Panthers of ISKL #11 - THE ELEMENTARY ART TEAM FEATURING AMY MORETTI, NALINI KRISHNAN AND REBECA OSTHOFF
This week we caught up with the lively and colorful Elementary Art faculty members, Amy Moretti, Nalini Krishnan and Rebeca Osthoff. Get to know how this multicultural all-female wonder team work so closely together whilst managing to have an insatiable appetite for coffee and chocolate and nurturing students' creativity in learning art at the same time! These are their stories.
Can you tell us more about yourself?
Amy: My first visit to Malaysia was in 2004 and I started working at ISKL in 2011. After one month of traveling through this amazing country, I knew I wanted to live here someday. In 2008 I left the U.S. and moved to Indonesia, where I taught elementary art for three years at the Jakarta Intercultural School. Ms. Rosemary Chin was my "pen pal" - she had worked for ISKL for a long time and wrote to me there was an art opening at ISKL. I was so excited when Mr. Paul Chmelik (ISKL’s former Head of School) hired me! I had dreamed of working for ISKL long before I moved here, and he made that dream come true. Ms. Rosemary and I have kept in touch all these years and remain good friends who share art ideas.
Nalini: I am a Malaysian but of Indian ethnicity, and my family consists of my husband and two lovely sons. I have been in education for well over 20 years, having taught both the British Curriculum, the 'O' and 'A' level, the American curriculum - and as a lecturer, where I taught Design at an art college. I started my career as an interior designer, having earned my B.A. (Hons) from the London Metropolitan University, U.K. I worked as an interior designer in a couple of major architectural firms in Kuala Lumpur for 15 years. My work involved designing the interiors of hotels, banks, corporate offices, and large retail stores here in Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia. It was by providence that my career shifted to education.
Rebeca: I was born in Rio de Janeiro, where I have lived most of my life. My first experience living abroad was as a college student at Columbia University in New York, then later in Holland, where I worked as a translator for an international conference. What piqued my interest in international living was working for the airline business and having the chance to travel and explore the world continually. The ability to speak three languages and the willingness to learn new ones made it easier for me to explore a wealth of new possibilities.
I am a mother of two wonderful daughters: Fernanda, who lives and works in Chicago, and Eduarda, who lives and works in Amsterdam. Since we live on three different continents, we are always grateful for the time we can spend together.
I earned my B.A. in Languages (English/Portuguese) from PUC-RJ/Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro, and my specialization is in Early Childhood Education (Endorsement in Visual Arts) from the same university. My Masters is in Education from the Framingham State College in Massachusetts.
As an art educator, I taught for 17 years at the American School of Rio de Janeiro at the E.S. level. My first overseas position was at the Jakarta International School, where I worked as an Elementary Art Teacher. Having the opportunity to teach in Jakarta, opened new paths for learning and experiencing new cultures - exploring the extraordinary art and architecture of SE Asia.
When and why did you join ISKL?
Amy: I am one of three elementary art teachers at ISKL. I love working with Ms. Nalini and Ms. Rebeca. They are so much fun, and we laugh a lot. We each teach 12 classes in grades Prep Senior to Grade 5 - I sometimes see five grade levels in a day! It's fast-paced, and I love it. Teaching art is never dull, and the students are always happy to come to art class!
Nalini: My teaching experience started with a lecturer's post in an art college, then I taught MS and HS students in an international school in KL before joining ISKL. I was pressured by friends who were teachers in ISKL to join, as they firmly believed I had what it takes to be an ISKL teacher! Thinking it would be just a short journey being an educator, I realized later how much I enjoyed and loved it. It's been now 25 years down the road, and I am still in education. This year, 2020 marks my 19th year teaching in ISKL.
Rebeca: This is my first year at ISKL - so I am still a newbie. I love living in SE Asia. I was also ready for a new adventure where I could use my skills and strengths, and I am thrilled that this next chapter led me to ISKL. I feel I am ready for a new creative journey!
Can you tell us about any project that the ES Art Department is working on right now that you are excited about?
Amy: Currently, we are amid virtual learning. It has been a big learning curve for me, and I am excited because I am now thrust into a world of tech in which I was not savvy. There is a lot of learning going on, finding new avenues to formulate e-learning, creative methods of application, all while keeping our students at the center of our work.
Nalini: Recently, the Elementary art department undertook a project to work together with PTA to donate students' artworks for a fantastic fundraising event for our community 'ISKL Celebrates' on March 6, 2020. It was a tremendous task as it involved working to create large combined artworks with all the grade levels from K-5. Though it was a daunting task, the art team managed to have students produce some remarkable art. I am very proud of our young artists!
Currently, we are in virtual learning. It has been a big learning curve for me and I am excited because I am now thrust into a world of tech in which I was not totally savvy. There is a lot of learning going on, new skills, finding new avenues to formulate virtual learning, creative methods of application, all while keeping our students at the centre of our work.
Rebeca: There is always so much going on: drawing, painting, ceramic making, batik, and papier-mache! I am particularly enthusiastic about the batik project with Grade 4 students. I think it is essential to honor this rich cultural Southeast Asian art form and make the batik process as authentic as possible for our students. They are always very motivated during the whole creation process, and I am excited to be nurturing their creativity. Another new excitement is continuous learning, which is taking place now. It is an excellent time to reflect on challenges as an opportunity for learning.
Can you tell us more about your hobbies and interests? What do you do after work?
Amy: Aside from my love of art, I've always been interested in photography. I love intrepid travel and am not afraid to take the road less traveled. I love cooking, yoga, music, painting and I'm a big foodie too. One of the reasons I love Malaysia so much is for the fantastic food. Saya cinta makan! Thus, I must go to the gym regularly and dance. Yes, Ms. Amy loves to dance!
