Amy Rose Craig ’18 overcomes obstacles on her path to becoming an art teacher
During her senior year at University of South Florida, Amy Rose Craig required surgery to remove a benign tumor the size of a beach ball. Her fiancé had left her for another woman. And she could neither work nor attend classes, setting her back emotionally, financially and academically. It was a disastrous trifecta that had her in a downward spiral and ready to quit.
Then, she had an epiphany.
“I discovered my own faith,” says Craig ’18 (Master’s of Art Teaching), with tears welling up in her eyes. “I asked God to intervene and to help me.”
This would be her first proverbial miracle.
“The hospital forgave my $30,000 debt,” Craig recalls. “And my professors all gave me A’s. It was truly a miracle.”
While recovering from surgery, her friends convinced her that she needed time to recuperate. So, she decided—wisely or not—to pack up her bags and work for a Northern Michigan Christian camp, making the 1,800-mile drive with her surgical sutures still intact. For two years, she worked at SpringHill Experiences with children with disabilities, bringing out the artistic talent in them.
Faith would have it that Craig would befriend someone at the camp who was set to start a ministry at the University of Hawai‘i–Mānoa. A few months later, she found herself on a flight across the Pacific headed to then-named Honolulu International Airport.
“I was trying to enroll in UH’s BFA program, but I kept facing hurdles,” Craig says. “Again, I leaned on God to help me get through UH.”
And again, she received an answer from a higher being.
Craig would eventually graduate with her BA, matriculating in what she calls her own BFA program. Then she says she had a calling. As she pondered what to do next, she did a Google search, typing in four key words: master arts teaching hawaii. Chaminade University appeared at the top of the page.
“I didn’t even know there was such a program,” Craig says. “I was already teaching art on and off, so I applied and got in right away.”
To make ends meet, Craig worked part-time at the Cheesecake Factory in Waikīkī. It wouldn’t last long. But her luck was changing. Out of the blue, she received a letter from Kailua High School’s then-principal Francine Honda, who invited her in for an interview for an undisclosed job opening.
“It turns out they had several emergency hire teaching positions open, and the one that they wanted me for was FSC/CBI (Fully Self Contained/Community Based Instruction),” Craig explains. “Teaching kids life and job skills, and helping them function in life; the position sounded wonderful.”
Her interview with Honda would again alter her life’s trajectory. “She explained to me that even though I would need to change the focus of my new master’s program, she thought that a master’s in special education was a much better fit for the art education role I was trying to design for myself, and she turned out to be right.”
Honda advised Craig that she could use art modalities and processes in many creative ways in meeting her Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) goals, which she has since instituted in her studios and classrooms.
When Craig first entered University of South Florida, she had never stepped foot in an educational institution. Her parents not only mistrusted the public education system, but they didn’t believe in home schooling, preferring what Craig calls “unschooling.”
“They were pioneers long before home schooling entered the national lexicon,” Craig says. “I had an unusaul childhood, and we lived off the grid, moving around from northern, southern, eastern and western parts of the country.”
So when she started her undergraduate studies in Florida, she not only lacked structure, patterns and discipline, but she was never diagonsed with a learning disability, unable to do the simplest of assignments, such as write a short essay or solve simple math problems.
“Getting my master’s at Chaminade—knowing I had moderate disabilities—was one of the key [elements] that helped me begin to understand and unlock,” Craig asserts. “I started treating and advocating for myself as a person who had disabilities. Up until that point, I had hidden and ignored it, and I did my best to work around it and I kept it a secret. I was embarrassed and ashamed.”
In her bestseller “Educated,” American author Tara Westover writes about overcoming her survivalist Mormon family in order to go to college, and emphasizes the importance of education in enlarging her world. It’s a memoir that Craig strongly identifies with and relates to, having endured years of emotional and physical isolation, lack of support and empathy.
“I was part of my parents’ great social experiment,” says Craig, with a tinge of irony. “I always felt I was walking on egg shells, which is the title of one of my performances, and it is what I experienced during my childhood.”
Craig is currently a Teaching Artist at Honolulu Museum of Art (HoMa) studio arts, where her workshops/sessions are open to pre-school keiki and adults alike, covering a variety of subjects, from an overview of art and drawing to painting and assemblage. Her class, ‘Finding Beauty in the Everyday,” was inspired by walks with her mom in the forest, where she would collect leaves or anything that she deemed beautiful, and glue them to what she now calls “Amy’s Nature Sticks.”
“I resented how I was educated,” Craig says. “But now I’ve come full circle with a new perspective. I overcame a lot of obstacles to be where I am today, and I am glad I didn’t quit.”