Shyla Rao is a co-director and instructor in the Masters of Arts in Teaching Program at Maryland Institute College of Art having taught courses in theory, methods, and practice. Before returning to MICA this year, Shyla taught at Teachers College Columbia University, where she has completed her doctorate of education.
Her qualitative research is rooted in teacher collaboration and interdisciplinary curriculum development. Shyla is interested in the impact of collaborative teaching between disciplines and its impact on both teacher and student learning. Her research examines dialogic interactions during teacher planning sessions, adult team learning, the ways in which interdisciplinary planning affects teacher curriculum development and implementation, and its impact on student learning. Shyla has over eleven years experience teaching in Baltimore and New York City public schools and working as an instructional coach, arts-integration coordinator, school designer, and curriculum developer. Shyla has taught college and graduate level courses in Baltimore, New York, Tokyo, and Kingston Jamaica. She has been a member of the National Art Education Association for over twelve years and served on the Executive Council of the Maryland Art Education Association for four years.
Shyla is professionally focused on developing teachers who look critically at education and create arts programs that respond to the needs of their students. Through her own critical investigations, Shyla focuses her work with programming on a local, as well as national level, on the following beliefs:
Our children are not given the opportunity in schools to apply learning in meaningful ways. We need to reform education in a way where concepts and skills are integrated across disciplines, and students develop multiple perspectives spurring innovation, new forms of literacy, and mastery of skills. The arts provide an important vehicle for observing, thinking, and meaning-making within this arena.
If teachers are excited about teaching, students will be excited about learning. This cycle of engagement fosters retention, a love of learning, and support for education within the community. It is essential to develop programs that support teacher professional development, collaboration, and success in the classroom.
Many classrooms are teacher-directed and focused on content-specific skills with students re-iterating "learned knowledge" in tests and quizzes. Student success is not about test scores; it is about teaching our children skills that can be applied in the context of their lives in a way that make them not only competitive, but leaders in their community and beyond. The arts are essential to student understandings of multiple solutions, innovative thinking, and critical investigations.
Shyla approaches her artwork in a similar way as she approaches her scholarly work. Using a variety of mediums from painting to installations, Shyla's work responds to the complexity of women's interactions with the world. She observes the roles and choices of women and responds to these observations through artistic mediums, be it moments between mother and child in "What She Said" or the complexities between emotional and physical changes in "Twenty Pounds and a Year". Her work has been on display in both New York and Baltimore.
She believes that the beauty of being an artist is finding the artfulness in everyday life. In the classroom, she feels it is important for educators to help students look at the world from their own perspectives and celebrate the beauty in the moment. A multi-sensory approach to teaching and learning offers possibilities for students to respond to the world through their whole being, in ways that are personal to them. Long gone are the days when the teacher stands at the front of the room and feeds information to the students. It is now the day for a facilitator of learning to create a multi-faceted environment for discovery, following the adage "You told me, and then I learned for myself."
- BFA and MAT Maryland Institute College of Art
- Ed.D Teachers College Columbia University