Michael Healey studied studio painting and fine arts at the University of Texas-Austin. He is a recipient of the Kinder Award for Teaching Excellence and an active artist in the Houston community. He teaches Art I, Painting II, Painting III, AP Drawing, and AP 2D design at YES Prep East End.
How did you start teaching?
My mother was a Houston Independent School District (HISD) teacher while I was growing up. After I graduated from college, I started showing my art at galleries and working small side jobs, including subbing and working as an assistant in Spring Branch ISD. I was also giving art lessons at my studio. I wanted something more career-oriented, so I looked into alternate certification and got a job at Lee High School (now Margaret Long Wisdom High School) in HISD where I taught art for the next five years. Now, I’m in my thirteenth year in the classroom.
What do you love about teaching?
I like spending all day talking about art, making art, and interacting with people more than I would in the studio. I was 39 or 40 when I started teaching, and it was very energizing. Working in a studio isn’t very social or interactive, but in a school, there were a lot of ideas and other art teachers to share the ideas with.
Why did you start and stay at YES Prep?
I like the fact that the school is small enough that I get to know all the kids– even those that I don’t teach. The kids and families are invested in coming to school. In HISD, my classroom would turn over in the course of the year, meaning I’d start with 30 kids and end the year with a different set of 30 kids. But here, I like that I teach my students’ brothers, sisters, and cousins. I get to know their parents and grandparents. I also love the East side of Houston; it’s an exciting place for art. We get to be involved in projects outside of campus. It’s a chance for kids to be part of art that is in and for their communities.
What community projects are you especially proud of?
We painted a mural for Barrio Dogs on Lawndale. We also did a “Greetings to the Near Northside” mural near Quitman and Fulton. For the past three years, I’ve been involved in coordinating the Art on the Avenue Student Show for Avenue CDC. The students have donated 100% of the art sales to Avenue CDC, probably raising over $4,000, which is incredible.
Now, I’m proud to be working on a project funded by the Houston Arts Alliance called Scaped Senses Labryinth Art Installation by Tami Merrick and Nicola Parente. Today, YES Prep East End students will be painting giant strips of billboard canvas, which will become part of an 8 x 15 feet woven basket in the center of the labyrinth.
Why is it important to teach art?
It’s about providing a holistic education. Art teaches kids to analyze things on a more abstract level. It gives kids the chance to explore different concepts and express themselves in ways that they may not normally have access to. Through theater, visual arts, or dance, kids build that problem-solving muscle which they then can use in different subjects. It teaches kids how to express themselves in another media and language. They can explore social issues and can share or give back through art.
If you were speaking to a prospective teacher, what would you tell them about why they should teach at YES Prep?
At my last job, administrators came into my room once. Here, there’s a lot of peer support, coaching, and resources. You don’t have to figure it on your own. And because I was an established teacher when I came to YES, I had a chance to share my expertise with new teachers and to learn new teaching techniques. Teaching is a job where there’s always new ideas, so it’s great to be at a place where I learn about all the recent research and innovations.
What’s your favorite YES Prep memory?
There’s so many. We did a community march with Barrio Dogs where we painted banners and had speakers at Hidalgo Park, which was a lot of fun. We also did a show at Talento Bilingüe de Houston called Faces of East End where our students did self-portraits. The parents were super involved. Restaurants provided food, and we sold hand-painted glasses. A gigantic 10-piece mariachi band came in at the end, and our students were dancing around and having so much fun. When you watch the kids show their work to the community, you get to see the look on their faces when they’ve realized they’re making an impact. They exceed everyone’s expectations– even their own.