Alumna Advocates for Increasing Creativity in Secondary Classrooms

Hannah LaReau-Rankin
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Hannah LaReau-Rankin

Alumna Hannah LaReau-Rankin knows it's essential to weave the arts into early childhood and elementary education. Now that she's a junior-high teacher, she'd like to see more creativity incorporated into older students' curriculum, too.

"At this age, society starts training students to follow the mundane rules of work ethic and traditional styles of assignments that reflect real-world work," she said. "It's important to set our students up for success outside of high school, but I feel we lose the creativity that we use in early childhood learning,"

LaReau-Rankin is an eighth- and ninth-grade U.S. history teacher at the Don Tyson School of Innovation in Springdale. She was recently selected to participate in the yearlong ARTeacher Fellowship, a U of A program for secondary teachers who want to integrate the arts into their classrooms. It's through the Center for Children & Youth in partnership with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Walton Arts Center. Only 10 teachers are accepted into the program each year.

LaReau-Rankin has put the program's training to work in her classroom, and students are more engaged.

"The ARTeacher Fellowship has taught me concrete ways to implement really thoughtful and original creative practices into my lessons," she said. "The creativity is helping students learn information differently than they do through traditional teaching."

She's encouraged because business leaders are starting to understand how creativity drives innovation. "There are so many examples of real-world jobs that are using creativity as a daily function in operations," she said. "Our classrooms need to implement that in the curriculum."

She has long been an arts supporter. LaReau-Rankin comes from a family where art is a respected career choice.

"All three of my siblings got their degrees in the arts, and now all work in their individual artistic fields. I was the odd one out for getting a degree in teaching," she joked.

LaReau-Rankin graduated from the U of A in 2015 with a degree in history. Her minor was African and African American studies (and she was just a few hours away from earning a minor in Latin American studies). She taught first grade and pre-K in Tulsa for several years, then decided to pursue her dream of becoming a history teacher. She earned a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from the U of A College of Education and Health Professions in 2019. 

As a student and teacher, LaReau-Rankin maintained her creative spirit through painting, dance and photography. She started a photography business, Lux LaReau, in 2016 and appreciates how the medium allows her to capture connections among people and in nature. It's also an excellent avenue for storytelling. Hannah uses photography analysis throughout her history curriculum and teaches about life before the invention of cameras.

She's inspired by how cellphone videos and photography have reshaped American society. Specifically, her classes explore how people have become "citizen journalists" by documenting and sharing injustices around them.

"In my classroom, I teach the history of how photography documented past social movements and connect to today's social movements that are captured through regular people's cellphones," she said. "Photography is an accessible way for citizens to use their voice. This is definitely something I look forward to exploring and implementing in my contemporary U.S. history classes."


To read more Dean's Spotlight stories and other COEHP community news, visit the College's online magazine, the Colleague. The College of Education and Health Professions offers advanced academic degrees as well as professional development opportunities and learning communities in service to the education and health systems of Arkansas and beyond. The U of A Master of Arts in Teaching program has been recognized as one of the leading U.S. teacher preparation programs by the American Association of Teacher Educators.

Contacts

Shannon G. Magsam, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-3138, magsam@uark.edu

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