My teaching philosophy involves several key components including responsibility, curriculum, and professionalism. As a foundation, I want my students to master the objectives and materials of the courses that I teach. More importantly, however, I strive to expand their capacity for critical thinking, cultivate their problem-solving abilities, and instill within them a passion for learning that will last a lifetime.
My role in orienting my students to their discipline involves sharing responsibilities in the learning process. I hold my students responsible for attending classes, participating in class, learning the material, adhering to deadlines, and pushing them to grow as artists. I challenge them to be flexible thinkers and to think outside of their comfort zone. They are expected to learn not only the history and theory, but also to draw from many influences and inspirations in order to merge everything together in the studio. I do this by infusing my curriculum with samples and discussions about what has been done, why it was done that way, how it is done, and theoretical discussion of what the future may hold, no matter what area I’m teaching.As a teacher, I believe it is my responsibility to do far more than deliver the content of the course. It is my responsibility to be available to answer students’ questions, while at the same time showing them how to explore the process of obtaining that information. This exploration is crucial since computer technology is a constantly evolving field. It is extremely important to me to teach my students how to evolve along with the technology and find the answers they need. It is imperative to me that my students understand the scope of their craft with both the overall understanding and application of the production process with their ability to specialize in an area of expertise. First and foremost, I want them to think of themselves as artists who use the digital tools in order to create.
My teaching focuses on all aspects of animation production, and my curriculum is designed to balance the relationship of software and art. While it is crucial for students to learn the technical skills related to the software as tools, it is just as crucial for them to develop their voice as designers and artists. The application of this balance is evaluated by using a combination of in-class exercises and outside projects. I work continuously on developing supplemental materials, including making available screen-captured lectures with a web presence as well as examples, links, and access to tutorials that I create. These tools provide students with the resources they need when they have either missed a class or need additional clarification of what was covered each day. Students finish my classes with a firm grasp and understanding of the software used in the course. More importantly, they complete class with the ability to apply to their projects theory and history, entwined with the fundamental principles and elements of design. I act as a mentor, guiding my students through their learning as well as helping them learn to work as part of the team dynamic. The projects are geared toward mimicking the pipeline and workflow of the entertainment industry studio environment.
It is my belief that as an animation professor I must prepare my students as professionals for careers in the animation industry or to continue their education. I am influential in inspiring my students to not only attend but to also present at conferences and festivals, as well as encouraging fund raising in order to finance the cost of continually increasing film festival submissions. I also challenge my students to find ways to use their talents to give back to the community as artists with their own unique voice. The best way to teach professionalism is by example and by expectations. For this reason, I set the bar high and continue to pursue professional development opportunities. I stay current in the software that I teach and stay up-to-date in professional certifications. I challenge myself to reach all students and to figure out what it will take to motivate them to learn in order to become life-long learners. They understand that once they have taken a course with me they will forever be my student. It does not matter how far past the completion of the course; they can always count on me to help mentor them through their career. Because of this relationship dynamic, I have developed a network of almost a thousand working professionals in the animation industry. As a result of my former students turning to me when they are looking to hire someone, I am proud to say that I have directly helped many of my former students gain employment this way. For me, teaching has been a challenging but rewarding experience that I look forward to every day. Being able to help someone achieve their goals is one of the most important aspects of my life. When I see my students succeed, I gain such a sense of pride it motivates me to push myself further to excel as a mentor.
© 2014 Cheryl Cabrera