Martha Laliberte, art teacher at Craig Middle School, said if she could, she would be a professional student because she loves learning. But as a teacher, Laliberte said there are rewards too numerous to count.

Photo by Joe Moylan

Martha Laliberte, art teacher at Craig Middle School, said if she could, she would be a professional student because she loves learning. But as a teacher, Laliberte said there are rewards too numerous to count.

My Life, My Words: Martha Laliberte: Learning throughout life

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Age: 56

Occupation: Craig Middle School art teacher

“I was born in Berkeley, Calif. My dad was in the Navy, so we were kind of bi-coastal. We moved to Virginia, Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois and then back to New Jersey.

“I went to the Philadelphia College of Art for two years and transferred to the University of Arizona where I earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in studio art.

“I kind of went in through the back door as far as teaching goes. I initially wanted to be a professional potter, but I wasn’t making any money. I was living with some tolerant roommates, waiting tables and finally went back to the U of A to find out what I could do.

“They told me I could do a post baccalaureate, and I received my teacher’s certificate from U of A after two years.

“My first teaching job was at the Hahn Air Force Base in West Germany. I taught American kids whose parents were stationed there. It was an F-16 base, but it’s no longer there.

“After two years overseas, I moved back to Tucson and tried to figure out what to do next. I subbed for a while, put out some applications and was eventually hired in the Tanqua Verde school district and taught for them for three years.

“I moved to Colorado next to get my master’s in art education at UNC Greeley. That’s where I met my husband who had a business there. When I graduated, we moved to the Yampa Valley, and I started teaching in Craig in 1993.

“I currently teach sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade art. Art and math were my two favorite classes growing up. I didn’t really have a least favorite class. I guess you could say I was one of those ‘A’ students who always wanted to make the teacher happy.

“I didn’t really have a favorite class because I loved everything. If I could be a professional student, I would. While I was in college I was constantly changing my major. I thought about majoring in astronomy, forestry or going to veterinary school, but my dad just kept telling me to focus and finish one major.

“I could have stayed and just been a professional student. I just love to learn. I could have stayed in school and earned a bunch of different degrees but unfortunately, that doesn’t pay the bills.

“Teaching wasn’t really in my mind. I wanted to be a ceramic sculptor. When I was a senior in college I sold my first ceramic piece at the Tucson Museum of Art.

“I’ve always enjoyed kids though. I taught after school pottery classes in Tucson and I think that experience is what brought me to the position I am in today.

“I am excited about the school year starting. I love art and I love education, and this job blends both of them together. I’m really excited about the new schedule. Now I will get to have 55 minutes with my classes, as opposed to 39 last year.

“The most rewarding part of my job? Gosh, there are so many things. Probably when I see that a student has grown to be where they want to be. I may want to push them a little further, but if they have gone to where they think they need to be, then they feel good about themselves, they’re confident.

“I love watching kids maximize their skills. Everyone comes in with different skill sets and to watch them exceed their potential in art or through art is really a lot of fun.

“My favorite student story happened while I was teaching third-grade art in the Tanque Verde school district in Tucson. I’m introducing Michelangelo, the famous artist who did the Sistine Chapel, and I ask my third-graders if any of them know who Michelangelo is. One of my third-grade boys raises his hand and yells out, ‘He’s a Ninja Turtle.’ It was just so cute.”

— Interview by Joe Moylan

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