Teacher Spotlight: Brooklyntonia

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About: I got an old sewing machine when I was just a kid, and I've been hooked on making stuff ever since. My name is Sam and I'm a community manager here at Instructables.

Meet Brooke Brei: artist, teacher, maker of things, and simply all-around creative rock star.

She is an innovative educator and teaches art at Bridgeport High School in Bridgeport, TX.

Brooke, who you may know around here as Brooklyntonia, has been sharing her creative skills with the Instructables community for many years and has published over 120 Instructables.

If you haven't had a chance to explore all her crafty creations, you are in for a treat!

After meeting with Brooke for a fun video chat and peek into her awesome school art studio, we sent her some additional interview questions. Her responses and highlights from some of her projects are shared in the following steps.

Enjoy!

Teacher Notes

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Step 1: I Knew I Was an Artist at a Young Age

Image from Mod a Vinyl Art Toy With Sculpey

When did you first start making things? What kinds of things were you interested in making and doing when you were a child?

My dad always demonstrated making before buying, so for as long as I can remember, we were making anything we could, including a somewhat failed attempt at a skunk-skin cap. Though, honestly, I did more observing than helping on that one.
My mom taught me how to sew and cross-stitch, and my grandmother taught me to crochet. I knew I was an artist at a young age, so I mostly practiced drawing by reproducing coloring book pages in my sketchbook. By high school, I was involved in all sorts of projects, including helping my dad to finish constructing a tiny house in our yard, sewing some wacky fashion, and painting a mural on my bedroom wall.


Step 2: The Community Was So Friendly and Encouraging

Image from Watercolor on Laser Cut Wood: Tips and Tricks

When did you first discover Instructables and what inspired you to post your first project?

I discovered Instructables back in the summer of 2011. I was likely looking for some new project idea. I saw there was a sewing contest, so I wrote my first instructable to enter. The community was so friendly and encouraging that winning my first prize pack in that contest was just a bonus. After that I was hooked.

Step 3: I've Never Regretted It for a Second

Image from Stop Motion En Masse

What inspired you to become a teacher?

My mom was a teacher, so most of my childhood I was keen to follow in her footsteps, but by high school I had other plans. Several years into a graphic design degree, when I realized those plans would have me behind a desk for the rest of my career, I went back to teaching. I've never regretted it for a second.

Step 4: Trying New Things and Making Mistakes Is Embraced

Image from Interactive Art With Scratch and Makey Makey

How do you inspire inquiry and making in your classroom?

My classroom studio is primarily student-directed, so throughout the year my students repeatedly go through a process of setting their own goals, working toward those goals, reflecting daily in their journals, and participating in critique.

Teaching art means there's a lot of flexibility in the state standards, so I do my best to pass that flexibility on to my students and allow them to tell me what they want to learn as much as possible. Because each student has written their own goal, they are each responsible for their own learning.

Teaching persistence and good researching skills is also a major component of facilitating each student's success. By providing my students with a space where trying new things and making mistakes is embraced as a stepping stone to reaching their goals, I'm surprised every year by the wonderful ideas they come up with.

Step 5: I Believe One of the Most Important Things Anyone Can Do Is . . .

Image of Brooke presenting at a conference.

How has Instructables impacted you as a teacher and supported the projects you do in your classroom?

I believe one of the most important things anyone can do is to share what they know with their community. I stress that early on in my classroom studio to facilitate my students helping each other, I present at as many education conventions as I can, and I post to Instructables. Sharing my projects with the Instructables community is a big part of how I demonstrate to my students that after consuming what they find online, they should also create and contribute.

My students often find and use Instructables while they're researching and working toward their goals. They also act as self-paced guides as they learn new skills.

It's also nice when I win a contest with a prize that my students can use. I'm often able to bring tools and materials I won in Instructables contests to school for student use.

Step 6: We Create Models of Art Toys

Image from 3D Printed Designer Art Toys

What is your favorite hands-on classroom project?

Right now, I'd have to say it's my art toy unit. Designer toys are a contemporary art form that my students can really relate to and they're a lot of fun.

First, we look at pop art and mass production through the work of Andy Warhol and Takashi Muakami. Then, we create models of art toys in Tinkercad, 3D print them, and paint them.

I presented on this unit at conventions a couple times this year, so I posted my first Teacher Note by adding the presentation to my 3D Printed Designer Art Toys Instructable if you'd like to know more.

Step 7: There's Nothing Like Making Something by Hand

Images from Hope or Despair Apocalypse Pendant, Antique Digital Camera, and Pocket Watch Pinhole Camera

The most indispensable tool at your disposal is...?

I know it's a bit cliche, but my hands are my most valuable tool. I love my laser cutter and all the other tools that fill my studio, but there's nothing like making something by hand.

You’ve made a lot of impressive projects. Which project are you most proud of, and why?

My favorite projects are the ones that are more conceptual, like my Hope or Despair Apocalypse Pendant and Antique Digital Camera, but I'm especially proud of my Pocket Watch Pinhole Camera because it was such a challenge to build the components so small and have the camera function.

Step 8: Stay on the Look Out

Image from Teacher Toolbelt

Are there any new concepts you’re exploring or hands-on classroom projects you’re planning to do with your students this year? Will any of those become Instructables that we should be on the lookout for?

Last year a small group of my students made their own tabletop games. They did such a great job, I'm looking forward to using what I learned from them and their experience to put together a unit for my beginner students. You can definitely stay on the look out for an instructable with a unit guide and student examples.

Step 9: Share the Kind of Content You Want to See

Images from Light Up Picture Box and DIY Designer Art Toys

If you could give any advice to someone new to using Instructables in the classroom, what would it be?

Post what you want to see. Whether you're looking for self-paced guides for your students or more basics for learning new skills, if you share the kind of content you want to see, others with be inspired to follow your lead.

Step 10: Thank You!

Thank you Brooke for taking the time to chat with us - and thank you doubly for the great work you're doing to enhance the lives of those you teach and inspire with your creative efforts!

Brooke's Twitter and Instagram handles are @Brooklyntonia and she also has an Instagram account for her classroom @Mrs_Brei, if you'd like to see what she's up to.

We're incredibly proud to call Brooke a member of the Instructables community. Be sure to check out all of her fantastic projects here.

Thanks for reading!

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