“When you’re teaching, you’d better be planning … looking ahead to each new school year, I always have to be thinking about how I’m going to make the experience better, both for me and my students.”
- Sia Kyriakakos
Born in Baltimore as a daughter of Greek immigrants and growing up in both Maryland and Greece, Sia Kyriakakos brings a unique and important perspective to her career in arts education. After high school, Sia attended the Maryland Institute College of Art with dreams of becoming a sculptor. Along the way, she began working with at-risk youth, and discovered a love for teaching, which inspired Sia’s dream of bringing arts education to kids of all backgrounds. This newfound passion swept Sia into a distinguished teaching career of 20 years, which was recognized in 2016 with the Baltimore City Teacher of the Year Award for her work at Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School.
Sia is always planning. Her mantra is to over-plan, and account for everything – knowing her students, her material and being prepared for everything else. She learned this early on in her teaching career – Sia’s first classroom in Baltimore didn’t have a blackboard. Needing another way to teach kids to draw, Sia found a way to improvise when she discovered a pack of Post-it® Easel Pads in a closet. She used these in place of a blackboard, and found them to be even more flexible, because she could place them anywhere in the room and create step-by-step guides for teaching basic drawing technique. Her resourcefulness as an artist, along with the versatility of the Post-it® Easel Pads influenced her award-winning teaching style. To this day, Sia uses unconventional methods and tools, like Post-it® Products, to better serve her students, and to better communicate her ideas and assignments. Her entire classroom is covered in Post-it® Super Sticky Notes of various sizes – she finds the visual nature essential to teaching art.
When it comes to the important work of tracking her students’ progress from their first day of high school until graduation, Sia creates a portfolio for each student, using Post-it® Super Sticky Notes, Post-it® Flags and Post-it® Tabs to mark crucial progress points, make notes on achievements or trouble spots and to find information she needs quickly and efficiently. Sia starts with the end goal – graduation – and works backward, building in the milestones her students need to achieve to get there. Sia credits this planning, and the Post-it® Products she uses, for her success as a teacher – and she considers herself more of a long-term list maker as a result.
Sia’s short-term planning and list-making techniques are a lot like her art-making process – fluid, improvisational and free-form. For daily priorities, Sia has Post-it® Super Sticky Notes stuck on her computer at all times. She relies on Post-it® Super Sticky Notes as reliable tools to have on hand for offloading any information that needs to be preserved and recorded for various actions.
Sia’s list-making tips:
When asked what kind of mark she hopes to leave on the world, Sia had an appropriately artful answer: “The mark isn’t me — it’s in my students.”
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“My students come to me with very little art-making experience because of equity issues – especially in Baltimore,” says Sia. “What do I need to learn to do my best for these kids? It’s all in the planning – I need the Post-it® Super Sticky Notes nearby all the time to help me plan and get to a place where I feel good about what’s coming next.”
“I love art, I love teaching and I love my students. They are my passion.”
Athanasia Kyriakakos is the Baltimore City Public Schools, 2016 Teacher of the Year. Passion, resilience, perseverance, are the outcome of the relationships Ms. Kyriakakos builds with her students. Athanasia Kyriakakos earned her MFA degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2000, her teaching certification from Central Connecticut State University in 1995 and her BFA degree from The Maryland Institute, College of Art in 1991. While teaching in Baltimore, she has been a member of the Instructional Leadership Team, an SLO ambassador and in 2015 a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Teacher Leaders program. As a world-renowned artist she represented Greece in the 50th Venice Biennale, and received a Fulbright.