Nalini: I enjoy watching movies, reading, and playing board games, and my favorite board games are Risk and Chess. My family enjoys traveling, and we have had many travels together, exploring new places and, most importantly, discovering the cuisine. Naturally, as a Malaysian, I love food and would travel anywhere and everywhere to try new cuisines. The fact that my family loves food, so typically we can all cook. Testing different recipes are just part and parcel of my life.
Rebeca: I've always been an adventurous spirit. Traveling to new places and exploring foreign cultures have always attracted me. As I've mentioned before, I have two daughters, and we love to do things together, especially traveling inside Brazil and also abroad.
Besides discovering new places and cultures, I have other passions, too: art (my forever love), interior design, and photography. After work, I exercise at the gym, join yoga classes, read, cook, and connect with friends.
Who or what inspires you?
Amy: I try to find inspiration everywhere. Within our school community, I'm inspired by our administrators, who are tremendous leaders, my colleagues, and staff who inspire me to be a better educator. Of course, I am also inspired by my students, who inspire me to see the world through the eyes of a child, which I believe are transparent, uninhibited, and honest. My students inspire me and bring me joy every day. Right now, I miss seeing them in person so much!
Nalini: I enjoy traveling, especially to countries that are rich in art and architecture and with a history that made civilizations great. I have a passion for local art found in South East Asia. My inspiration comes from cultural art. It inspires my creativity with the style, techniques, and especially its rich history that is captured in their art.
Rebeca: I find inspiration in a variety of people and things around me. However, I would have to say that the ones who have most greatly inspired me have been my parents with their endless support, love, and care - they have my eternal gratitude for that! At work, I also get inspired by both my multicultural colleagues, administrators, parents, and ISKL community - especially that of my students.
Best memory (or most memorable moment) thus far working at ISKL?
Amy: I have so many memories from my nine years at ISKL, but my fondest memories include our Art Exhibitions, where we showcase our students' artistic talents; and our International Days when the students dress in their international costumes. I always get choked up when I see the full range of countries and cultural diversity that comprise our school community.
Nalini: Having been in ISKL for many years, there are many beautiful, memorable moments. If I have to pin it down to one, then it would be the dress-up days on cultural celebration days. Students get to dress up in the traditional attire that belongs to cultures such as Hari Raya, Deepavali, Chinese New Year, and Christmas. Students can feel a sense of connectivity, and they look so adorable and lovely in these cultural outfits.
Rebeca: Traditional celebrations, for sure! These celebrations are an excellent opportunity for intercultural exchanges, understanding, and celebration of the various cultures represented at ISKL. Both kids and adults learn about other cultures through these celebrations - it brings our learning community together!
I particularly enjoy it when the students dress up in their traditional outfits, and I discover the Brazilian students. They get SO excited to see that I am also from Brazil! We are not so many, and they feel connected - and so do I!
What challenges do you face as an ES Art Teacher?
Amy: If I must be honest - it is getting names right. With 700+ students, I often call Dominique, Doris, or Qaleef, Kyle. My students are very forgiving and have learned to laugh it off. I sometimes call Ms. Nalini, Ms. Rebeca, and Ms. Aweni, Ms. Melissa, so everyone gets equal treatment when it comes to flipping names.
Nalini: All children love art, and it is a wonderful medium for self-expression and creativity. Nurturing that creativity by guiding students who are naturally creative and have an expressive nature will always be a challenge.
Rebeca: I never thought I would become an ES Art Teacher in an international setting, having the opportunity to teach students from over 60 different nationalities (and unique names, too). Some of my struggles are memorizing all the names - and as a new teacher, even harder! Writing individual report comments for almost 250 students, and making sure that at the end of the day, I have provided an inspiring and dynamic learning environment that supports learning, where inclusion and students' individual needs are met.
What is one thing that we, the public, do not know about being an ES Art teacher?
Amy: We eat a lot of chocolate, we are addicted to coffee, and we cannot have enough cupcakes from Huckleberry. Seriously. We may need an intervention!
Nalini: In addition to the duties as an E.S. art teacher, I hold another responsibility. In elementary school, I am also the Cultural Coordinator. My role is mainly to organize the cultural celebrations of our host country, for the elementary students. I plan and feature authentic local cultural dances in assemblies, hands-on workshops, and demonstrations of local cuisines and crafts. Here, I reach out to the local community to conduct these activities for students to enrich their understanding and experiences of the various cultures found in Malaysia.
Rebeca: Most people do not realize the amount of work that goes into putting together an art exhibit - from selecting and organizing artwork to hanging the art show and getting the word out. There is so much work behind the scenes to showcase 700 ES students' artworks - you could never imagine!
What does Be All You Are mean to you?
Amy: It means always trying my best, no matter how challenging the situation. It means accepting that everyone makes mistakes, and when I make mistakes, I learn from them. From those mistakes, I can create masterpieces. Being all I am also means I should share my crayons. The coolest people on the planet share their art supplies.
Nalini: It means to develop my passion and try my best in doing everything possible in all areas of life. To be more conscious and put all my energy into whatever life situation I am currently experiencing, my work, family and home.
Rebeca: It means always to be open-minded, flexible, and see challenges as new opportunities. To keep up the adventurous spirit and enjoy being a lifelong learner. It also means caring for others, and going out of my way to make other people happy or feel more confident in themselves. And more than anything, to be a supportive, loving mother, daughter, and friend.
As Muhammad Ali once said, "Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It's not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything."