in Mexico. He later moved to Los Angeles and then Portland, where he found work at Beach, a bilingual K-8 public school in North Portland. He was surprised to discover that in the United States, reading and math are viewed as distinct subjects, isolated from each other and from the arts. “It was a shock for me,” he remarked. “Of course, we know that math and language arts are related to art; you cannot separate them.”
Right Brain and Beach became partners in 2009, and at first, some teachers weren’t sure what to make of it. But as teachers completed Right Brain workshops and collaborated with teaching artists, they became confident about trying new art forms. Through Right Brain, Beach teachers brought an incredible range of disciplines to the school—Ghanaian drumming, Latin dance, digital storytelling. They erected giant murals. “I definitely saw a change in my colleagues,” Gustavo said.
In time, momentum grew to a point that staff formed a coalition to advocate for creativity. “There was an alliance,” he said. “This core of teachers would say, ‘Hey, we need art. It’s an important part of our lives.’”
And what was the result of all this momentum? Teachers saw new things radiating from their students. Gustavo tells a story about one child who entered his class with low self-esteem. The student transferred to the school mid-year with poor Spanish skills; a challenge at this bilingual school. But once he began working with Oregon Ballet Theatre through Right Brain, his behavior began to shift. He went home and taught his little sister what he learned in school about dance. “He was an introvert when he came to my class. When he left, he was totally the opposite. He became more confident. Amazing, right?” Gustavo said. “I see a lot of the students now being more focused and vocal and active.”
Through Right Brain, Gustavo found new teaching tools, colleagues to collaborate with, and validation. “Right Brain gave me more strength to say, ‘You are on the right track. Don’t give up.”
This year’s Progress Report is filled with stories of our impact upon teachers and schools, and Gustavo’s is one in a series we’re posting on the Right Brain blog. Read more about the transformative impact we’re having upon teachers and schools by downloading the full progress report here!