WELLNESS THROUGH ART
After five years living in Melbourne and working on her art career, Alana Parker is back in Deniliquin and sharing her skills with the students at Deniliquin High School.
The 34 year-old (pictured) intends to remain at Deni High — where she previously taught visual arts between 2010 and 2015 — until the end of this school year before returning to her home town of Newcastle.
Her role at the school is a little different this time around, with Miss Parker being employed as part of the wellness program.
‘‘I get to come in and work with a variety of different students with different needs to create something with them that they can truly feel proud of, success and positive experiences outside of the classroom,’’ she said.
‘‘It gives me the opportunity, because I work in small groups, to discuss things and students get to open up to me. It also gives them something a little extra to look forward at school.
‘‘We have been working on some large scale murals to be exhibited around the school, all with the underlying concepts of wellbeing. One is based around mental health and mental health awareness. The students come up with imagery completely derived from their imagination, but then with hidden messages about being a good human being and being kind.
‘‘I am also working with a group of indigenous students on a Friday afternoon, working on a large scale mural to be hung in the canteen area.
‘‘It has been really fun. There has been a lot of freedom with the imagery, but it is also been nice to connect with students on a personal level as well.’’
Miss Parker has always had a connection to art, and said it is equally rewarding to share it as an educator.
‘‘Throughout school I wouldn’t say I was the most studious of students, but art was certainly something I felt I got something out of,’’ she said.
‘‘Teaching was not where I wanted to go right from the very start, but I knew my connection was with art so that is what I continued to study.
‘‘When I left high school I went to art school, and after four years there I thought ‘right, how am I going to direct this into a career or paying job’. That led me to teaching.
‘‘From there I was lucky to fall in love with teaching.’’
Miss Parker especially enjoys ‘‘seeing what the students get out of what we create’’.
‘‘That awe factor is a big one for me. Art offers students a place to achieve success, and also work to make connections in the wider school community.
‘‘It allows students to build relationships and feel important, and also exposes you to absolutely everything - history and culture being the major ones. You can learn about the world at a specific time through art, and through the visual imagery.
‘‘But particularly art is used today as a voice; one that anybody can access and express their political or cultural views, or any sort of personal or subjective issues. It really allows you to have a look at the world through another person’s perspective.
‘‘I certainly learn as much from students as they would learn from me, and I definitely take that approach in the classroom setting as more of a facilitator of learning and education and always keeping my mind open.’’
Miss Parker will move to Newcastle at this end of this year — with her partner Joe Dohnt and their son Lennie — for family reasons.
‘‘I moved from Newcastle to Deniliquin to start this journey, and I am ready to go back home. Lennie is 16 months old and it’s time for my family to reunite.
‘‘I am thankful to have this opportunity to work in Deniliquin again, and I think it will be a beautiful transition for me to move back to the coast and hopefully also work there under this wellbeing umbrella.’’