Teacher Michael Zaba Featured in Milken Family Foundation Article
Posted on 03/15/2019
toffolon teacher michael zaba www.milkeneducatorawards.orgLouis Toffolon Elementary School art teacher Mike Zaba was honored as a recipient of the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award on January 23rd at a surprise recognition program assembly held at Toffolon School.
Mike Zaba was featured in the Milken Connections publication. 
Click here to read the entire article; see an excerpt below.

Milken Family Foundation: You go to great lengths to connect your art lessons to other parts of the curriculum. What makes art a good vehicle for building overall learning skills?

Michael Zaba: Art gives my students a new and different avenue for learning. They tap into their critical thinking skills as they analyze works of art and compare and contrast artwork. Students are always problem-solving when mixing colors, measuring, dividing, adding, experimenting, and figuring out how to recreate a technique or style they have seen. It allows for creative thinking; students brainstorm ideas, create and design from their imagination, and question a piece of art’s purpose.

Art helps my students visualize and communicate the messages they want to share with the world. Students often develop self-awareness through assessing and analyzing their own work and others. It helps students make decisions, narrow their options, figure out what they like. Art allows me to reach students who struggle with academic concepts or strategies in a different way. By focusing their attention on visual images or representations, I can reinforce and introduce concepts from a variety of disciplines through the process of creating the artwork.

MFF: What brought you to education?

Michael: My experiences working with children at camp, and my high school art teachers. I began as a camper and evolved into a counselor. It was easy for me to make connections with students, making them feel comfortable trying new things in a new place. Being in charge of 10 children at an early age was a big responsibility.

At an early age, I found solace in the arts. I had a passion for drawing, cartooning and building—everything from sculptures made of scrap wood to designing forts with friends. My high school art teachers were the first to teach me a variety of formal art techniques and exposed me to different art styles and movements. I attended parochial school through my primary and part of my secondary schooling.

My high school art teacher, Mr. Paul Baylock, opened the door to a world of different styles and genres of art. I remember his room as a safe place where I could escape and create. I never really thought of art as a career until Mr. Baylock entered my artwork into local exhibitions and contests, and I began winning. I would occasionally receive a congratulatory letter for something I knew nothing about, only to find out later that he had submitted my work. I was always thankful for that—it gave me a great deal of confidence at a time where I needed it most. I’d like to think those small acts, the environment he created and the connections he developed helped shape the teacher and person I strive to be today.