Our Inspired Teachers: Jennifer Marcus '73

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Every day Catlin Gabel teachers inspire their students. 16 faculty members talk about how they came to teaching—and what they love about their craft

From the Autumn 2012 Caller

Jennifer Marcus '73, BS & 1st grade woodshop

Bachelor's in art, Mills College. At CGS since 2004.

Twenty-two years ago, when my oldest daughter was attending preschool in Los Angeles, I responded to a flyer to open up the woodworking shed. I had a degree in fine arts, built my own looms, and had taken child psychology at Mills College. I’d even entertained the idea of becoming a teacher. So, some simple woodworking with a bunch of four-year-olds sounded like fun. It was.

Through those students and all the ones who have come after I have learned to use woodshop as a way to help children build not just wheelbarrows, sailing ships, and airports but pathways for how to think, plan, and empower.
 
Opening that first shed was like discovering a magician’s closet. The tools and materials had great power and had to be used properly. The children and I questioned, tinkered, and embraced the process of investigating wood and what it could do, what it could become. I learned the benefits of patience with their processing as well as patience with myself. I encouraged them to think out loud: “I wonder what would happen if. . . . ”
 
The following year I became the official woodworking teacher at the school. I conducted workshops for teachers and established woodworking programs to share my teaching philosophy: greet every child respectfully with an open mind for their way of thinking, their interpretations, and their strengths, and have confidence in their ability to solve problems in ways that are creative and astonishing.
 
After moving back to Portland, I created “Woodworking with Children,” providing meaningful woodworking experiences to as many children as possible. I am always honored to participate in their journey of invention and resourceful thinking. I feel so fortunate to be a part of the faculty at Catlin Gabel, a place that still values a hands-on, tactile learning-enriched program for young students.