Learn how Michelle Peacock teaches, reflects, adjusts, improves, and forgives herself when it’s not perfect.
Art students at Scottsdale’s Saguaro High School are getting uncomfortable, and it’s all their teacher’s fault.
Michelle Peacock knows a thing or two about growth. Fourth-generation Chinese, she was born in Harare, Zimbabwe before she immigrated to Canada and then America. She’s walked ancient cities in Greece, seen the world’s largest waterfall in South Africa, and visited the fairytale city of Cartagena, Columbia. She’s left footprints in Italy, Paris, Scotland, Belgium — the list goes on.
“I often tell my students I’m an ambassador of the world. I share many of my experiences in my art room,” Peacock wrote in an email — sent from Brussels, where she was visiting her grandson who speaks German, French, and English.
This world citizen’s goal is to break her students out of their comfort zones. “I want my students to learn lessons that extend beyond art. I want them to stretch themselves. They lose 80,000 dendrites a day, and I challenge them to grow more by increasing their zone of discomfort, by taking on a growth mindset.”
A teacher for 19 years, Peacock herself is a model of lifelong learning and growth. She varies media exploration, sharpening her instructional skills and practices by working with experts in education, jewelry, ceramics, glass, drawing, painting, and printmaking. “I like to think my enthusiasm, passion, and love for what I teach inspires and motivates my students as I make it meaningful and relevant to them,” she explains.
Just as her energy feeds her students, Peacock thrives on learning from her classes, her community, and the next generation of Arizona’s teachers. That’s just one reason she’s committed to preparing student teachers for their first year.
“I love their enthusiasm, devotion to education, and exponential growth as they come into their own teaching style,” she says. “With each student teacher, I too walk away with a fresh approach. It keeps me updated.”
Peacock paints a bigger picture for education, a circle where her constant development encourages growth for her students, mentees, and community — which reciprocate as they inspire her own practice once more.
Peacock finds out this December if she’s achieved National Board Certification and believes that participating in the program has had an immense impact on her teaching: “It’s sharpened my lens and given me the opportunity to authentically teach, reflect, adjust, improve, and forgive myself when it’s not perfect.”
This fall, she will join a panel presenting on National Board Certification at the Arizona Art Education Association conference. Additionally, she has submitted to present a STEAM lesson at the National Art Education Association conference — the same lesson she’s submitting to a national art education magazine.
“I am always looking for the next intriguing lesson. I collaborate with teachers, administration, and community on and off campus,” says Peacock, who’s constantly on the lookout to take her teaching to the next level.
“Can a grant be written? Can we go on a field trip to experience another layer of meaningful learning? Can I bring in guests?” she constantly asks herself. “Growing the lesson with the community keeps it rich, multi-layered, and educational for everyone involved. We all learn together, and it rewards and deepens my students’ knowledge.”
The community in Arizona has truly felt Peacock’s presence. The Musical Instrument Museum featured artwork that resulted from the collaborative STEAM partnership Peacock coordinated between Saguaro High School, Mohave Middle School, and Navajo Elementary School. She also helped install district-wide art exhibitions at the Scottsdale Fine Arts Festival, the Saguaro Complex Art Festival, and the City of Scottsdale Martin Luther King event.
And she’s not stopping there. “My students teach me to be bold and play a bigger game. Because of them, this year I’m creating a booster club with parental help so we have additional money to supplement the art program.”
She may have a lot of irons in the fire (or brushes on her palette, so to speak), but Peacock grounds herself every day with what’s most important. In her early morning routine before work, she focuses on meditation.
Peacock says, “I focus on being grateful for the opportunity to live my life purpose using art to serve my students’ learning needs. I focus on being in my highest good so they can express their highest good.” She reminds herself to really see and hear each individual. “I don’t know the rest of their stories. They walk in having dealt with so many adverse situations. But they are here, wanting to learn, to belong, to be accepted and be given the opportunity to create meaningful work. They matter. They are visible. They have a voice.”