Samara Yandell MAT ’18

MECA has an amazing reputation, and the 10 month time commitment was perfect for a non traditional student like me. I had to leave my career to go back to school, and taking off more than 10 months would not have been financially possible. MECA’s MAT program is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Portland is my home, but is no longer the only important community in Maine to me.

Samara (Sam) Yandell graduated from MECA’s MAT program in 2018. She is an artist, educator, activist, mother, and life-long Portland community member. Before MAT, she worked at the non-profit Portland Stage as their Director of Development while pioneering many theatre art workshops for kids. Sam was hired the summer after graduating to teach 3-D art at Biddeford Middle School. We caught up with Sam early in her first school year to see how things were going:

Are there any current projects, students or lessons you are very excited about?
Everything is new and exciting to me right now, but in particular my 6th graders are starting a unit called Powerful Puppets inspired by Ashley Bryan’s amazing puppets. We are discussing the meaning of power and exploring how it can be visually represented in a puppet. I am also working with the other teachers in the district to plan the district wide art show, which is being hosted by the middle school. I have volunteered to plan and create a collaborative installation for the school foyer, so that’s a thrilling and daunting project on the horizon.

In what capacity has the MAT program prepared you most for this work?
I have felt extremely well prepared, especially around lesson planning and standards based assessment. Both the course work and my teaching internships were immersive and challenging, and ultimately left me feeling ready to take over my own classroom.

In what ways has your life changed after graduation?
I am a commuter now, and have to get up earlier than I’d like. It can be hard to find time to fit in some of the things that I enjoy, but I’m hoping that once I get more settled I’ll find more time for the things outside of work that are important to me.

In what ways has it stayed the same?
I still love living in Portland, but working in a new community has really opened my eyes. I have been so Portland-centric for most of my adult life, but it is exciting to have a whole new community to explore and learn about.

Do you keep in touch with your cohort? Your professors and/or mentor teachers?
Not as much as I’d like. The other middle school teachers and I share resources and text occasionally. I think we are all too busy for much social activity, plus many of us moved for great jobs elsewhere.

Are you practicing art?
I am not making as much of my own art as I’d like to, but I did experiment with more printmaking this summer while working at a summer camp on the beach. I made gelatin prints of seaweed, then added layers of silkscreened text over the multilayered monoprints. The effect is like looking down into a tide pool, and captures the positive and negative natural shapes and textures of various Maine seaweeds, contrasted with bold hand cut silkscreened text.

Why did you decide to get your MAT at MECA?
MECA has an amazing reputation, and the 10 month time commitment was perfect for a non traditional student like me. I had to leave my career to go back to school, and taking off more than 10 months would not have been financially possible. MECA’s MAT program is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Portland is my home, but is no longer the only important community in Maine to me.

Why should a prospective student choose MECA’s MAT?
The reputation, the job placement rate, the connections, and the incredible creative environment.

What advice do you have for prospective MAT students?
Enjoy every minute of your time at MECA, it is an incredible institution full of amazing young artists. Take advantage of the opportunities to learn and explore, don’t forget you are a student as well as a teacher in training!

What resources, tools, or organizations have you found helpful throughout your career thus far?
Art of Ed podcasts on my way to work, I keep going back to my coursework and lesson plans from our time at MECA for ideas and troubleshooting. I also follow certain hashtags on social media and have some middle school blogs that I enjoy. The Middle School Art Teachers Facebook page is also a great resource.

You can view Sam’s Seaweed prints along with many other Maine art educators’ artwork hanging in the current MAEA show; opening reception on October 5th 2018, 4pm-6pm at MECA.

Learn more about Samara on her website.