Meet the Teacher: Tina Tavolacci, Dowagiac Middle School

Educators are perhaps the greatest population of unsung heroes in Berrien and Cass County. This school year, Leader Publications will publish a weekly spotlight featuring teachers throughout the district, giving the community a chance to get to know the hard-working individuals shaping their children’s lives. Throughout the next school year, their answers will be published in the newspaper that serves each school district.

Name: Tina Tavolacci

School: Dowagiac Middle School

Grade(s)/subject(s) taught: sixth, seventh and eighth grade art

Where did you attend college? Western Michigan University

How many years have you been teaching? How many years have you been with your current school? This begins my ninth year teaching and my sixth year in Dowagiac.

Why did you decide to become a teacher? I wanted to be an art teacher because I enjoy making art so much, and I thought sharing my passion and encouraging kids to do the same would be a fun career. It’s a lot harder than I realized at the time, but it’s so rewarding when their art is hanging up, and I see how excited they are to show off their art. A lot of students don’t realize what they’re capable of, and I love being a part of that discovery.

Outside of school, what do you enjoy doing for fun? I’m a working artist when I’m not teaching so a lot of my time is spent in my studio which is fun. You can check out my work at tinatavolacci.com! I mostly enjoy spending time with my friends and family, gardening and frequent napping.

What is one thing your students may not know about you? I chose band (I played clarinet) over art most of my middle school and high school career. I wish kids could take more electives!

Who is your favorite fictional character and why? Probably Galadriel the Elven queen from the Lord of the Rings. She’s a strong female leader with magical creative powers and great hair who lives in a magic forest and is immortal. That’s pretty awesome!

When you were a student in the grade you teach, what were your favorite hobbies? In middle school, my favorite hobbies were reading about horses, drawing horses, riding horses and talking while keeping track of my retainer.

How would your co-workers describe your teaching style and personality? Pure silliness.

Who is your biggest role model and why? That’s a difficult question to answer because I have different role models for different roles. I don’t look to just one person for examples and guidance, I look to several. I am very fortunate to have a lot of great people in my life.

How has education changed in the last 10 years? I think the advancement of technology and cell phones have changed students and how we’re teaching them.

What is your best advice to parents to help their child continue growing academically? Take the phone! So many kids tell me they’re tired because they’ve been up all night on their phones. Parents need to limit access to phones because kids lack the self-discipline to do it for themselves. Also, encourage what they’re interested in. They want your attention, support and approval even if they don’t always act like it.

If my students learn one thing this year, I hope it is… That making mistakes is proof you’ve tried! It’s how we learn. Thomas Edison allegedly said he successfully discovered a thousand ways to not make a light bulb! So, don’t be afraid to try and fail, because you can just erase and try again.