“I’m really into gardening,” said Jody Boyer, visual artist and adjunct arts educator at UNO. “I like to foster a rich soil for my students, but whatever emerges from that soil I want it to be from the seed of their own ideas. It’s so vital for it to come from within.”
Boyer has been teaching at UNO as an adjunct instructor for almost 13 years. When she’s not spending time teaching at the university, caring for her two children, opening new exhibits with her artist and art educator husband, coaching the girl’s junior high swim team, or training for long distance swim competitions, she teaches visual art full-time at Norris Middle School. Boyer said middle school wasn’t her first choice, but she came to enjoy it.
“They’re (middle school students) very different because they are going through massive frontal lobe changes,” Boyer said. “My favorite part is seeing their transformation. They start in sixth grade and they leave in eighth grade, which is probably one of the quickest periods of time of human growth and change. To see them start as children and leave as young adults, it’s enjoyable to help them through that process.”
Boyer said she likes the process of interacting with her students and creating an environment for them to grow—no matter the age. College students have come back to thank her for giving them the tools and support to succeed post graduation. At least 12 former students, she said, are teachers in the Omaha Public Schools.
“Whether it be art education, studio art or media art, whatever path they choose, I try to provide not just lessons but mentorship,” Boyer said. “A lot of my students will come back and say ‘you gave me X, Y, and Z and that helped me succeed as an artist or as a teacher’ and that’s a good feeling.”
Josephine Langbehn, a middle school visual art teacher in the Omaha Public Schools, said Boyer made a difference when she was in college and continues to care about her success.
“Professor Boyer is awesome. She really supports me and encourages me to push forward. She has had an impact on my artistry and leadership,” Langbehn said.
In 2015, the Nebraska Art Teachers Association selected Langbehn as the Out-standing Art Educator of the Year for the state of Nebraska. This type of achievement is also reflective of Boyer, who won the same award in 2016.
“It was humbling,” Boyer said. “I was awarded by an association of 120 art teachers from the state. It was other teachers acknowledging the work that I do as a teacher. It was a celebration of people seeing my devotion to my practice. It was nice to be acknowledged in my own career, in my own field in K-12 teaching.”
Boyer said she will always advocate for more art, making sure visual arts are part of a foundational component of liberal arts education.
“I believe in the 21st century, everything is done through visual literacy and the visual arts are one of the ways in which people have primary experiences with learning visual languages,” she said.